Nostalgic Every Day Items That Could Only Come From The Groovy Era
The Genuine Pedigreed Pet Rock, seriously
Whether it was a need for innovation or the new found freedom of children born in the post-war boom, things were changing quickly in the groovy era. In the 1960s and '70s there were massive innovations that changed the world forever, and we're still feeling their reverberations today.
Some of these nostalgic every day items from the '60s and '70s are still in our homes today, helping us speak with loved ones and do our work, while others manage to always find a way to come back into the popular culture. Whether you remember using these items every day, or if you're just now hearing about the Pet Rock you'll soon discover that each of these items is uniquely groovy.
It may sound completely ludicrous to young people today, but in the 1970s the Pet Rock was one of the most sought after gifts by the young and old alike. Dreamt up by Gary Dahl, a former copy editor, who knew that he wasn't really selling a rock - he was selling an idea.
The rock came nestled on a soft bedding of shredded paper inside a cardboard box with a handle and air holes so the rock could breathe. On the outside of the box a simple message was printed: "One genuine pedigreed pet rock."
How to take care of a Pet Rock
Dahl knew that if he just put a rock in a box and sold it to people that they'd feel ripped off. Rather than wind up on the receiving end of some painful Pet Rock returns, Dahl included a 40-page instruction manual with the rock titled "The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock." The early pages include suggestions for how to turn an inanimate object into a friend:
Your Pet Rock will be a devoted friend and companion for many years to come. Rocks enjoy a rather long life span so the two of you will never have to part -- at least not on your Pet Rock's account. Once you have transcended the awkward training stage your rock will mature into a faithful, obedient, loving pet with but one purpose in life -- to be at your side when you want it to, and to go lie down when you don't.
How much can you really make selling a rock in a box?
The thing about Pet Rocks isn't just that they were a silly little novelty toy, they were a silly little novelty toy with little overhead. By the end of 1975, Dahl had moved more than one million units of the Pet Rock at $3.95 a pop. The item made such good money that there were knock-offs, accessories, and other versions of the novelty, but never another Pet Rock.
Pet Rocks may not be flying off shelves in the 2020s, but that doesn't mean that the concept doesn't still exist. Remember, Tamagotchies and computer games about farms are incredibly popular in the modern era.
The audio cassette created the modern playlist
It's quite likely that in 1962 one of the most important musical jumps forward was invented - the audio cassette tape. It was initially created for use in dictation machines, specifically to record speeches, but as the quality of recording improved cassettes began to serve a new purpose.
It didn't take long for music fans to discover the many applications of audio cassette tapes, especially when it came to home recording and trading music. On top of that the audio cassettes were used in data storage for microcomputers. Audio cassettes truly changed the world.
The Video Home System brought movies to, well, your home
By the late '70s people were hungry for entertainment wherever they were, be it at a party, in schools, and especially at home. When the Video Home System (or VHS) was invented by the JVC company it absolutely changed the game. Even though VHS players were expensive and the cassettes were few and far in between, folks were hungry for this new invention.
Remember, before the '70s the only way to catch a movie was to see it in a theater or find a copy of whatever you wanted to watch on a 16mm dupe, which wasn't easy for a regular Joe. Thanks to this marvelous '70s invention, people were able to record movies in the comfort of their own homes and watch them whenever they wanted.
VHS paved the way for digital streaming
VHS may be a forgotten relic, but its use helped create the era of on-demand viewing that people enjoy today. At the time when everyone was watching movies on VHS, an idea was instilled in everyday people that the thing they wanted could be available on their time, not that of the film distributors.
One of the craziest things about the groovy era rise of VHS is how long it lasted as a format. VHS didn't go out of favor until the early 2000s when DVDs saturated the market with a higher definition offering. That's a lot of staying power for a chunky little piece of media storage.
Tape trading was all the rage in the groovy era
This is a little more conceptual than something concrete like a cassette tape or bell bottoms, but tape trading turned the world upside down in the late '60s and into the '70s. After the introduction of the audio cassette tape, it didn't take long for music fans everywhere to start trading their favorite albums and making mix tapes.
This phenomenon was the beginning of music becoming more than just media, but a way to build a community around your favorite bands and musicians. Today, it's a regular practice to swap songs and playlists, but it was a truly radical concept even in the 1970s.
Ouija Boards were around for generations, but it became a "thing" thanks to 'The Exorcist'
It's creepy. It's scary. It's been around forever, but it took the groovy era to turn it into one of the most beloved playthings in North America. Produced by William Fuld and a horde of would-be spirit board creators throughout the 20th century, the Ouija Board concept was purchased by Parker Brothers in 1966. It only took a year for the world to catch Ouija fever.
What was once a simple fortune-telling game that had been available for years was moving millions of units. This game that wasn't really a "game" quickly began outselling Monopoly. You can still get one of these today, no medium needed.
How to "play" with a Ouija Board
Long before the Parker Brothers figured out how to package this non-game "game," it was known as a "talking board" throughout the 19th century. By the late '60s that was out the window and the "Ouija Board" had infiltrated American culture. It remains a top seller to this day, likely because not much has changed since its earliest production.
Aside from a few cosmetic alterations, the Ouija Board is pretty much exactly what you'd get in '66. Ripping open the box provides users with a board featuring the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, a "yes" located beneath a sun on the top left of the board, a "no" beneath a moon on the top right, the word "goodbye" placed at the bottom middle beneath the alphabet, and a "planchette" which is a tear-shaped device with a peephole to reveal each letter as it moves across the board.
"Players" place their fingers on the planchette as they sit on opposite sides of the board and ask a question hoping that the planchette will give an answer.
Everyone wants a mid-size pinto, right?
One of the most defining moments of the 1970s was the gas crisis that squeezed wallets and crunched bank accounts. Long lines at gas stations across the country led automobile manufacturers to introduce the "subcompact" car, a smaller, more efficient vehicle than the larger sedans of the era.
The most prominent of which was the Ford Pinto, a vehicle with three different models - a two-door fastback sedan with a trunk, a three-door hatchback, and a two-door station wagon. This small vehicle seemed like the perfect antidote to the gas crisis, but the Pinto had a bigger problem than drivers anticipated.
The explosive Ford Pinto
In 1973, three years after its initial production run, a huge problem was discovered with the Pinto's fuel system. Unfortunate drivers found out that the car could burst into flames if the fuel tank was punctured in a low-speed collision. If this happened what was once an affordable compact car turned into a fiery death machine.
By the end of the '70s Ford was up to its ears in lawsuits over the Pinto and more than one million of these bad boys had been recalled. As wacky as all of this sounds, the recall of the Pinto is one of the biggest ever faced by the industry.
Lava lamps were more than hot, hot wax
Way back in 1963 Edward Craven-Walker, a British accountant, was struck with a hit of inspiration from none other than his egg timer. This wasn't just any egg timer. It was homemade and constructed out of a glass cocktail shaker filled with liquid. This fascinating egg timer was bubbling on top of a stove in a local pub when it caught Craven-Walker's eye.
With a mix of wax and water, Craven-Walker created an astonishing visual encased in a glass tube. The wax mixture became known as the "lava," and the water allowed the lava to float freely around the tube. After adding a lightbulb the lava lamp was born.
From England, with love
It didn't take long for Craven-Walker's Lava Lamps to start selling like hot cakes. They initially appeared on television in the British series Doctor Who. Their alien look transfixed a nation and suddenly everyone wanted one of these amazing novelty lamps. Who wouldn't want to look super space-age without having to leave the comfort of your own home?
When Lava Lamps hit the market they couldn't stay on shelves. Not only were they popular pieces of home décor, but they were also conversation pieces. Adults and children loved them, straight and square. Lava Lamps really were the one piece of the groovy era that everyone could agree on.
Pocket transistor radios let you listen on the go
Long before music lovers could blast whatever tunes they wanted out of their phones they were doing the same thing on portable transistor radios. Introduced to the world at large in the 1960s, portable radios gained more and more popularity as they grew smaller and became easier to carry around. What was once something that could only be in homes and radios was now able to fit into a pocket. The only thing that users had to worry about was stocking up on batteries. Convenient and modern, pocket transistor radios were the beginning of creating your own musical community or living in your own world of rock 'n roll.
Tasers are a stunning achievement of the groovy era
Back in 1969, NASA researcher Jack Cover started developing the Taser, but it took him five solid years to develop the tool known as Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle (he was a fan of the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Tom Swift). The earliest version of the TASER used gunpowder as a propellant, which is miles away from how it works today.
While this defensive tool is very different from the current versions, it's worth noting that millions of people around the world wouldn't feel as safe as they do if it weren't for Cover's amazing invention. It's shocking, isn't it?
The Magnavox Odyssey glued kids to their TVs
Even though we think of video games as something completely modern (or at the very least an invention of the '80s) they've been available on a console since the early '70s. In 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey was released in the United States. This white, black, and brown box with two controllers completely revolutionized gameplay.
While the Odyssey couldn't do as much as consoles do today, it was capable of playing a few different games. Users placed plastic overlays on their television screens and controlled three square dots and one line of differing height to have days full of fun.
Go Go Boots combined retro-futurism and mod fashion for a very groovy look
Today everyone knows about go-go boots. They're another piece of classic fashion that can go on and off for the perfect look, but when they were introduced in 1964 by French designer Andre Courreges in the modern and futuristic collection he called his “Moon Girl," these boots blew the minds of everyone who saw.
The tall, white boots were so beloved that other designers started to add them to their stores and collections. Soon the boots were seen traipsing across the runways in Paris, New York, and London. It was the Brits who first embraced the boots in street fashion but it didn't take long for them to become a worldwide sensation.
Charlotte Rampling shows everyone how to wear a mini skirt
One of the many iconic fashion statements created in the 1960s that continues to endure is the miniskirt. Created by fashion designer Mary Quant, miniskirts helped usher in the Mod era. Named after Quant's favorite car, the Mini Cooper, these skirts feature short hemlines that invited viewers to take a good long look.
Aside from just looking good, miniskirts were a statement to the world that said you were in control of your own look and your own destiny. These skirts said that the wearer does what they want and doesn't apologize for being the person they want to be.
David Bowie proving that bell bottoms will always be chic
Bell bottoms are a piece of the '60s that made their way into the '70s and manages to come back into vogue every few years. They were a must-have in any disco fanatic’s wardrobe before becoming a suburban staple, popping up everywhere from the office to high schools. Typically, bell bottoms were low cut at the waist and flared at the bottom… the wider the better.
While these groovy pants come from Naval origins, it's hard to separate them from their San Francisco roots as the must-have apparel for the hippie set. By the '70s, these cool trousers had made their move to the clubs of the east coast where they inspired a whole subculture to boogie-woogie all night long.
A life of leisure awaits in these far out Leisure Suits
Leisure suits were a breath of fresh air in men's fashion. These fascinating suits made it okay to wear a suit without a tie while showing a little chest hair. Aside from being totally groovy, leisure suits broke the stereotypical black suit look with bright colors and wide lapels.
These very '70s suits may not be all the rage today, but that doesn't mean that the leisure suit didn't change the way people think about fashion forever. These babies made it so men could be cool and comfortable at work or on the dance floor. They showed guys that they could dress up and not look like a total square.
Earth Shoes were a far out way to stay healthy
It's an understatement to say that in the 1970s young people were trying to find a way to set themselves apart from their forebears. They did this through their music, films, and their fashion. Before the groovy era, shoes were nothing more than something functional that had to be worn every day, but by the '60s, young people were showing the world who they were with their clothing choices.
The Earth Shoe was very much one of those choices. It was introduced in the United States in New York City on April 1, 1970, to coincide with the first-ever Earth Day which was celebrated three weeks later. Promoting "negative heel technology," Earth Shoes claimed to have health benefits that were billed to change the lives of the wearer. They were also super ugly.
So wait, what did Earth Shoes do?
Invented by Anne Kalso, a Denmark native, her passion for yoga led her to Switzerland before she made her way to Santos, Brazil. There, in 1957, she noticed the stellar posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. Kalso also realized that their footprints were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with Kalso, who believed that this foot positioning didn't just help with posture but breathing as well.
Kalso decided to make a shoe to create this posture for the world. She later explained:
It took numerous years of hard work before I reached the final form of my shoe that takes into consideration all the natural demands of the foot and body. It is only now that I know I have created something. It is no longer an idea in my mind but is something that is thoroughly tested and proven.
Apple Computers are straight from the groovy era
Out of all the nostalgic, everyday items from the groovy era that we still use today, the Apple computer has to be up there with the best of them. Invented in the early '70s by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the Apple 1 computer kit went on sale in 1976 when the Steves started hawking their wares to stores.
One year later, Woz and Jobs introduced the Apple II to the public and it completely changed the way people lived their lives, did their work, and connected with the people around them. Sure, there were computers before the Steves created Apple, but none of them felt as populist and personal.
Pong made it simple to game the day away
There were plenty of things created in the 1970s that made life better for regular folks, but it was Pong and the Atari 2600 that heralded a new way of life. Sure, kids today would riot if you showed them Pong, but back in the '70s, this was THE game to play with your friends.
There's no menu, no boss, nothing but the person you're playing against and that little white ball bouncing from one side of the screen to the other. Pong laid the groundwork for everything to come, showing game creators that they just had to make the game interesting enough to keep them hooked to the screen.
Stretch Armstrong helped action figures became a billion dollar industry
In the 1970s, no one knew exactly how major action figures would be. These toys may have been around since the '60s, but they were revolutionized when toy companies began creating figures of iconic characters that kids couldn't live without.
One of the most exciting and long-lasting action figures from the era was Stretch Armstrong, an elastic figure that could reach extreme lengths and be tied in knots. It didn't take long for this toy to sell $50 million in units. Today, mint-condition versions of this figure can fetch a solid grand.
Stretch Armstrong was cool and all, but it's Star Wars that excited kids generations ever since its inception and those action figures turned George Lucas into a billionaire.
Nerds turned the Rubik's Cube from a tool to a toy
This much-beloved game of intelligence didn't start as a toy that can be purchased at every game shop in America. It was originally a 3D model meant to explain geometry. After premiering at the Nuremberg Toy Show the Rubik's Cube was an immediate hit, even if it was confusing to everyone who saw it.
It didn't take long for nerds, egg-heads, and know-it-alls to descend on the confounding toy and turn it into a competition. Solving the Rubik's Cube remains a fun and exciting way to work your brain, even with billions of videos and games vying for the attention of young people.
The Easy-Bake-Oven created a generation of bakers
One toy that manages to endure is a decades-old fire hazard that young people can't stop begging for. The Easy Bake Oven was a simple way to introduce baking to children. It's an interesting idea but it's also pretty insane to give someone who's under the age of 10 a working oven. But hey, it was the '70s. And parents were able to get a pretty okay snack out of the deal.
The treats were made with a "just-add-water" recipe that may not have been the most flavorful but could be the start of a wonderful love of baking. A lot of future bakers definitely got their start with the Easy Bake Oven, and the "toy" manages to endure to this day.
There was definitely a kind of Internet in the groovy era
What we know as the Internet today is nothing like what it was in the early '60s, but we've all got to start somewhere. In 1962, MIT computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider dreamt up a global computer network and shared the concept with the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Following that meeting of the minds, Lawrence G. Roberts, a packet switching pioneer, helped create the concept of a wide-area computer network before making a plan for a company-funded computer network called the ARPANET that went live in 1969. Normal people couldn't log onto ARPANET, but this was just the beginning of what we'd come to call the worldwide web.
Thank the '70s for computer networks
The next internet leap forward for the groovy era occurred in 1973 when Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed a way to link together multiple computer networks. This protocol was later named the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). The TCP/IP is essentially a technology that allows multiple computer networks to keep running even if one crashes.
The creation of this one protocol essentially defines modern-day internet usage. Networks and services go down every day, and the reason most of us never hear about it is because of the idea by Kahn and Cerf. It's pretty cool that the groovy era can still have such a hold on the present.
Mobile Phones were huge in the 1970s, seriously huge
They may not have been as ubiquitous as they are today, but mobile phones were in their gestation period in the 1970s. In the early days of the decade, Motorola and Bell Labs were trying to beat one another to the production of the first handheld mobile telephone. On April 3, 1973, it was Motorola who came out the victor.
It would be another four years before public cell phone testing started in Chicago. Even with successful tests, the actual cell phone of the late '70s wasn't as sleek as what we have today. Known as "the brick," this phone was a whopping 30 ounces! Motorola was finally able to get it down to half that size in 1983 with their 16-ounce DynaTac 8000x phone.