WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Some possibly useful notes on The Seventies, for those who remember them and others who don't.

Daily Life:





  • There was the end of the Vietnam War that had a humiliating postscript when the Americans and a few local sympathizers had to flee after the North Vietnamese took over everything in 1975. As a side effect, neighboring Cambodia went through its own Hell when the Khmer Rouge takes over and starts The Killing Fields. Meanwhile, the US finds the only upside is that all the attention of that madness was that it drew attention away from their ally Indonesia invading and savagely occupying East Timor.
  • Richard Nixon has his own problems when his paranoia pushed him his cronies to order the Democratic Party campaign office be broken into to plant bugs, only to get caught and blow the whole thing up as the Watergate scandal and constitutional crisis.
  • In 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown by an Islamist revolution. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the country. The revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, calling it (with some justification) a "nest of spies," and took hostage the 52 embassy staff remaining by that time, demanding the return of the Shah; even after he died of cancer in the U.S., they demanded return of his immense personal fortune. The "Hostage Crisis" dominated headlines throughout the 1980 presidential campaign, in which first-term President Jimmy Carter, increasingly perceived as ineffectual, was defeated by Ronald Reagan. The hostages were not released until the day Reagan was inaugurated -- giving rise to the "October Surprise" conspiracy theory, that representatives of Reagan's campaign had negotiated with the Iranians to hold off releasing them until after the election.

Food and Drink:


  • This is the decade where Hard Rock started to really grow to popularity.
  • While Led Zeppelin formed as a band in 1968, released two albums in 1969, and gained a cult following -- it wasn't until November of 1971, when they had released their fourth album (which was untitled), that the band reached the peak of their fame. From that album, "Stairway to Heaven" quickly became a favourite -- and, within two years, the song reached anthemic status.
  • Music of this decade got louder than even anyone in the late 1960s could imagine, as Heavy Metal also established itself as a genre.
  • The latter half of the decade brought us disco, which quickly grew to ubiquity -- and then died a quick death, after there was a huge backlash against the genre.
  • The first wave of Punk Rock also started in the late 1970s, in opposition to the "dinosaur rock" from the earlier half of the decade.

Social Concerns:

  • The Gay Rights Movement really got going after the Stonewall Riots, only to have to fight a hateful rightwing homophobic backlash with people like Anita Bryant trying to roll back the first legal advances.
  • Environmentalism also got going well with the first Earth Day in 1970 with early movements including going after commercial whaling which completely turns the public image of Cetaceans from Moby Dick monsters to gentle giants of the deep who desperately need help before they are wiped out.


  • Communications technology was largely the same as in the 1960s, but big changes were on the way:
    • At the beginning of the decade, color TV was now the norm, but FM radio was still in its infancy, and AM radio still ruled supreme. By 1980, though, FM had made huge strides in adoption, and pop music on AM was starting to giving way to Talk Radio and other niche formats.
    • The phone system in the US was still very much the domain of the Bell System, and people were increasingly not happy with them. This was the era of Saturday Night Live's "We don't care. We don't have to." skit, as well as the start of MCI's rise to fame (starting with one of the lawsuits that led to the eventual breakup of the Bells).
    • Probably the biggest communications-related fad of the 1970s was the Citizen's Band radio. It went along with the "outlaw trucker" fad that was popular in the middle of the decade, and in a time before the Cell Phone or the Internet, this was one of the few ways to talk to strangers in funny lingo. By 1980, though, the fad had lost its luster, and many CB radios ended up being sold at yard sales or simply thrown out.
    • The first rudimentary online services started in this era. Compu Serve and its main competition The Source opened to the public in 1979, and the first public dialup BBS, CBBS, opened in Feburary of 1978.
  • Most of the biggest leaps in technology in this decade were in the realm of electronics:
    • The 1970s saw the introduction of the first single-chip microprocessor (Intel 4004, 1971), the first microcontroller (TI's TMS 1000), the first pocket calculator (TI's Datamath), the first Video Game System for home use (Magnavox Odyssey), the VCR in general (starting with Sony's introduction of U-matic in 1971, and culminating in the introduction of VHS in 1976/1977), the personal computer (the Altair 8800, Commodore PET, TRS-80, and Apple II), and the first computer-controlled handheld games (Mattel Pocket Sports). It also saw the introduction of the Walkman, the product that took Sony from being a well-regarded but quirky TV and VCR maker to a household name.
    • Power transistors improved dramatically during the decade, making it possible to have high-power stereos and big-screen TVs without having to use fragile, power-hungry vacuum tubes. They also made electronic ignition for cars possible (making points obsolete by the end of the decade), and were key in making the Apple II's small, cool-running power supply (a big deal at the time) possible as well.
    • Display technology improved quite a bit as well. The vacuum-fluorescent display, the LED-matrix display (used to great effect on several of TI's pocket calculators) and the LCD all made their debuts in this decade.
  • Automobile technology in the 1970s was greatly influenced by both concerns over air pollution and concerns over fuel economy -- two things that seemed to be mutually exclusive for many years:
    • Early emissions controls, which were done as cheaply as possible to meet the new EPA mandates, ended up reducing power output and, ironically, fuel economy dramatically; an average car of the mid-1970s was cleaner-running than one from 10 years prior, but could go about half as far on a gallon of gas (the average fuel economy for larger cars, cars whose 2011 equivalents average about 20 miles to the US gallon or more, was in single digits).
    • Ford and Chrysler both worked on systems that would try to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible (as well as control the fuel mixture, since running the engine rich will burn up the catalytic converter quickly), but they all had problems. Ford's VV carburetor had a design flaw that, when it appeared, would set the mixture so lean that the engine wouldn't run. Chrysler's system was a full analog computer that could also control spark timing, but it had reliability problems as well. Neither of these did much to help, and by model year 1980 the car makers had resorted to putting smaller engines in simply to be able to meet the mandates, performance or drivability notwithstanding.
    • Other manufacturers were less set in their ways and were more willing to use better ways of doing things. Honda's CVCC engine used a special cylinder head to improve efficiency, making an engine that was so clean it could pass the 1975 emissions regulations without a catalytic converter. Volkswagen was an early advocate of Bosch's mechanical fuel injection systems.
    • Diesel engines were popular for a time in the late 1970s. Volkswagen and Mercedes had versions of their cars that ran on diesel fuel, and GM introduced a diesel V8 engine for their fullsize cars in 1978. These were naturally-aspirated diesel engines with no turbo boost, and so acceleration on them was extremely slow; this, combined with a problem on the GM engines involving their head gaskets, made diesels unpopular by the early 1980s.
    • The light at the end of the tunnel finally appeared when Ford and GM concurrently introduced the first practical computerized emissions controls in model year 1980. Ford's "EEC III" system was only ever used on a few high-end models, but it was a step in the right direction and a precursor to the much more powerful "EEC IV" system. Ford also introduced their first fuel injection system, the CFI. GM's system, the Computer Command Control (C3), was less ambitious and used more hardwired circuitry, but was also flexible and was used in GM cars and trucks well into The Eighties.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.