19 'Cutting-Edge' Gadgets From the '80s That Seem So Lame Now (PHOTOS)

Rona Gindin | Aug 6, 2015 Home & Garden

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Big hair, huge shoulder pads, deafening boomboxes, and clothing that was sold pre-ripped -- ah, the 1980s. Those were the good times! While chilling by the TV with Mr. T and the rest of the A Team, we played with a slew of cool techie doo-dads that seem like relics today. 

Take a trip down memory lane with these 1980s gadgets that so many of us were obsessed with. 

 

Image via CataWiki

  • Portable Cassette Players

    1

    Remember walking, jogging, and riding the bus with a plastic headband around your skull and foam-covered speakers over your ears? Once Sony launched its pocket-size Walkman in the U.S. in 1980, we all pumped up the volume and blocked out the world. When the yellow version came out, the Walkman became a bona fide fashion statement. 

  • Video Game Consoles

    2

    Have a kid who zones you out to engage in lifelike warfare via PlayStation or XBox on a high-def TV? You can thank 1980s game consoles Atari, Sega, and Nintendo for that. Once the joystick entered American living rooms, the country's video game addiction began.

  • Cordless Telephones

    3

    Today the question is whether to get the small iPhone 6 or the large one. In 1984, the choice was the clunky Motorola DynaTAC 8000X -- at nearly $4,000 -- or no cordless phone at all. Users charged this dinosaur for 10 hours so the battery would last 30 minutes. But think of the sex appeal! Nothing says "chick magnet" like a giant box sticking out of a guy's back pocket!

  • Commodore 64

    4

    You think your super-sleek laptop with high-speed Internet is cutting-edge? In 1982, having any computer in your house was ahead of the curve. While office workers waringly toyed with one shared desktop ("Why would we need that?"), the geekier kids were toying around with the Commodore 64. This all-in-one machine flew off the shelves of retail stores, where it had no competition.

    More from The Stir: 7 High-Tech Ways to Stalk Your Ex

  • Answering Machines

    5

    Back in the day, if you missed a call, you missed a call. Then answering machines entered our homes. Suddenly cute guys could leave you a message, and scary ones could leave you 15. On the positive side, we learned to "screen" calls! 

  • Handheld TVs

    6

    You think you know cool? Try being the first one of your friends to watch TV on a teensy four-inch black-and-white screen. That's how the Watchman and other handheld TVs began. Suddenly every commuter and senior Floridian holed up during a storm had to have access to Night Court or Golden Girls. The fact that you had to fidget with the antennae forever to avoid static? Worth the price! 

  • Speak & Spell

    7

    Long before parents could get their cutie-pies to clam up with iPad apps, the Speak & Spell served that purpose. Kids could choose a game, such as "Say It" or "Mix Up," and press buttons in response to oral prompts. Parents, meanwhile, could read their own book or sip a white wine spritzer, content in the knowledge that their kids were being educated (sort of). 

  • Boom Boxes

    8

    Boomboxes were convenient for dorm parties, but walk down a city street, or spread a blanket at the beach, and there was no escaping the cacophony of sounds from competing ghetto blasters. The speakers grew even larger as the decade progressed, sending unbearable bass thumping into shared airwaves. 

    More from The Stir: 21 Things '80s Kids' Did That Would Horrify Us Now

  • Videocassette Recorders

    9

    Couples didn't have enough to fight about, so the VCR, or videocassette recorder, broadened the scope. "Let's tape my show!" "No, mine!" "Let's rent this thriller." "No, I want a comedy." Once VHS and BetaMax machines freed us from watching only what was airing at the time, the bickering began. 

  • Camcorders

    10

    If you're tired of friends' kiddie and cat videos on Facebook, you have camcorders to thank. Once Sony's Betamovie and JVC's VHS-C debuted in 1983, parents and pet-owners could -- and did -- easily tape whoever and whatever they wanted, anywhere, with sound. Suddenly no school play or silly cat trick was too insignificant for the wannabe-Spielbergs of the day. The early camcorders were bulky and heavy with a removable cassette tape -- as if!

  • Fax Machines

    11

    These certainly had their downsides. Fax machines in the '80s made a painful screeching sound (they still do, actually), and their weirdly aromatic paper (maybe it was the ink that stank) bunched up regularly. But suddenly everyone could communicate without postal carriers or personal couriers. Oh, yey!

  • Personal Computers

    12

    An apple a day ... keeps everyone occupied! Meet the early Macintosh by Apple, which brought desktop publishing to America in 1984. The alternative was "IBM-compatible" desktops. The debate over which is better continues to this day. 

    More from The Stir: 10 Ways Life Would Be Different 'If The '80s Never Stopped' (PHOTOS)

  • Pac-Man

    13

    We blame carpal tunnel syndrome on our computer mice, but, let's face it, the wrist stress likely began with a Pac-Man obsession circa 1980. Once we became determined to save these maze-trapped munchkins from ghosts with names like Binky, we spent way too many hours, and quarters, in the pinball arcade. Ms. Pac-Man added to our addiction in 1981.

  • Compact Discs

    14

    It's hard to imagine that in the 1980s, CDs were the hot new audio item. With a crisper sound delivered via digital -- rather than analog -- technology, CDs were all the rage. Today hipsters shun CDs for LPs. What goes around comes around.

  • The Clapper

    15

    Give this '80s icon a round of applause. The "Clap On! Clap Off!" TV commercial for it -- which everyone knew well -- showed how a simple clap could illuminate or darken a room. Introduced in 1985, the gadget's innocently campy ad may have been more popular than the actual product.

  • Calculator Watches

    16

    In case you suddenly needed to balance your checkbook while out of the house, or calculate potential lottery winnings, Casio and other companies built calculators right into wristwatches. The adding machines were combined with digital watches so techies could know the time to the exact second.

    More from The Stir: 8 Most Romantic Lines From '80s Love Songs (PHOTOS)

  • Disposable Cameras

    17

    A camera preloaded with film -- imagine that! You take some photos, send the whole kit-and-kaboodle to the lab for developing, and reap a pile of snapshots a few days later. Once these one-use wonders hit the market in the mid '80s, picture-taking became prolific. Tourists who'd forgotten cameras could snag one of these off a store shelf, and wedding couples placed one at every guest table so guests could document the Electric Slide at the reception. 

  • Teddy Ruxpin

    18

    Storytime was all the time for kids who had a Teddy Ruxpin, even if their parents were totally negligent. Sort of cuddly with a cassette tape inside, this cute little bear, introduced in 1985, read stories. Its mouth moved while it talked, and so did its eyes, making the talking teddy a tad realistic.

  • Floppy Discs

    19

    Hard drives? Flash drives? What are those? In the early days of PCs, computer users saved their files on 5 1/4-inch floppy discs. By 1988, more people had switched to thicker, harder 3.5-inch versions. This edgier version was easier to use and protect.

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