Things We Miss from the 1970s
As we look back, it's easy to overlook the charm and impact of the decade that was the 1970s.
But from legendary concerts to groundbreaking, colorful design and lack of expense for just about everything you needed, there's plenty to miss about this iconic era today.
No Computers or Social Media
In the '70s, there were no personal computers and, by extension, no social media. Computers were mostly large and used for specific business or scientific purposes, not for personal use or communication.
People relied on traditional forms of communication, which meant they had to talk to each other in person, by phone or by snail mail. Your every moment — embarrassing, fun or otherwise — would only exist in your memory.
Driving a Muscle Car
Today's cars are generally one of four colors — white, black, gray and silver — and just a few styles.
But muscle cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s came in a variety of shapes and hues. They had powerful V8 engines, which made them really fast and fun to drive, and the loud engine noise they emitted made them stand out.
They were a symbol of rebellion and freedom, and many of these workhorses are at classic car shows some 50 years later. Can you imagine anyone ogling a KIA Sol at a car show in 50 years?
Buying Cheap Gas
In the early 1970s, gas prices were relatively low, which contributed to the popularity of large, gas-guzzling cars like muscle cars.
However, the oil crisis of 1973 led to a sudden and significant increase in oil prices. Gas prices surged, and many people faced long lines at gas stations due to shortages.
Gas was about 36 cents a gallon in 1970. By 1980, it was about $1.19. Still, pretty cheap in comparison to today's prices.
Using a Landline
In March 2023, a Gen-Z nanny named Rae told the story of how she tried to get hold of the siblings she had to pick up, but neither of them had a phone or iPad with them. The 9-year-old said, "They need to come up with like a phone that’s for the whole family that stays in the house, so if you need any person in the house, you can call that phone. Like, it’s not just that one person’s number — it’s like the whole family.”
Rae said that that was "an amazing idea....for this phone, let’s attach it to a chord, maybe like stick it on the wall, so that if there’s an emergency, we can always find it. It can’t leave the house, and it’s for the whole family.”
Does this mean landlines are making a comeback? Stay tuned.
Since computers didn't exist, video games weren't really a thing. (Sure, Pong was popular in the 70s, but it didn't have a chokehold on people the way something like Candy Crush would today. Your opponent would also have to be in the same room as you to play.)
So, you did whatever other kid of your day did — you played outside. You rode bikes, you drank from the hose, and you came in when the streetlights came on.
Records and stereo systems were big in the 1970s. Music lovers would pour over album art and lyrics as they listened. When CDs came around, that was a lot harder to do. By the time of streaming, this tradition was non-existent, and physical product was old hat.
But vinyl's demise has been greatly exaggerated — people have once again discovered the joy of record collecting.
In 2022, vinyl sold more than CDs since 1987. Forty-one million albums sold in that year alone, and that's not counting already used units.
Attending Concerts for Next to Nothing
Depending on the artist, people don't blink when they shell out a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a concert ticket, but that wasn't the case in the 70s.
At the time, you could see virtually anyone for less than ten dollars, and everyone you saw would have been the cream of the musical crop (think Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and other too numerous to mention.) You got your tickets by waiting in line outside of the box office or record store.
TV You Didn't Have to Pay For
Once upon a time, there wasn't any streaming options or cable. There were only "The Big Three"—NBC, CBS, and ABC — and PBS. Everyone saw the same shows at the same time and talked about them around the water cooler or at school the following day.
TV was shared experience by millions, and it was 100 percent free.
Colored Toilet Paper
Back in the day, it wasn't unusual to see a bathroom matched in color down to its toilet paper. But by the 90s, colored TP had all but disappeared from store shelves.
People worried that the chemicals used to dye it could irritate the skin and the bright and often gaudy colors of colored toilet paper no longer matched modern aesthetics. But some shades have indeed made a comeback and can be now found on Amazon and even at Ikea.
Learning via Schoolhouse Rock
Every '70s kid learned while watching TV. The educational series "Schoolhouse Rock!" used catchy songs and cartoon animation to teach kids various subjects like grammar, math, and civics.
Some of its songs, like "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just a Bill," are still loved and remembered today because they made learning so much fun and engaging back then.
The Comfort of a Waterbed
Waterbeds were sexy, fun and even comfortable (particularly those that were waveless.) People that swore by them, really swore by them, and they were extremely popular during the decade.
So, what happened?
First, they required a fair amount of maintenance. You had to fill them with water and adjust the water level regularly to keep them comfortable. Plus, they could easily develop leaks, causing extra work and potential damage.
Second, waterbeds were really heavy, which made them hard to move; they were sometimes too heavy for certain rooms or apartments. These practical issues led many people to choose simpler and more convenient mattress options.
Hitting the Roller Rink
Personal wheels in the form of roller skates (and skateboards) were massive in the '70s. Both almost always involved moving to your favorite tunes, and in the instance of roller skates, adding a few dance moves.
In the 1980s, roller blades became trendy and stole roller skating's fire, but it's not entirely out. There are still rinks in most major cities, complete with DJs and disco balls.
Relaxing in a Conversation Pit
Many people didn't have conversation pits, but those who did were the talk of the neighborhood. Sunken living rooms became popular in the 1950s, but by the 1980s, as people became more focused on watching movies in the home and more concerned about the danger they posed, conversation pits fell out of fashion.
As trends are cyclical, however, they are once again becoming popular and being built in newer homes. People who have purchased older homes are also finding them under floorboards.
Hanging Patterned Wallpaper
Monochromatic design has become the norm in homes today, with white being the primary color. This a far cry from the 70s, when when whole rooms were designed in avocado, orange or pink and had the wallpaper to match.
Homeowners found out that wallpaper, which was difficult to put up, was even harder to remove.
Eating TV Dinners
If you've ever eaten a TV dinner, you'll never forget the taste. It's not like these curious combos were haute cuisine or remotely nutritious but they were something that was very familiar to every kid who grew in the decade. (Chances are, you at the desert first and left the vegetable medley behind.)
As people became more aware of healthy eating, these ready-made dinners fell by the wayside — sort of. They are now called "frozen meals" and just got a boost from the COVID pandemic. The market is worth about $41 billion today.