Top Inventions From the 1950s Through the 1990s

Lowell, Massachusetts factories

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The second half of the 20th century was defined by the Cold War and hot war proxy of that war in Vietnam. It was a time of postwar prosperity when cars gave rise to the suburbs and televisions dominated living rooms everywhere. Television broadcasts became the number one source of news, information, and entertainment. Live news broadcasts were now possible coast to coast, and this gave Americans a feeling of being more connected, with millions watching the same show at the same time and the Vietnam War playing out in every living room on the nightly news.

Many of the most popular consumer products still around today were invented in the 1970s and '80s such as cell phones and home computers. Like cars in the early part of the century, these inventions have changed the world in a multitude of ways. The '90s saw the rise of the internet, as huge an invention as cars and planes of the early years of the 20th century.

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Hula Champion
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In the postwar America of the 1950s, many changes for consumers were afoot. New on the scene in this decade: credit cards, power steering, diet soft drinks, music synthesizers, and transistor radios. The baby boom generation made hula hoops a craze, and the Barbie doll began her decades-long, ageless run. In the changing people's lives department, there was the birth control pill and the computer modem, microchip and Fortran language. McDonald's added the term and experience of fast food to American life.​

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Audio Tape Cassette
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Inventions related to the thing that would change the world - computers were on the scene in the '60s, with the invention of the language called Basic, the mouse, and random access memory (RAM).

The entertainment world saw the debut of the audio cassette, the compact disc, and the video disc.

Cars got electronic fuel injection, and just about everyone got a handheld calculator. ATMs started showing up, making banking at all hours and on the weekends a new convenience. And artificial hearts were invented in a huge medical breakthrough.

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Close-Up Of Floppy Disk
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In the '70s, more progress on the computer was made with the invention of the floppy disk and the microprocessor.

Consumer goods came on strong in this decade. VCRs let you record TV shows and watch another time or watch movies on tape. Wow. Food processors gave rise to recipes that used these speedy machines, and drink cans got easier to open with push-through tabs. Everyone wanted a Walkman to listen to tunes anywhere, and Bic made the first throw-away lighter. Rollerblades were the decade's craze for kids, and the Pong video game was invented.

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, was the decade's medical breakthrough, and in the last year of the decade, cell phones were invented.

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Apple Lisa 2
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The 1980s were a turning point: The first IBM Personal Computer, or PC, and the Apple Lisa were invented, and the world has not been the same since. Apple followed Lisa with the Macintosh, and Microsoft invented the Windows operating system.

More tech: Doppler radar burst onto the weather scene to provide much more detail about storms, high-definition television (HDTV) was invented, and video games now came in 3-D.

Kids went crazy for Cabbage Patch Kids, and many of their parents went crazy for Prozac, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which increase serotonin in the brain and boost mood.

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HTML code
Don Bayley / Getty Images

The '90s were relatively quiet on the invention/technology scene, but three things were momentous: the World Wide Web, internet protocol (HTTP) and WWW language (HTML) were all developed.

DVDs enhanced movie-watching at home.

On the medical front, doctors discovered the HIV protease inhibitor and Viagra.