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  • Author Dave Stevenson
  • Published April 24, 2014

Remember… 1972?

Handheld calculators, lunar rovers, Pong… and Liam Gallagher. Yep, 1972 was a doozie.


Great hair, even better trousers and wallpaper that didn’t quite stand the test of time. The 70s were a great decade and anyone who says otherwise needs their bell-bottoms examining. Join us as we crank the How To Live It time machine into life and examine the seminal events of 1972.


In tech
1972 was a phenomenal year for nerds. Serious geeks could buy the first scientific handheld calculator, for instance. The Hewlett-Packard HP-35 was a battery-powered replacement for the 300 year-old slide rule. It cost a cool $395 when it was released – over £1,300 in today’s money – but marked its owners out as brainy, scientific types and its success took even HP by surprise. The continued failure of pocket-protector wearing science students to secure dates surprised no one.


Less fanfare-y, but no less useful, was Robert Metcalfe and David Boggs’ tinkering over at Xerox Parc (the people who also invented laser printers, the graphical user interface, the first-ever personal workstation computer…). They were asked to put in a fast network for all the scientists’ computers. And lo, Ethernet was born.


Then it became the standard we still use today. The standard that makes it possible for you to avail yourself of lovely ULTRA HD streams on your telly…


Less serious geeks could lose their savings in a different way. In September, the owner of Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, rang Allan Alcorn to complain that an arcade video game Alcorn had installed the previous day was on the blink. When Alcorn arrived with his toolbox, he found the coin mechanism resolutely jammed with quarters.


The game in question was Pong, responsible for driving geeks into bankruptcy 25 cents a time, and unquestionably the godfather of the modern video game. 1972 also saw the first commercial games console for the home in the boxy shape of the Magnavox Odyssey. Battery-powered and lacking the ability to make any noises, the Odyssey’s games were titled in a strikingly literal way, with Basketball, Football and Ski a few of the less-imaginatively named games in history.



In the news
Space, space, space. it was just three years after Neil Armstrong plonked himself down on Earth’s nearest neighbour, but NASA didn’t waste any time once One Small Step had been taken. Apollo 16 launched on April 16th, and its three-man crew spent a total of 20 hours bombing around on the lunar surface, joyriding the Lunar Roving Module (LRM) to a positively reckless top speed of 18km/h. Reports that Mission Commander John W Young requested that the LRM be fitted with sports suspension and LED underlighting are unsubstantiated.


If you were the Moon in 1972 it was exceedingly likely that the Americans would fire a rocket at you. If you were a Russian, the threat receded somewhat when Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), which aimed to eventually reduce the number of nuclear missiles held by the countries either side of the iron curtain. The upshot was the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty in May, which significantly reduced the chances of innocent millions waking up in a radioactive wasteland.


It wasn’t all gravy, though. According to a ‘smoking gun’ tape recorded on June 23rd, Nixon ordered his staff to tell the CIA to warn the FBI off investigating his administration’s involvement in break-ins at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex. The scandal led to his resignation two years later. (And decades of ‘–gate’ headlines in newspapers.)


And the rest
You’ve got to roll with it: 1972 saw Peggy and Thomas Gallagher have their third son, one William John Paul Gallagher, who later adopted the nickname Liam and grew up to be the frontman of one of the most famous rock bands of all time. He was later described as “the angriest man you’ll ever meet… he’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup” by none other than his own brother.


Elsewhere, the sales of the VW Beetle exceeded those of the Model T Ford when the 15,007,034th unit rolled off the production line. A different Beatle, Paul McCartney, made his live debut with Wings at the University of Nottingham (some say they’re the band the Beatles could’ve been…). Oh, and the doner kebab was invented in Berlin.


Next week, 1973…


This year’s tech innovations are coming from LG: see LG’s OLED TVs – seriously amazing screen quality and colours. Find out more here >>>

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