When you hear the word “boomer” nowadays, it is usually not with a positive connotation. Despite this, the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, known as the Baby Boom, were responsible for many important product developments that we still use today.
1. Fax Machines
The very first fax machine appeared in the early 1960s. However, it was developed using technology first invented by Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone. While fax machines aren’t as widely used today, you can still find them at many doctors’ offices and businesses.
A lifesaver for kids’ clothes, Velcro was invented in the 1950s and was initially designed as a fastener for clothing instead of finicky buttons. Today, you can find Velcro on clothing products and other tasks like hanging decorations, tidying up loose cables, and holding slippery rugs in place.
3. Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap was invented in the 1950s by two engineers. Today, bubble wrap is most often used to protect fragile items when packing and shipping items. Believe it or not, bubble wrap was initially intended to be utilized as textured wallpaper. While it never gained popularity in the interior design realm, it has revolutionized the protective packaging and moving supply industries.
4. Roll-On Deodorant
While inventors developed deodorants well before boomers were born, they sometimes had different convenient packaging than today. It wasn’t until the 1950s that roll-on deodorant became available. Before that, deodorant only came in liquid form and had to be applied using a rag or cotton swab.
5. Color TV
While color film originated during the early 1900s, color TV trailed behind for many decades. The technology required to add color to live television was more complicated than adding it during the post-production editing of a film.
In the 1950s, during a broadcast that much of the United States tuned in for, television shifted from black and white to color right before viewers’ eyes. Today, all TV shows are in full color unless intentionally edited to be black and white.
The 1950s was the age of kitchen appliance advancement. Most American households had refrigerators, freezers, ovens, and microwaves for the first time in history! This posed a problem, however, for the widely popular plastic products at the time since you couldn’t put traditional plastic in the microwave, and you definitely couldn’t place it in the oven.
Pyrex introduced the first tempered glass cookware that was oven-safe and microwave-safe and did not scratch or oxidize. Pyrex is still found in most households today.
7. TV Dinners
The TV dinner is another boomer-centric product you can still find in stores today. As more and more American households began to have televisions in their living rooms, the need for meals that could accommodate couch seating increased. Following the laws of supply and demand, TV dinners were invented and sent to the shelves of every grocery store’s refrigerator section nationwide.
8. Diet Soda
Before the 1950s, there were no sugar-free alternatives to soda, but it still had that same sweet, carbonated delight that consumers expected. Diet soda first appeared as an alternative to sugar-inclusive soda for diabetic patients. By the 1960s, major brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi had developed diet soda for sale on the consumer market.
9. Super Glue
Super Glue, much like bubble wrap, was another accidental invention. It was first developed as an attempt by scientists to create clear plastic gun sights using cyanoacrylate (the chemical name for the compound that makes Super Glue) for the U.S. military.
Unfortunately for the military, the substance would not become solid and stuck to everything it touched. Fortunately for the consumer market, there is now an alternative to animal-product-based glue.
10. Credit Cards
Having the cash to pay for an item in full can be expensive, both when boomers were born and today. In 1946, the first credit cards were invented. Credit cards allowed consumers to pay for their purchases later in return for paying an interest rate while also earning rewards and cash back. Today, credit cards are used by the majority of consumers.
Barcodes are a standard part of everyday shopping experiences at grocery stores, department stores, and clothing stores. Believe it or not, before the invention of the barcode in the early 1950s, stores would have to shut down and individually count items to manage their inventory.
Cashiers typically kept a catalog of products to search for and price items individually. Thanks to barcodes, checking out is no longer a painstaking process (at least, not as much).
12. Answering Machines
Before the invention of answering machines in the late 1940s, leaving a recorded message when someone didn’t answer the phone was impossible. Today, while home phones (and therefore answering machines) are less common in households, answering machines live on through their virtual descendent: voicemail.
What an Era
Though some come in updated forms that some boomers may not recognize, many well-known products we use today were invented during the Baby Boom. The next time you eat a TV dinner or leave a voicemail, remember that these products once defined boomers and continue to impact all ages today.
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