“Not to wax nostalgic about the 1970’s, but back then people got upset when they saw injustice. They got tired of seeing our air, land, and water polluted. They were shocked when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was polluted so badly it caught fire. And on one great day, 20 million Americans marched all across this land. Politicians had no choice but to take notice.”—Senator John Kerry
The ‘70s were a tumultuous time, where marginalized groups fought for equality, students protested the Vietnam war, faith in American government was shaken by political scandal, and the digital revolution began. Here are 44 throwback facts about the 1970s.
44. Disgraced President
The Watergate scandal began in 1972, and both it and President Richard Nixon dominated the news in the first years of the decade. Once Nixon’s role in the cover-up was revealed, and it became clear he would be impeached, he resigned the presidency in August 1974. Nixon’s resignation was the first time in US history that a president resigned from office, and it completely transformed the way the people thought about politics and the presidency.
43. The Start of a Franchise
The original Star Wars movie premiered on May 25, 1977, and popularized the sci-fi movie genre. Drawing from sources ranging from the Flash Gordon serial films to Frank Herbert’s Dune books, Star Wars not only changed the film industry with its use of special effects but has become ingrained in pop culture. In 1989, the film became one of the first films to be chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in its newly created National Film Registry.
42.Bangladesh Liberation War
When British rule in India ended in 1947, East Pakistan became a part of Pakistan in the west, but 1,000 miles and major cultural and religious differences separated the regions. East Pakistan wanted to be free of West Pakistan, and in March 1971, declared their independence. West Pakistani forces came in to end the revolt, and an estimated 1 million Bengalis were killed during the conflict. Thanks to aid from Indian forces, Pakistan finally recognized Bangladesh as an independent state in 1974.
41. Tallest Building in America
Standing at 110 stories high, the Sears Tower in Chicago (now the Willis Tower) was completed in 1973 after three years of construction. The tower took 12,000 workers to complete, the amount of concrete used was equivalent to the amount used to make a highway five miles in length and eight lanes in width. The building stood as the tallest in the world for 25 years, but was eventually surpassed by One World Trade Centre in New York in the United States, and is now the 16th tallest building in the world.
40. Terror in Munich
The 1972 Munich Olympic games were the first time since the 1936 games that the Olympics were held in a German city, and they were tragically marred by a horrific terrorist attack. Palestinian militants disguised themselves as athletes and forced their way into the Israeli quarters using stolen keys. Two Israelis were killed, and 9 others taken hostage. In the subsequent gun battle, all of the hostages were killed, along with 5 of the terrorists.
39. A Lazy Cartoon Cat
Garfield is an American comic strip created by Jim Davis about a lazy, cantankerous cat. It made its debut in 1978. The comic originally consisted of 4 characters—Garfield, Jon Arbuckle, Odie, and Odie’s owner Lyman. The strip was an almost immediate success. Within three years of its release, the strip was appearing in over 850 newspapers, and by 2002, in 2,570. Today, Garfield is still going strong and is available in print and online.
38. Porn Gets Popular
In 1972, a porn flick called Deep Throat drew surprising numbers at the box office, earning 3 million dollars in its first six months of release. Prior to Deep Throat, porn movies were something that were only shown outside of the mainstream, but this one was the first to appeal to ordinary movie-goers as well as the regular niche audience. The movie became especially significant with the adoption of its title as a pseudonym for the super-secret Watergate informant.
37. Gay Liberation Day
The first Gay Pride Parade was held in New York on June 28, 1970, commemorating the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which were a violent conflict between the gay community and the police at the Stonewall Inn (a popular gay nightclub) in Greenwich Village, NYC. Other parades were also held that year in Chicago and Los Angeles. Today, Pride is celebrated annually at the end of June in cities all around the world.
36. Music Becomes Portable
The introduction of the Sony Walkman permanently changed the music game. While pre-recorded cassettes were introduced in the 1960s, most people still chose to listen to vinyl at home. On July 1, 1979, Sony launched its portable music player the Sony Walkman, which was borne of a desire by Sony’s co-founder for a device that he could listen to while walking around. While the technology wasn’t new, a music-playing device that was portable and private was. Sony exceeded its sales expectations, selling 50,000 plus units in its first two months of release.
35.Match of the Century
On July 11, 1972, American chess phenom Bobby Fischer was given the opportunity to play Russian player Boris Spassky for the championship title at the World Chess Championship in Iceland. It was labeled “The Match of the Century” and was seen as analogous to the Cold War between Russia and the US. Fischer took the match 12.5-8.5 and broke a 24-year streak of Soviet supremacy.
In January 1973, the Miami Dolphins football team became the first NFL team in history to win a championship with an undefeated record. For the 1972 season, the team went 17-0-0, and they were also the first team to go through an entire season without a tie. The cherry on top of this spectacular season was the Super Bowl victory, where they defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7. To date, only the New England Patriots have even come close to challenging this record. They finished the 2007 regular season with a perfect record, and won their two playoff games, but lost the Super Bowl to the Giants 17-14.
33. Bobby vs Billie
In what ended up being billed as “The Battle of the Sexes,” tennis player Bobby Riggs met Billie Jean King in a televised tennis match on September 20, 1973. Riggs was a former #1 ranked player, and King was one of the best female tennis players in the world. Earlier that year, Riggs challenged all female tennis players to face him in a match, boasting that no woman could beat him. King later revealed that she believed that the match was important for the women’s liberation movement and that her ‘destiny’ was to crusade for equality in sports.
32. Computer Domination
In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who had been friends since childhood, founded the computer software company Microsoft. The company’s original purpose was to create software for an early personal computer called the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, the company had amassed over $1 million in sales, and they moved their headquarters back to the Seattle suburb where they had grown up. Microsoft licensed its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, and soon after, other companies started to license the system. In 1985, Microsoft debuted the Windows operating system and went public 2 years later. With its public offering in 1987, Bill Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire at age 31.
31. An American in China
President Richard Nixon made history in February 1972 with his week-long visit to Beijing, China. The first U.S. President to visit China, the talks that took place over that week were an important first step in rebuilding diplomatic relations between China and America.
30. Not Ready for Prime-Time Players
The popular late-night comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live made its debut on October 11, 1975. The show’s humor defied traditional social conventions and launched original cast members Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Bill Murray into stardom. The show was unlike anything that was airing on television at the time, and 40+ years later, it’s enjoying a new wave of popularity.
29. Landmark Decision
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States with a momentous ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade. In a 7-2 decision, the court found that privacy rights that are guaranteed by the 14th amendment, also that the amendment thus protects a woman’s right to choose. The 1965 case of Griswold vs Connecticut was used as a legal precedent and stated that medical procedures have a right to be kept private.
28. Thinking Different
Just one year after the formation of Microsoft, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple Computers. Apple was founded on April 1, 1976, and became an incorporated company on January 3, 1977. For nearly 30 years, Apple’s core business was the manufacturing of personal computers, but today, they have expanded their core products to include iPhone smartphones, iPad Tablet computers, iPod portable media players, and the Mac computer line. Apple is currently estimated to have a market value of over $900 billion.
27. Sunday, Bloody Sunday
On January 30, 1972, protesters in Londonderry, Northern Ireland were marching against British rule, when police opened fire on them. They killed thirteen people, injured a dozen more, and their actions greatly increased support for the Irish Republican Army. Over 30 years of violence followed, which became known as The Troubles. Nearly 3,000 people died as a result.
26. The Fro
In the 1970s, African Americans had more freedom to wear their hair in natural styles, and the Afro or ‘fro’ was the style of the decade. Those who wore it usually had frizzy or curly hair that would stick straight out from the head, but wearers could also braid or curl their hair in advance of styling to create maximum volume. Recording artists like The Temptations, The Jackson Five, and Marvin Gaye, as well as television personalities like Richard Prior all wore afros.
25. Tackling the Issues
The early days of television were generally family-friendly, but in the first half of the 1970s, that started to shift. One of the most important and ground-breaking of these shows was the sitcom All in the Family starring Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker. Archie was a blue-collar dock-worker living in Queens and was often described as a “lovable bigot” (if there is such a thing). The show first aired on CBS in 1971 and was number 1 for five straight seasons. It was also responsible for pulling television away from its G-rated reputation and creating content more suitable for adults.
24. New Right
As a response to the turmoil of the late 60s, many Americans, and particularly working-class and middle-class whites, took up a right-wing populism, which was intended to take their country back from the spoiled’ hippies, ‘whining’ protesters, and low-income people and social programs that they believed were a drain on taxpayers. They formed what was referred to as a silent majority, and were responsible for putting Richard Nixon in office in 1968.
23. Golden Age for Vinyl
The 1970s were considered to be a golden age for vinyl records. Most people had record players, and nearly everyone could afford them. Music listeners had a choice of many different musical styles, and the decade even gave rise to a new genre of music that is among the most popular styles today—hip-hop.
22. End of an Era
In 1970, the world mourned when the Beatles broke up due to internal conflicts. Each went their separate ways, and Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo album cemented the deal. While Lennon had previously told the group that he was leaving, it wasn’t until McCartney’s official break-up statement that it became public.
21. Growing Population
In 1970, the world’s population was 3.7 billion people. As of December 2017, that number had a little more than doubled, with a reported population of 7.6 billion.
20. Major Inflation
In the 1970s, the world saw massive inflation due in part to the energy crisis in the Middle East. In 1970, a new house cost $23,400, and by the end of the decade, a house was $58,500. At the start of the decade, the average individual income was $9,350, and by 1979 it had increased to $17,550. A gallon of gas rose from 36 cents to 86 cents, and the average cost of a new car rose from $39,00 to $5,770.
19. The Height of Fashion
Fashion in the 1970s was wild and varied. Shorts were really short, skirts had 3 distinctly different lengths (mini, midi and maxi) and wild prints and polyester suits were popular. Among the more notable accessories were platform shoes, which had soles between 2-4 inches thick. Worn by men and women, the shoes were in every store and many closets in the country.
18. Dancer’s Defection
In 1977, Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from Russia while taping a TV special in Canada. He left the Soviet Union seeking better opportunities in the West, and initially freelanced with different ballet companies before joining the New York City Ballet. At the NYC Ballet, he studied Balanchine’s style of dance, and eventually joined the American Ballet Theatre, first as a dancer, and then as its artistic director.
17. Sagebrush Rebellion
During the 1970s and 80s, a movement known as the Sagebrush Rebellion rose, seeking changes to federal land control, use, and disposal in the American West. Supporters of the movement wanted more state and local control over federal lands in the states involved, or for the lands to be transferred to the state and/or privatized. The name came from sagebrush steppe, which is where most of the land in question was located.
16. Founding Earth Day
The first Earth Day took place in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, with the goal of increasing national awareness of the issues, and creating a movement. Today it’s celebrated globally and is sometimes extended to Earth Week which is 7 days of events focused on creating a more environmentally friendly culture.
15. Houston, We Have a Problem
On April 11, 1970, NASA launched the Apollo 13 mission, which was to be the third mission to land on the moon. After about 56 hours of flight, the mission was terminated due to an explosion in one of the oxygen tanks. The explosion caused a lack of ability to generate electrical power, and to produce water and oxygen, and they were unable to land on the moon. Six days after launch, the crew returned safely to Earth.
14. An Angelic Hairstyle
Hairstyles in the 1970s were just as outlandish as the clothing styles, but the most emulated style of the 70s was known as the “Farrah.” The Farrah was a feathered haircut immortalized by Farrah Fawcett in the TV show Charlie’s Angels, and was one of the most enduring styles of the 70s.
13. Equal Rights Amendment
In 1972, after years of feminist crusading, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the constitution. The amendment stated that equal rights could not be denied to anybody based on sex. 22 of the necessary 38 states ratified the amendment, but thanks to the organization of conservative anti-feminist activists, it was defeated. In 1977, Indiana became the 35th and final state to ratify the amendment. The amendment was reintroduced to Congress in 1982, and since then, it has been before every session of Congress.
12.The Film that Broke the Disco
Saturday Night Fever was released on December 16, 1977, and had both positive and negative effects on the musical genre of disco. The popularity of disco had already been building prior to the film’s release, in after-hours clubs like The Loft and The Tenth Floor. The disco community spawned a gay subculture, with openly gay performers. Throughout 1978 disco was a popular fad, and the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever spent 24 weeks on top of the charts in the US and 18 weeks in the UK. The movie contained a scene where ‘macho’ Tony sneers threateningly at a gay couple and was seen as going against the inclusive spirit of the form.
11. A Jumbo Debut
On January 21, 1970, Boeing’s 747 Jumbo Jet, often called “Queen of the Skies” made its commercial debut flying on Pan American’s New York to London route. For 37 years, it could carry more passengers than any other aircraft and was one of the most recognizable planes in the world. Thanks to the Boeing 747, flying became affordable for the average person. In November 2017, United retired the Boeing repeating its original route from San Francisco to Hawaii for its final passenger flight. Delta Airlines was the final airline to retire the jet, planning to ground the last of its Boeing 747 fleet by January 2018.
10. Kent State Massacre
The US invasion of Cambodia in 1970 resulted in high numbers of protesters flooding the city streets, and the shutdown of several college campuses. On May 4, 1970, National Guardsman shot and killed four students and injured and 9 others at an antiwar rally at Kent State University. To make matters worse, 10 days later, 2 black student protesters at Jackson State University in Mississippi were shot and killed by the police.
9. The Florida Project
The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida opened on October 16, 1971. Developed by Walt Disney in the 60s, it was planned to be uniquely different from its California counterpart and was known as the Florida Project. Sadly, Walt Disney died before construction began, but today it is one of the most visited vacation spots in the world and is an essential part of American culture.
8. Fabulous Number Four
On May 10, 1970, Bobby Orr made hockey history. The Bruins hadn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1941, and Orr’s overtime goal in Game 4 won them the championship. One year later, Orr signed the NHL’s first million-dollar contract, which would have him earn $200,000 per year for 5 years. In 1979, at age 31, he entered the NHL Hall of Fame, and he was the youngest player ever to be inducted.
7. The Most Important Video Game Ever Made
When Atari’s Pong was released in November 1972, it became the first commercially successful video game and is responsible for shaping the modern video-game industry. Inspired by the ping pong game that came with the Magnavox Odyssey console, the co-founder of Atari assigned an engineer to create a version of the game as a training exercise. When it was finished, they put the game in an arcade cabinet at a local bar to see how it would do. The game was so popular that the machine broke down due to the coin box being too full of money.
6. Home Video Cassette Recorders
Before there were DVDs, Blu-ray and PVRs, there were VCRs. In 1970, Philips made a home video cassette format that was developed for a TV station, and it was made available on the consumer market in 1972. VCRs transformed the television viewing experience. For the first time, people could record a television show and watch it at a time of their choosing, instead of having to watch the live viewing. As an added bonus, they could fast-forward through those pesky television commercials, or rewind and play it again. The introduction of the VCR into everyday households also meant that movies could be recorded and watched at home, and viewers could pause for bathroom or snack breaks.
5. That Movie About the Shark
In June 1975 the movie Jaws, which was based on the novel by Peter Benchley, opened in theatres. It took in an estimated $7 million dollars at the box office in its opening weekend. Made for approximately 8 million dollars, it more than tripled its investment with its US numbers alone. Jaws was the original summer blockbuster and was the benchmark for everything that followed.
4. The King is Dead
The death of Elvis Presley on August 16, 1977, was a shock that was felt around the world. On that day, possibly the greatest rock’n’roll performer in the world was found dead in his bathroom from what was later discovered to be a drug overdose. In his last days with his fiancée, Ginger Alden, he had promised her the “wedding of the century.” It would turn out to be the funeral of the century. The day after his death, the King’s body was made available for public viewing in his home, Graceland. The crowds continued to grow throughout the day, reaching an estimated size of 100,000 people. Fans of all ages turned up to say goodbye.
3. Son of Sam
Between 1976 and 1977, David Berkowitz, otherwise known as the “Son of Sam” serial killer, murdered six people in New York City. He was known for leaving mocking letters to the police on the bodies of his victims, and for managing to avoid capture until a parking ticket led the police to his location. Berkowitz was arrested on August 10, 1977, after one of the greatest manhunts in the history of the city.
2. Capturing Horror
In June 1972, a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped napalm on its own troops and civilians. Photographer Nick Ut of the Associated Press photographed frightened children running from the site of the attack. One image in particular, that of a 9-year-old girl ripping off her burning clothes, became a symbol of the dire consequences of war. The girl became known as the Napalm girl, and the photo helped contribute to the growing unrest among US citizens who opposed the war, which led to President Nixon going so far as to speculate that the photo may have been faked.
1. False Justification
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was used as the reason for the US entering into the Vietnam War, but in 2005 declassified NSA documents revealed that the story given by the US military to the public was false. The USS Maddox actually fired on the NVA patrol boats first, not the other way around. Just as many people had suspected, the pretext for America entering the Vietnam War was based on distorted facts and erroneous information.