Useful Notes / The '70s
Some possibly useful notes on The '70s
, for those who remember them and others who don't.
- This is often considered the second golden age of Hollywood, with the New Hollywood gang making successful and challenging films like The Godfather series, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now. Unfortunately, by the end of the decade, these filmmakers' egos started getting the better of them with Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate becoming the signature bomb that dampened studio heads' enthusiasm for humoring these artists.
- However, the popular spectacles for the masses that defined older eras took new forms in the 1970s. The first half of the decade featured All-Star Cast disaster movies such as the Airport series, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. The Summer Blockbuster arrived in the second half, with Steven Spielberg creating Jaws while George Lucas set the movie world on fire with 1977's Star Wars entrancing the world and reopening Hollywood's eyes to the power of family audiences, which otherwise went neglected for most of the decade.
- Meanwhile in this Dark Age of Animation, a few daring filmmakers challenged the Animation Age Ghetto with adult-oriented efforts such as Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic and the movie adaptation of the novel Watership Down.
- In American television, TV networks started paying much more attention to audience Demographics and decided to cater to young, urban audiences by canceling the remaining shows that appealed to older and rural audiences (The Beverly Hillbillies, The Ed Sullivan Show, etc.) and creating more sophisticated series like All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H. Paradoxically, that didn't stop new family rural dramas like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons from becoming network mainstays.
- In addition, while Saturday Morning Cartoons, increasingly artistically shackled by pressure by parents' groups, were practically the only choices for kids on American commercial TV, PBS had its glory years with classic kids educational shows like Sesame Street, Zoom and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
- Also, the Mini Series hit the big time as TV content when Roots became a smash hit in 1977, followed by Holocaust in 1978 which brought the Nazi genocide fully into the worldwide public consciousness irrevocably.
- Throughout this period, broadcasters began to seriously turn against depicting smoking to some degree. For instance, all broadcast cigarette advertising was banned in 1970 (although the tobacco companies were somewhat ok with this with the expensive competition there and less equal time requirements with anti-smoking PSAs) and making fictional characters smoke less, most famous with Kojak with his lollipops.
- Video Games started reaching the masses. They reached bars and arcades first, with Computer Space, released in 1971 to only marginal success, and Pong in 1972, which was a phenomenal success. The success of video games led to the first video game moral panic in 1976, with Exidy's Death Race sparking the first investigations into violence in video games. And then in 1978, Taito released Space Invaders, a game that caused a shortage of 100 yen coins in Japan, took in $100 billion in quarters in the US, and drew the interest of future video game luminaries Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima.
- Video Games also made inroads into people's living rooms. There was the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, which had a game mode that Pong was derived from, which eventually led to a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari. Pong got a home version in 1975. Fairchild Electronics released the Video Entertainment System in 1976, which introduced the idea of a game stored on a ROM cartridge. Atari would copy this concept for their own Video Computer System in 1977, which would go on to sell 30 million units before being discontinued in 1992—14 years and two console generations after its first release.
- Japan, in the 1970s, became the largest producer of television shows in the world. Tokusatsu had a boom in production that is yet to be matched today, however many of the companies that produced the shows went out of business just as fast as they came in.
- For a few examples of fashion from the 70s, see here.
Food and Drink:
- There was the end of the Vietnam War that had a humiliating postscript when the Americans and a few local sympathizers had to flee after the North Vietnamese took over everything in 1975. As a side effect, neighboring Cambodia went through its own Hell when the Khmer Rouge takes over and starts The Killing Fields. Meanwhile, the US finds the only upside is that all the attention of that madness was that it drew attention away from their ally Indonesia invading and savagely occupying East Timor.
- Richard Nixon has his own problems when his paranoia pushed him to order his cronies to break-in to the Democratic Party campaign office to plant bugs. His cronies were caught, uncovering a trail which eventually led to Nixon's involvement. The resulting Watergate scandal resulted in the first and (so far) only resignation of a US President, and smeared Nixon's reputation forever.
- In the Munich Olympics in 1972, the atmosphere of the international games was changed forever after several Israeli athletes were held hostage by terrorists and were killed in the authorities' attempt to stop them. After that, the Olympics would have a heavy emphasis on security during the events in an all out drive to prevent future similar incidents.
- In 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown by an Islamist revolution. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the country. The revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, calling it (with some justification) a "nest of spies," and took hostage the 52 embassy staff remaining by that time, demanding the return of the Shah; even after he died of cancer in the U.S., they demanded return of his immense personal fortune. There were a few bright moments such as when the Canadian Government sheltered six American fugitives from the embassy and then managed to smuggled them out of Iran with CIA help using the Argo cover story. The "Hostage Crisis" dominated headlines throughout the 1980 presidential campaign, in which first-term President Jimmy Carter, increasingly perceived as ineffectual, was defeated by Ronald Reagan. The hostages were not released until the day Reagan was inaugurated — giving rise to the "October Surprise" conspiracy theory, that representatives of Reagan's campaign had negotiated with the Iranians to hold off releasing them until after the election.
- Canada had its own 9/11 when Quebec Separatist political violence culminated with the 1970 kidnappings of British Trade Consul James Cross and Quebec Provincial Labour Minister Pierre Laporte by separate cells of the terrorist organization, The Front de libération du Québec (FLQ; English: Quebec Liberation Front). Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decided to take this apparent insurrection head on and responded to a reporter's question of how far he would go with "Just watch me!" To do so, Trudeau invoked The War Measures Act which placed the nation in a state of emergency and mobilized the military to meet this threat. Although this move, which including arbitrary mass arrests without charge of suspected insurrectionists, was denounced as excessive by men of principle like politician Tommy Douglas, the move was welcomed by the public and Quebec Separatism has firmly renounced violence towards their goal ever since.
- Americans started to ditch their coffee percolators in favor of drip coffeemakers, spurred by the invention of the Mr. Coffee in 1972 and its ad campaign featuring retired baseball player Joe Di Maggio as brand spokesman.
- Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971, and would spread European-style coffeehouse culture throughout the U.S. in coming decades.
- This was still the era of processed food for most Americans, but there were the beginnings of health consciousness that would follow in coming decades. For example, Alice Waters started her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, heralding the "slow food" movement.
- McDonald's introduces its Big Mac in 1968, but the sandwich really takes off in the 70's on the heels of a new ad jingle listing its contents, and a promotion where a customer could win a free burger if they rattle them off within three seconds: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun."
- This is the decade where Hard Rock started to really grow to popularity.
- While Led Zeppelin formed as a band in 1968, released two albums in 1969, and gained a cult following — it wasn't until November of 1971, when they had released their fourth album (which was untitled), that the band reached the peak of their fame. From that album, "Stairway to Heaven" quickly became a favourite — and, within two years, the song reached anthemic status.
- Music of this decade got louder than even anyone in the late 1960s could imagine, as Heavy Metal also established itself as a genre.
- This was also the decade where Electronic Music started to get a hold in people's mind and cultures, as people like Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Giorgio Moroder, Yellow Magic Orchestra and the early Synth Pop groups developed electronic music and took it to a never-before heard level, while also getting some hits in the charts along the way. Also noteworthy are the electronic soundtracks of sci-fi/dystopian movies of the period, like A Clockwork Orange.
- The latter half of the decade brought us Disco, which quickly grew to ubiquity — and then died a quick death, after there was a huge backlash against the genre.
- The first wave of Punk Rock also started in the late 1970s, in opposition to the "dinosaur rock" from the earlier half of the decade.
- This was also the decade of Salsa music, at least in Latin American countries and the hispanic immigrant dominated area of USA. Most of the musicians today related with salsa were playing since the sixties, but it was in this decade where a recording label named Fania reunited a bunch of renowned artists and producers which developed a distinct sound (nowdays known as "salsa brava"). For most of the decade Salsa has the stigma of being "low brow, until Venezuelan author César Miguel Rondón published "The Book of Salsa" on 1979, where he extoiled their musical virtues in such a way he changed the public opinion.
- Several emerging acts were as notable for their live showmanship as for their musicial talent, indulging in Costume Porn and/or Great Balls of Fire. Alice Cooper, KISS, Elton John, and David Bowie (the biggest success of the U.K.-based Glam Rock genre) all hit the big time in this decade.
- Vinyl was the dominant music format of the decade, with blockbuster LPs from bands like Pink Floyd, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, among others.
- The cassette format, first introduced in the previous decade, started to emerge as a serious format for pre-recorded music toward the middle of the decade. Improvements in playback technology, specifically Dolby noise reduction, made cassettes acceptable for audiophiles. The cassette's small size and durability helped it replace 8-track cartridges virtually overnight for car audio and the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979 cemented the cassette as the format of choice for portable audio.
- Although their albums were never commercial successes, Big Star were critically acclaimed and like the Velvet Underground in The '60s, they would become a major influence on Alternative Rock in the next decade and beyond.
- The Gay Rights Movement really got going after the Stonewall Riots, only to have to fight a hateful rightwing homophobic backlash with people like Anita Bryant trying to roll back the first legal advances.
- Environmentalism also got going well with the first Earth Day in 1970 with early movements including going after commercial whaling which completely turns the public image of Cetaceans from Moby-Dick monsters to gentle giants of the deep who desperately need help before they are wiped out.
- Hippie culture stuck around the first few years of the decade, but faded away by the mid-1970s.
- Communications technology was largely the same as in the 1960s, but big changes were on the way:
- At the beginning of the decade, color TV was now the norm in the US, though was still catching up on the other side of the Pond (The BBC was still producing some programmes in black and white well into the decade!). FM radio was still in its infancy, and AM radio still ruled supreme. By 1980, though, FM had made huge strides in adoption, and pop music on AM was starting to giving way to Talk Radio and other niche formats.
- The phone system in the US was still very much the domain of the Bell System, and people were increasingly not happy with them. This was the era of Saturday Night Live's "We don't care. We don't have to." skit, as well as the start of MCI's rise to fame (starting with one of the lawsuits that led to the eventual breakup of the Bells).
- Probably the biggest communications-related fad of the 1970s was the Citizen's Band radio. It went along with the "outlaw trucker" fad that was popular in the middle of the decade, and in a time before the cellphone or the Internet, this was one of the few ways to talk to strangers in funny lingo. By 1980, though, the fad had lost its luster, and many CB radios ended up being sold at yard sales or simply thrown out.
- The first rudimentary online services started in this era. Compu Serve and its main competition The Source opened to the public in 1979, and the first public dialup BBS, CBBS, opened in Feburary of 1978.
- Most of the biggest leaps in technology in this decade were in the realm of electronics:
- The 1970s saw the introduction of the first single-chip microprocessor (Intel 4004, 1971), the first microcontroller (TI's TMS 1000), the first pocket calculator (TI's Datamath), the first Video Game System for home use (Magnavox Odyssey), the VCR in general (starting with Sony's introduction of U-matic in 1971, and culminating in the introduction of VHS in 1976/1977), the personal computer (the Altair 8800, Commodore PET, TRS-80, and Apple ][), and the first computer-controlled handheld games (Mattel Pocket Sports). It also saw the introduction of the Walkman, the product that took Sony from being a well-regarded but quirky TV and VCR maker to a household name.
- Power transistors improved dramatically during the decade, making it possible to have high-power stereos and big-screen TVs without having to use fragile, power-hungry vacuum tubes. They also made electronic ignition for cars possible (making points obsolete by the end of the decade), and were key in making the Apple ]['s small, cool-running power supply (a big deal at the time) possible as well.
- Display technology improved quite a bit as well. The vacuum-fluorescent display, the LED-matrix display (used to great effect on several of TI's pocket calculators) and the LCD all made their debuts in this decade.
- Automobile technology in the 1970s was greatly influenced by both concerns over air pollution and concerns over fuel economy — two things that seemed to be mutually exclusive for many years:
- Early emissions controls, which were done as cheaply as possible to meet the new EPA mandates, ended up reducing power output and, ironically, fuel economy dramatically; an average car of the mid-1970s was cleaner-running than one from 10 years prior, but could go about half as far on a gallon of gas (the average fuel economy for larger cars, cars whose 2011 equivalents average about 20 miles to the US gallon or more, was in single digits).
- Ford and Chrysler both worked on systems that would try to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible (as well as control the fuel mixture, since running the engine rich will burn up the catalytic converter quickly), but they all had problems. Ford's VV carburetor had a design flaw that, when it appeared, would set the mixture so lean that the engine wouldn't run. Chrysler's system was a full analog computer that could also control spark timing, but it had reliability problems as well. Neither of these did much to help, and by model year 1980 the car makers had resorted to putting smaller engines in simply to be able to meet the mandates, performance or drivability notwithstanding.
- Other manufacturers were less set in their ways and were more willing to use better ways of doing things. Honda's CVCC engine used a special cylinder head to improve efficiency, making an engine that was so clean it could pass the 1975 emissions regulations without a catalytic converter. Volkswagen was an early advocate of Bosch's mechanical fuel injection systems.
- Diesel engines were popular for a time in the late 1970s. Volkswagen and Mercedes had versions of their cars that ran on diesel fuel, and GM introduced a diesel V8 engine for their fullsize cars in 1978. These were naturally-aspirated diesel engines with no turbo boost, and so acceleration on them was extremely slow; this, combined with a problem on the GM engines involving their head gaskets, made diesels unpopular by the early 1980s.
- The light at the end of the tunnel finally appeared when Ford and GM concurrently introduced the first practical computerized emissions controls in model year 1980. Ford's "EEC III" system was only ever used on a few high-end models, but it was a step in the right direction and a precursor to the much more powerful "EEC IV" system. Ford also introduced their first fuel injection system, the CFI. GM's system, the Computer Command Control (C3), was less ambitious and used more hardwired circuitry, but was also flexible and was used in GM cars and trucks well into The '80s.