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Useful Notes / The '70s
aka: The Seventies

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Some possibly useful notes on The '70s, for those who remember them and others who don't.

Daily Life:



  • 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.
  • While the major Hollywood studios still largely controlled film distribution in America, this decade saw a reduction of in-house film production. Instead, the production and financing of films was often in the hands of independent studios, producers and agents.
  • The MPAA made a couple of changes to its rating system. In 1970, the age requirement for the R and X ratings was increased from 16 to 17. The M rating was also changed to GP" (for General audiences, Parental guidance suggested) and later to PG in 1972, after the M rating caused confusion over whether the films with those ratings were suitable to young audiences. The content advisory "Some material not generally suitable for pre-teenagers" was added in 1971.
  • Following the events of The '60s, a number of filmmakers questioned the tropes that were common in The Western such as the Black-and-White Morality within them. Thus, this decade saw the proliferation of "revisionist westerns" such as McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and many of the works of Sam Peckinpah which provided a more realistic and more violent portrayal of the old west. Many of these films had protagonists who sometimes had rather questionable morals such as trying to take the law in their own hands. They also featured more favourable portrayals of Native Americans than past westerns. Many of the legends of this genre, like directors John Ford and Howard Hawks along with the iconic actor John Wayne passed away during this decade.
  • This was the decade of the "Midnight Movie". This refers to the practice of screening films that weren't exactly mainstream at midnight in order to develop a devoted following for them. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the most well known example of midnight screenings, known for attracting performance groups and people coming dressed up as their favourite characters, causing it to gradually gross over 100 million dollars over the years; it has since held the longest theatrical run of any movie. Other notable examples include El Topo, Pink Flamingos, The Harder They Come, Eraser Head, Stop Making Sense, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The latter part of the decade saw the formation of two future mini-major studios: Orion Pictures in 1978 and Miramax in 1979.
  • 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 from 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.
  • Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971 to great success, showing the world that Disneyland was no one-hit wonder.


  • Fashion in the 1970s was all about individuality. In the early 1970s, Vogue proclaimed "There are no rules in the fashion game now" due to mass production technologies flooding the market with cheap synthetic clothing. Common items included mini skirts, bell-bottoms popularized by hippies, vintage clothing from the 1950s and earlier, and the androgynous glam rock and disco styles that introduced platform shoes, bright colors, glitter, and satin.
  • Women's fashion became a bit more unisex and more liberated, thanks to the increasing power of the feminist movement.
    • The hippie look was a holdover from the 1960s for the early part of the decade, giving a distinct ethnic flavor. Popular early fashions for women included Tie dye shirts, Mexican peasant blouses, folk-embroidered Hungarian blouses, ponchos, capes, military surplus clothing, bell-bottoms, gauchos, frayed jeans, and midi skirts and ankle-length maxi dresses. Hippie clothing during this time was made in extremely bright colors, as well as Indian patterns, Native American patterns, and floral patterns.
    • By the mid 1970s, the hippie look had completely disappeared, and women's fashion took a turn for the casual glamour. These trends for women included fitted blazers (coming in a multitude of fabrics along with wide lapels), long and short dresses, midi skirts, maxi evening gowns, hot pants (extremely brief, tight-fitting shorts) paired with skin-tight T-shirts (as these were no longer considered underwear), his & hers outfits (matching outfits that were nearly identical to each other), and flared pants, all in pastel colors.
    • The Sexy Sweater Girl look was very popular in the 70s, and the fact that the the sweaters were often worn without a bra increased the sexual allure. Often outfits were judged entirely by the sweater. This fragmented into more styles, such as sweater coats, sweater dresses, floor-length sweaters, and even sweater suits. Many of them were trimmed with fur, especially faux. Chunky, shawl-collared, belted cardigans, often in brown and white, were also commonplace.
    • The braless look was fashionable throughout the decade, though not as ubiquitous as you may think from modern media depictions. While many younger women went braless, many - perhaps most - women still wore them, though bra styles evolved to become lighter and more discreet.
    • Popular hairstyles for women included feathered blowouts evocative of Farrah Fawcett, pin-straight with bangs, and frosted highlights. The afro style became popular with black women.
  • Men's fashions became more experimental and more androgynous through this decade.
    • With well-paid jobs and booming businesses, young men in the UK and America explored beyond the conventional social standards of dress. In the early 1970s, satin shirts in bright colors such as pink, blue, and purple were popular, and often featured lace ruffles on the cuffs and neckline. Due to the colorful nature of menswear, the time period was described as the "Peacock Revolution", and The Dandy became codified. Typical casual wear for this time included Nehru jackets, ethnic inspired tunics, turtlenecks, candy striped blazers, winklepicker boots with Cuban heels, and hip-hugging elephant bell-bottoms.
    • Fashion in the mid 1970s was generally informal and laid back for men in America. Most men simply wore jeans, sweaters, and T-shirts, which by then were being made with more elaborate designs.
  • For both genders, form-fitting tailored clothing became more common, especially as more women began entering the workforce. Suits became slimmer, with pants having smaller flares at the bottom of the leg and featured padded shoulders, higher arm holes, a smaller waist, and open patch pockets.
  • With the rise of Disco, one-piece suits for women and leisure suits for men became hot items.


  • The Vietnam War ended with a humiliating postscript, as 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 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.

Food and Drink:

  • 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 DiMaggio 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."


  • The carefree Psychedelic Rock era came to an halt with the rapid-fire deaths of Jimi Hendrix (September 18, 1970), Janis Joplin (October 4, 1970), and Jim Morrison (July 3, 1971), all (coincidentally) at 27. Their sudden departures, among others, first alerted friends and fans to the risks of the rock and roll and hippie lifestyle, and that body count would not decrease in the decades to come. The era's most famous band fully breaking up for good only a year before did not help matters.
  • This is the decade where Hard Rock started to really grow in popularity. The first half of the decade with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple among the groups whose sound would help develop Heavy Metal while bands like Music/Queen helped develop more operatic takes on the subgenre.
  • 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. Walls of amplifiers became a common concert sight by the end of the decade.
  • 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. It did retain some popularity though in Europe, where various regional styles of it (particularly Italo disco) remained popular for the first half of the 80s.
  • 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 associated with salsa had been playing since The '60s, but it was in this decade where a recording label named Fania reunited a bunch of renowned artists and producers who developed a distinct sound (nowadays known as "salsa brava"). For most of the decade Salsa had the stigma of being "low brow", until Venezuelan author César Miguel Rondón published "The Book of Salsa" on 1979, where he extoled their musical virtues in such a way he changed public opinion of the style.
  • 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.

Social Concerns:

  • The Gay Rights Movement really got going after the Stonewall Riots, only to have to fight a hateful right wing 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.
  • The Women's Liberation Movement, which began in the late 1960s, really took off in the 1970s, persisting through almost the entire decade.


  • 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 as the format of choice for rock fans, and AM radio still ruled supreme. By 1980, though, FM had made huge strides in adoption, and pop music on AM was starting to give 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. CompuServe and its main competition The Source opened to the public in 1979, and the first public dialup BBS, CBBS, opened in Feburary of 1978.
    • The Internet was still an obscure US government research project at the time, but several of its key components, most notably Internet e-mail note  and FTP note , were introduced during the 1970s.
  • 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 microcontrollers (TI's TMS1000 and Motorola's 6801), the first pocket calculators (from TI, HP, Canon and Sharp, using chipsets from TI and HP themselves, General Instrument, and Rockwell), the first Video Game Systems for home use (Magnavox Odyssey), the VCR in general (starting with Sony's introduction of U-matic in 1971 for professional use, and culminating in the introduction of VHS in 1976 note /1977note ), the personal computer (1970's Datapoint 2200, a "smart terminal" whose design was ancestral to the Intel 8080, Zilog Z80, and x86; the Altair 8800 in 1975, a barebones 8-bit kit PC that nonetheless had a lot of potential, and led to the first wave of Microsoft BASIC and CP/M-based 8080 machines; and the "1977 Trinity" of the Commodore PET, TRS-80, and Apple ][, the first 8-bit machines delivered as complete, plug-and-play packages), and the first computer-controlled handheld games (Mattel Pocket Sports, based on microcontrollers from Rockwell and TI). It also saw the introduction of the Walkman, the product that took Sony from being a well-regardednote  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 TI's and HP'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 "variable venturi" carburetor was innovative in that it could control the fuel mixture directly, just like fuel injection, but it 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 had more freedom to innovate. 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 full-size 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 the Big Three (Ford, GM and Chrysler) 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. Meanwhile, Chrysler introduced the second generation of its Electronic Lean Burn system, which used an RCA 1802 CPU and had much fewer problems with reliability; later versions switched to Motorola processors.

Alternative Title(s): The Seventies