REWIND: 80s tech that inspired today’s gadgets

We usually focus on cutting-edge, futuristic technologies that push the boundaries of what’s possible. Today, however, we’ll be looking at some gadgets from decades past.

These pieces captivated the minds of millions and set the foundation for many technologies we use today.

The Walkman

Before the iPod, Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal, there was the Walkman.

Sony’s portable cassette player took the industry by storm and is arguably one of the most significant tech pieces of all time. All you needed was two AA batteries, a cassette and you were ready to jam to the latest tracks. The included headphones turned every listen into your jam session.

Although the first Walkman was released in 1979, the device fuelled a passion for portable cassette music playback well into the 80s. It was so popular that the Walkman name was broadly used for any portable cassette player. Sony also had multiple iterations to the Walkman such as the Discman (CD Version of the Walkman), Mini-Disc versions and later integrating the Walkman name into its mobile phones on the early 2000s. The Walkman name paved the way for all the music we listen on the go.

Apple Macintosh

In 1984, Apple released the first Macintosh (Mac) computer and completely changed the personal computing space. It was one of the first personal computers to feature a Graphical User Interface (GUI). So, instead of lines of code, users could move a mouse and click icons on the screen.

The all-in-one computer came with a mouse and keyboard, both gigantic options in today’s world. It used the once-ubiquitous diskette drive and a host of floppy disks to run programmes.

The 1984 Macintosh computer. (Photo: Mac History)

The Apple Macintosh dared to defy big companies like IBM. Instead of a corporate machine designed to crunch numbers, Apple created something for the individual to use at home, a foreign concept to almost anyone but Steve Jobs and his team. The Macintosh was different; it was fun. Forget remembering complex codes, insert a floppy disk, and you’d be set. 

The 1984 Macintosh democratised personal computing and helped propel the once tiny Apple to the tech behemoth it is today. 


Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in 1985. The NES was remodelled after an earlier Nintendo, Japanese console, the “Family Computer” shortened “Famicom”. The 8-bit NES console was immensely popular and featured iconic games like Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid that had many glued to their TVs.

One of the pioneers of console gaming. (Photo: Amazon)

The controller was boxy by today’s standards with a Directional Pad (D-Pad), and “B” and “A” buttons. The NES set the tone for upcoming Nintendo games as well as other consoles.

The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X was the first commercial mobile phone. (Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Don’t Forget

  • The Sega Genesis (1989)– The Genesis featured iconic games like Sonic the Hedgehog and had that beautiful 16-bit chime when the console booted.
  • The Nintendo Game Boy (1989) – This tech is a legendary, handheld game featuring a host of popular Nintendo titles.
  • Compact Disc (1982) – The CD replaced cassette tapes for music playback, and lasted well into the 90s and early 2000s.
  • Motorola DynaTAC (1983) – Expensive, luxury cellular phone series from Motorola.