7 Influential Inventions from the 1980s That Would Go on to Change the World

The technological optimism of the era played a big role in 1980s inventions.
Donovan Alexander

There is something oddly appealing about the 80s so much, that the fashion, ideas, and overall culture from that decade have consistently weaved itself into our modern pop culture. Some of the world’s most popular brands and media are currently thriving thanks to our longing of 80’s culture. 

The 80s saw the fascinating fusion of technology and culture. This, in turn, the decade helped spark a fascinating range in new technology and products. People’s overall optimism towards the future and how technology will shape it lay at the heart of a lot of engineer’s childhoods. 


There is a good chance that your love for technology started in the 80s. Continuing with our look at the decades, we are going to explore some of the most important inventions from the 80s. 

What technologies emerged in the 1980s?

Now, the 80s churned out a lot of important of technology, most of which are either still in use today or would go on to lay the foundation for the technology we use now. Think about it. Without the creation of the Graphical User Interface in 1984, where would personal computing be today? Even more so, the world's most popular operating system, Microsoft Windows, entered the market in 1985. The invention of the first camcorder in 1983 changed the way people create and even consume media.  From the Space Shuttle Columbia to the Compact Disk, all of these made our world better. The 1980s was truly an exciting time.


1. Disposable Camera 

The decade before churned out the digital camera. The disposable camera came into existence in 1986 by Fujifilm. Dubbed the Utsurun-Desu, the camera took the world by storm with photography companies like Kodak, Canon, and Nikon quickly flooding the market. It was revolutionary. Cameras were expensive and complicated. 

The disposable cameras were easy to use, cheap and readily available. Though the camera did not take over the photography market, disposable cameras became a staple of tourism. 

2. Stealth Planes

7 Influential Inventions from the 1980s That Would Go on to Change the World

Source: USGov Military-Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

Stealth technology would go on to change warfare. Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co. performed a test flight of the world’s first radar-resistant aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk, in 1981. Even though the plane was delivered to the United States Air Force in 1982, the plane was kept secret until 1988. 

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3. Compact Discs

Remember the days of listening to music on your CD player? Or, even when you would go out to burn an album off your computer. Though the Walkman was the ultimate 80s symbol, cassettes degraded in quality over time. Sony and Phillips created an answer to this, the compact disc. 

The tremendous impact of the CD can not be overstated. It almost completely killed both the cassette and vinyl markets. Even more so, it also shifted the emerging computer industry. By the late 90s, the CD took over the markets. 

4. The Artificial Heart 

Now, research into artificial hearts actually goes back to the 1950s, while the first artificial heart was placed in a human in 1969. Nevertheless, this artificial heart was only a temporary measure. The Jarvik-7 artificial heart in 1982 was something completely different. The implantation of this heart helped extend the life of a cardiac patient. 

5. The Space Shuttle 

Following the successful lunar missions in the late 60s and early 70s the great minds at NASA decided to utilize their resources to create a new type of vehicle that could travel into space and return back home safely. This push for innovation would bring into fruition the Space Shuttle. The first Space Shuttle launch was in 1981. 

The Space Shuttle was far more than just a transportation vehicle, it could become an orbiting laboratory allowing astronauts and researchers to conduct a host of experiments with the aims to better understand our universe. Even more so, the space shuttle has helped transport important maintaining equipment in space.   

6. Personal Computers  

7 Influential Inventions from the 1980s That Would Go on to Change the World
Source: Bundesarchiv/ Wikimedia 

The 70s began to plant the seeds for the computing revolution. Computers began to shrink and slowly but surely increase their processing power. The mixture of academics, hobbyists, the government, and companies helped pave the way for the personal computer. 

It was 1981 when IBM launched the personal computer. Now the computer would not be something you want to game on, but it was still revolutionary. The IBM 5150 Personal Computer featured an Intel 8088 processor and ran on version 1.0 of the PC-DOS operating system. 

However, 1984 changed the game even further with Apple’s Macintosh computer. The computer became a pop icon symbol being the first personal computer to feature a graphics-based user interface. 

7. DNA Fingerprinting 

One of the biggest moments in science was accidentally discovered in 1984. Geneticists Alec Jefferys was on a quest to trace genetic markers by looking at family generations. 

Jefferys would go on to discover that every unique person has a DNA profile. This realization would go onto shape our understanding of humans, impacting science and a large number of industries.

What games were invented in the 80s?

Now, you can not talk about the 80s without mentioning gaming. Paralleling the rise of personal computers, games would go on to make their mark in culture. So much so, that you might have noticed a few references in the latest season of Stranger Things. Games like Pocket Simon and Mr. Mircophone allowed kids to bring along addictive experiences that they could share with friends. However, it would be the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in 1983 and the Nintendo Game Boy in 1989 that would go on to change gaming forever. Both systems became cultural moments and if you were a kid, you wanted one.  

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