The hottest gadgets of 1985

It seems like only yesterday for the Gen-X crowd, but it was 30 years ago that some of the most influential innovations in consumer technology were introduced.
1 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Car Phones

For the millennial generation it may be hard to imagine what life would be like without ubiquitous internet, smartphones, digital music and social media. But for those of us Gen-Xers that grew up in the 1980s, here's the pinnacle of tech that continues to inspire us, even 30 years later.

In 1985, cell phones were so new to the market and so large that they weren't even portable per se -- they had to be installed in your car. Here's the two coolest dudes on TV at the time -- Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in the first season of Miami Vice sporting a car phone in their Ferrari Daytona.

2 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Radio Pagers

If you were someone folks needed to reach --  like a doctor or a lawyer, and you weren't in your car, then you needed to have a pager, also known as a "beeper", which worked with an answering service your clients called into and then a radio signal was sent out that made your pager clipped on your belt beep or vibrate. Then you had to call that service back on a regular telephone. Eventually, pagers evolved to be able to send short two-way numeric and full alpha messages -- much like we have Tweets today, but cell phones quickly displaced them in the 1990s. But if you had one of these in 1985, you were important.

3 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Cincinati Microwave ESCORT radar detector

If you had a need... for speed -- that is, on the highway, then you needed a radar detector. But not just any radar detector. The sure sign of any confident BMW or Porsche driver of the mid-80s was a Cincinnati Microwave ESCORT, which could give you warnings of X and K- band police radar from at least a mile away. While radar detectors are now mostly obsolete due to instant-on laser and other police anti-speeder technology, in the 1980s, you could have a lot of fun with one of these.

4 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Sony Discman

Compact Discs (CDs) were first introduced in 1982, but the first portable CD player, released by SONY came out in 1985. While indeed portable, SONY's cassette-based Walkman was still considered to be a better mobile music solution because the spinning discs were prone to skipping from bumps if you were out for a jog or had the device installed in your car.

5 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Before there was PlayStation, before XBOX, there was the NES. Sure, there were video game systems that came before it, such as the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision, but none of those really could produce arcade quality graphics and gameplay at home. This was the console that launched the Super Mario empire.

6 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet


While home video was introduced in the form of VHS and Sony BetaMax years earlier, if you really wanted to enjoy the highest fidelity in home entertainment, you had to go LaserDisc, which was introduced by Pioneer Corporation in 1979. LaserDisc never caught on en masse due to the fact the players and the titles were expensive, but if you wanted the best sound and best video quality, nothing would beat it until DVD arrived 10 years later, in 1995.

7 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Commodore Amiga 1000

Although the "hottest" computer of 1984-1985 was indisputably the original Apple Macinosh, the lesser-known Commodore Amiga 1000, released in 1985, was far more advanced. It had a high-resolution color display, GUI interface, multimedia digital sound and multitasking, making it popular with musicians and creative content pros. The Amiga continues to have a cult following even to this day. Close runner up: The Atari ST.

8 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Hayes Smartmodem 2400

Introduced in in 1985 for the cool price of $549.00 by Hayes Microcomputer Products --which was the market leader in PC modem peripherals -- the Smartmodem 2400 was lightning fast compared to the 1200 and 300 bits-per-second devices available at the time. Because telephone line use was billed per minute and even more expensive when dialing long distance. CompuServe, Delphi and BIX users, not to mention BBSers could download their emails and files at blazing speeds while conserving telco charges.

9 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

HP LaserJet / Apple LaserWriter

Although laser printing became available to large enterprises in the late 1970s, the first mass-market "desktop" laser printer for PCs was the HP LaserJet, introduced in 1984, which used a printing engine designed by Canon and cost about $3,500. Apple licensed the technology from Canon and introduced the LaserWriter in 1985 for use with its Macintosh computers.

10 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

SEIKO Computer Watch

With 1K of memory for storage and capable of scheduling up to 43 separate appointments, the SEIKO UC-3000, introduced in 1985 with its own dedicated programming terminal, was the ultimate wrist gadget for the businessman on the go.

11 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Casio FX-7000G

Introduced in 1985, the CASIO FX-7000G was the world's first graphing scientific programmable calculator.

With 82 programmable functions, many of which were completely integrated, such as square roots, reciprocals, exponential functions, factorials, logs and trig functions this calculator could do practically anything mathematical that you could throw at it.

Equipped with a whopping 422 bytes of memory (that's not even half a kilobyte) the FX-7000G was a 1985 engineer's dream come true.

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