The 1970s Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The 1970s

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Described as the decade that most people would rather forget, the 1970s have had a rough ride. However, eventually the '70s were looked at in a new light and enjoyed a revival of sorts.

We begin with just a few memories. You're almost certainly a child of the 1970s if any of these make sense to you:
  • You remember the theme tune from The Muppets.

  • Summers were long and hot.

  • Basketball was only played by Americans.

  • Doctor Who scared you silly.

  • You remember the first space invaders.

  • You remember real water restrictions.

  • You queued up to see The Village People movie.

  • You went to a drive-in with your parents... in your pyjamas.

  • You didn't want the hairdresser to cut above your ears until late high school.

  • Fags were called fags and nobody batted an eyelid when eight year olds walked down the street with a lolly cigarette hanging out their mouth.

  • You got tough summer feet every summer without trying.

  • You remember when electric typewriters came in.

  • You remember when calculators were introduced at school.

  • You remember the fuss made about gays in San Fransisco.

  • You drank flavoured milk.

  • You collected plastic toys out of cornflakes packets.

  • You desperately, desperately wanted one of those cool six wheeled buggies that the Banana Splits drove.

  • Stubbing your toe whilst running across the road in summer barefoot, trying not to burn your feet raw was an annual experience.

  • Matchbox cars or Barbies were essential to your development.

  • You had cardboard dolls (or your sisters did) that came with books of paper clothes that you tore out and stuck on the doll.

  • Kids read children's magazines that had cartoons without fighting and guns in them.

  • The kid with the pool was your best friend.

  • The only place you could get a pizza was Pizza Hut - and it was expensive.

  • You played dress-ups in your parents' funky clothes that you would kill to get your hands on now.

  • You had a terry towelling hat that had yellow plastic sunglasses built into the brim that came down over your face.

  • You, or a female relative, had a see through umbrella that came down over the shoulders so you had to look through the plastic. They were totally useless in windy conditions, though very hard to turn inside out.

  • You weren't wearing flannelette because it was cool.

And here are just a few items that might be specific to Australia...:

  • You remember Hector the Road Safety Cat sing:

    Look to the right, look to the left, and look to the right again, then if the road is clear of traffic. Walk straight across the road - don't run - walk straight across the road.
  • 20c worth of mixed lollies could last you hours... and 50c, well only older kids could afford that much.

  • Icypoles were 5c and paddle pops were 20c.

  • Sunnyboys and poppers (boxed drinks with straws attached) were your stable school diet.

  • Fanta tasted like Fanta should. There was Tang and Tab. Tab, so right for beautiful people, and Leed lemonade.

  • You wondered how the Coke girls and boys got inside that big clear beach ball.

  • You wore a leather band around your wrist and believed that you had to sleep with any boy/girl that broke it.

  • Dunlop Volleys trainers were a viable option and Puma Romes were fashionable.

  • You remember those plastic 'Peters' ice cream signs glowing at the top of the milkbar. And you collected the plastic popsticks that had holes in them so you could make things with them, and they came in lots of bright colours.

  • You watched Hey, Hey It's Saturday... before breakfast.

  • Leopard footprints on the soles of your school shoes were ace.

  • You put chip packets in the oven to make shrinkies.

  • An essential part of your packed lunch in highschool was a Prima, unless you bought a frozen Sunny Boy.

  • You actually went through at least one pair of thongs a year because you wore them so much.

  • There were swap cards in with the bread that was wrapped in wax paper.

  • Ice cream came in tins made of metal, not plastic pots.


The 1970s was a decade of technolgical innovation, it was the snowflake that started the avalanche of the '80s and '90s.

The '70s saw the advent of computer systems which could be accessed at any time from several terminals all over a university, and which would print responses back on a teleprinter - similar to the ones you used to see giving the football results on TV on a Saturday night. The machinery to perform this marvellous hi-tech feat lived in a hall the size of a tennis court and boasted the then unbelievable memory capacity of... 64KB.

The teleprinter with its access to the mainframe was kept in a locked room at the back of the department where only the technician had the key. Only bribes of free beer or sex (depending on your preference of course) could prise it way from him and even then you were faced with the daunting task of remembering the ridiculous operating system commands to get anywhere. Access to well-used statistical packages was by appointment only

Back then, the teleprinter was a modern piece of equipment; but you had to type each line of code onto a separate card on a machine the size of an estate car. A meaty program could end up as 2-300 cards or more.

The decade also saw the advent of the electronic typewriter. If you mucked up an engrossment (final legal copy of a Will, Conveyance, or the like) you had to start again. Rubbing out was not allowed.

The '70s was also the decade that saw the first computer games. The first space invaders game appeared in 1978 along with a car racing game where the shapes of the cars on the screen were not unlike those of the space invaders. The programmers must have laboured for months and months to get the gameplay as unreal as possible, with the cornering of the car around the track consisted of spinning the wheel as fast as possible and then catching it when the car was pointed where you wanted to go while keeping the right foot firmly planted upon the go pedal for maximum madness effect. Watching another person playing this video game was more amusing than putting your own pocket money in.

The Cost of Living

Starting work was the greatest tragedy for many of the period. Many had to wear 'square' clothes and get their hair cut. The 1970s was a turning point in domestic and International economy. Britain shed the shilling and went decimal. The OPEC oils crisis sent shivers down the backbone of every domestic economy. Unemployment was rising and benefits were paid in cash. The average wage for a Saturday job in the UK was £1 and for a full-time position in a solicitor's office you could expect to pick up £126 gross per month.

In the UK you could expect to pay £25 a month rent in a shared house, 25p to wash your clothes in a launderette and a further 10p to dry them.

With earning power increasing, people could afford luxuries like cars. Models of the period included the Standard 8, the Moggie (Morris 1000), the Vauxhall Viva Estate. If you were lacking enough funds, there was always the DIY custom car.

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