Can You Ace This Quiz About Life Pre-1980?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Ah, the good old days of bell-bottoms, vinyl records and television signing off at 1 a.m. No, really, if you're a Baby Boomer you'd probably agree that those were indeed the good old days!

Calling the era from the mid-'40s to mid-'60s the "baby boom" is definitely not misleading! The number of births in the U.S. continuously grew between 1946 - when World War II ended - and 1964, until gradually decreasing afterward. People born during that timeframe, the "Baby Boomers," made up a whopping 40 percent of the United States' population!

Some things that were commonplace back in the boomer period would seem unusual today, such as having the milkman deliver milk to your house, going through atomic bomb drills at school, and having to talk to an operator every time you wanted to make a phone call! Perhaps the most nostalgic stuff to boomers, though, are the then-popular musicians, games, and films. Do you know the name of the 1972 film that was the source of the infamous line: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse"?

If you're a Baby Boomer, get ready to take a leisurely trip down memory lane. If you're younger, then let's test your knowledge with this totally far-out quiz!

Rotary phones were first used in 1892 in Indiana, and by 1919, they became commonplace nationwide. Each digit that the dial rotated to sent pulses down the line to represent that number. Until the mid-1960s, rotary phones were still the most popular option for user-controlled phones but with the introduction of push-button telephones in that same decade, they had mostly been replaced by the 1980s.

Also known as a phonograph record, gramophone record, or simply a record, these were the primary music reproduction medium until the late 20th century. Despite being superseded by digital media, vinyl records are still popular today, albeit usually only among DJs, music collectors and the indie music scene. In the U.S., vinyl sales increased by more than 80 percent between 2006 and 2008.

Commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, became widespread and invaluable in establishments and homes in the late 1880s, and slowly started to be replaced in the 1980s with the new popularity of desktop computers, web publishing and e-mail. However, much like vinyl, they have seen a resurgence in the indie scene. In prisons (where telecommunication is forbidden,) typewriters are still used today.

Following the popularization of ant farms in 1956, Harold von Braunhut stepped it up a level with these “novelty aquarium pets.” With the included hatching kit, all one had to do was add the “Water Purifier” packet to tap water, wait 24 hours, then add the “Instant Life Eggs” packet, and watch the Sea Monkeys (brine shrimp) hatch! However, many buyers were let down by the difference between the illustrated and actual animals.

Despite food mixes known to contain some very unhealthy ingredients, the Easy Bake Oven is often credited as one of the most popular toys of all time​ and is even honored in the United States National Toy Hall of Fame. The product’s 55th anniversary is in 2018, and the toy’s fan club announced November 8 as National Easy Bake Oven Day.

Though they eventually fell out of use with the advent of CD players and other portable audio players, everyone had a transistor radio in the 1960s and '70s! Transistor radios were developed in 1954 and powered by a transistor, which was invented in 1947. Did you know that the transistor radio is the most popular electronic communication device in history? Billions were made during its heyday!

A true pop culture phenomenon, Star Wars (along with its two sequels, making up the original trilogy) is undeniably one of the most timeless movies and has spanned an unbeatable media franchise! "Star Wars" was released in 1977 and was actually rejected by several major Hollywood studios (because, according to director and writer George Lucas, it was “a little strange”) before it was approved by 20th Century Fox.

These coffee brewing pots had their pros and cons but were nonetheless extremely popular until they were superseded by drip brew coffeemakers in the 1970s. The drop in popularity is also attributed to the percolators’ tendency to over-extract coffee, causing it to be too bitter. Percolator enthusiasts do, however, say that careful brewing is all that’s needed to eliminate the possibility of undesirable coffee quality.

Bell-bottoms (a.k.a. “flares”) were one of the biggest trends of the 1960s-1980s and often cycle back into popularity. Did you know that bell-bottoms’ origins date back to the navy? In the early 1800s, before the U.S. Navy had a standard uniform, sailors often wore trousers referred to as bell-bottoms, despite them usually simply being wide-legged trousers and not having the distinctive flare below the knee.

Frozen dinners are still fairly common nowadays, but in the 1950s to the '70s, they were wildly popular! Swanson was the brand that popularized the concept and moniker of the “TV Dinner,” so-named because they were suitable for eating on a folding tray in the living room while watching TV. Within just a year of its introduction, the company had sold more than 10 million TV dinners!

The "Howdy Doody Show" was a very popular children’s program that aired from 1947 to 1960. It was presented by “Buffalo” Bob Smith, along with the titular puppet, Howdy Doody, and frequently had cowboy and circus themes. A little-known fact is that Howdy Doody had 48 freckles representing the 48 states of the union at the time he was created!

Though it’s now difficult to imagine the titular character played by anyone other than Clint Eastwood, the role was originally given to Frank Sinatra! However, due to a hand injury, Sinatra had to pull out and Eastwood took his place. "Dirty Harry" was actually the third film on which Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel worked.

In 1937, when Spam was introduced, it was considered incredible that meat could stay fresh by canning without refrigeration. It became widespread across the world during WWII. After the war, creator Hormel Foods Corporation recruited a group of former servicewomen, dubbed them the “Hormel Girls” and they toured the United States for a while promoting the product.

Second only to Barbie dolls (which are manufactured by the same company, Mattel) at the time, these pull-string “talking” dolls were beyond popular during the early- and mid-1960s. Following Chatty Cathy’s success, Mattel introduced several other dolls with similar names and features, such as Chatty Baby, Charmin’ Chatty, and Singin’ Chatty.

This two-player toy was introduced in 1964 by the Marx Toy Company and has remained popular. The classic game has had many different versions as well as remakes. For example, a 1977 version inspired by the Space Age and the success of "Star Wars" was called “Clash of the Cosmic Robots” and featured space-themed robots and a space-themed arena.

Despite being one of the later-invented entries on this list, having been created in 1975, mood rings were still wildly popular among younger Baby Boomers and became one of the most well-known fads of the decade. Mood rings typically contained liquid crystal or another thermochromic element (a substance that changes color depending on temperature) that consequently changed the color of the stone that covered the crystal.

It’s a famous fact that "Jaws" is mostly devoid of actual shots of the shark because the mechanical sharks used were always malfunctioning. The shark never even fully appears in a scene until almost an hour and a half in! However, this didn’t hinder director Steven Spielberg from finding creative ways to shoot around the problem, including utilizing the suspense of a “suggested presence.”

Though probably unheard of by the majority of later generations, every Baby Boomer remembers the mimeograph machine. It was a predecessor of photocopying and was a duplication machine that used stencils and ink. The mimeograph (a.k.a. “stencil duplicator” or “mimeo”) started to lose popularity in the late 1960s with the introduction of photocopying.

These once-ubiquitous machines have been gradually becoming outdated in many countries since the mid-2000s, most likely due to the proliferation of cellphones. However, some places in the U.S. still have plenty of them! It’s especially not uncommon to find them in immigrant-rich neighborhoods. There were reportedly 200,000 payphones in the United States in 2014, though the number continues to shrink rapidly.

Also known as astro lamps, lava lamps were invented by Edward Walker, a British accountant and the founder of the lighting company, Mathmos, in 1963. They’re so-named because the way the warmed wax moves through the liquid is reminiscent of pahoehoe lava! Lava lamps are representative of the 1960s and ‘70s​ and experienced a resurgence of popularity in the ‘90s.

Project Mercury was a NASA program that was the United States’ first human spaceflight program. Project Mercury came about as a result of the space race, which began with the launch of a Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957. Americans were shocked and dismayed because they had previously been made to believe that the U.S.A. was technologically superior to the Soviet Union.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise for even younger generations that "The Godfather" was once the highest-grossing film ever (until it was superseded by the 1977 hit, "Star Wars") and is generally considered one of the greatest films ever made. The book it’s based on doesn’t fall behind either, as it remained on The New York Times’ Bestseller list for 67 weeks and was also the best-selling published work in history for years.

Go-go boots were one of the hottest trends in women’s fashion in the 1960s and ‘70s, and were created in the mid-‘60s by French designer André Courrèges. The name is derived from the French phrase “à gogo” which means “galore” or “in abundance.” Their popularity skyrocketed after Nancy Sinatra’s #1 hit song, “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” when she practically became the poster girl for go-go boots.

The life of American folk hero Davy Crockett was reborn in Disney’s 1950s miniseries centering on the real-life frontiersman of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a five-part series with each episode having a runtime of one hour. It was a huge hit among kids, especially young boys, and the coonskin caps worn by the character quickly became a fad.

Agent Orange was a powerful herbicide and defoliant chemical used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It had long-lasting and disastrous effects on the environment and people’s health. It caused a plethora of health effects, such as birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, rashes and neurological and psychological problems – not only among the people of Vietnam but also among returning U.S. servicemen and their families.

The earliest version of the pogo stick was invented in 1891 and there were several redevelopments before it was released in 1957 as a toy and recreational device. Its popularity fluctuated but skyrocketed in the late ‘70s due to a clever marketing scheme. There’s also an extreme sport called Xpogo, along with Pogopalooza: The Xpogo World Championship Series which tours internationally annually.

Wood-paneled cars – particularly station wagons, but also sedans and convertibles – were very popular in the U.S.A. in the 1930s and ‘40s. The wood paneling was usually done by a third party other than the car manufacturer – usually a carpenter. Though obsolete now, Ford Flex released a model in 2008 that had abstract wood construction in the sides and rear as a nod to the old “woodies.”

Kick the Can (a.k.a “Kick the Block” or “Tip the Can”) is a children’s game played outdoors with – you guessed it – just a can! It also features elements of games such as tag, capture the flag and hide and seek. Its origins date back to the Great Depression when it was a popular children’s game because it didn’t require any special equipment or playing field. It remained popular until the post-‘60s.

Used throughout a large portion of the black-and-white TV era, the Indian-head test pattern was displayed after television signed off at 1 a.m. It became familiar to baby boom audiences when it began being used in 1947, all the way to 1960s! When color television was introduced in that decade, television stations began using a different test pattern, the SMPTE Color Bars.

Apollo 11’s moon landing on July 20, 1969, was a pivotal moment not just for the United States, but the world at large – “one giant leap for mankind,” after all! Apollo 11 was the fifth mission of NASA’s Apollo program, by which they hoped to fulfill the late President JFK’s national goal of safely sending and returning man to the moon before the end of the 1960s.

Designed in the 1960s, banana seat bicycles (a.k.a. wheelie bikes, or banana bikes) were a type of children’s bicycle made to look like the popular and then-fairly new chopper motorcycles. The seats are so-named because of their long, round shape. However, they gradually went out of style with the introduction of BMX/stunt bikes and mountain bikes.

The very first episode of "Saturday Night Live" aired on October 11, 1975. The Emmy Award-winning comedy show has now surpassed 40 seasons and is still going strong! It originally aired under the title “NBC’s Saturday Night,” before the title was changed in 1980. SNL has received 64 Primetime Emmy Awards and 231 nominations as of 2017, the most of either received by any TV show!

Considered the first worldwide dance craze, the Twist was inspired by rock and roll music and was in vogue from 1959 throughout the early ‘60s. However, many older adults at the time felt that it was too provocative. It inspired many other dances – though none achieved the same level of popularity – such as the Pony, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, and the Funky Chicken.

Super Balls were the very first bouncy balls and were made with a special kind of synthetic rubber that made them, well, bouncy! Extremely bouncy, actually; when thrown down by the average adult, a Super Ball can go all the way over a three-story building. Seriously. They (and thus the patent for all future bouncy balls) were invented by Norman Stingey, a chemist, in 1964.

Coonskin caps date back to the Native Americans who traditionally wore them, and they were later worn by colonizers. However, they became a huge fad in the 1950s among young boys due to them being worn by the historical character Davy Crockett in the TV show of the same name (they were also often called “Davy Crockett Hats”). There was also a version marketed to girls that was similar but made of white fur.

Officially known as the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, this event was one of the most popular and influential rock festivals of the 1960s and is widely considered as one the most significant moments in the history of popular music. It was held in southern New York State in 1969 to more than 400,000 spectators and, though scheduled for August 15 to 17, ended up running over into the 18th!

View-Masters are a brand stereoscopes with special reels which let the user see up-close and in 3-D. They were originally made in 1939, came with reels of popular tourist attractions and were marketed to all age groups, though nowadays they’re mostly intended for children. Did you know that stereoscopes are the ancestors of modern virtual reality devices? The earliest version was created in 1838!

Living up to its slogan of “the game that ties you up in knots,” Twister is credited as one of the first games that used people's bodies as playing pieces. Seeing as Twister has been inducted into the American National Toy Hall of Fame, it’s quite obvious that it was a hit! This once-wildly popular game is still played often at parties today and it’s easy to find at any toy store.

"American Graffiti" is another film directed by George Lucas. It was released in 1973, four years before "Star Wars." It’s semi-biographical and was nostalgic even at the time of its release because it was set in the early ‘60s and focused on popular culture among the Boomer generation. The film was a huge success, both critically and commercially, and a sequel was released six years later.

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