Technology has come a long way since the early days, from Flat Screen TVs to IBM computers, there have been some interesting inventions. Our editors have selected a few of our favorites for your enjoyment.

Clock Phonograph

Similar to the CD player alarm clocks we have now, this device offers a built-in phonograph that “awakens you in the morning to the sound of music”. The “Clock Phonograph” was first shown in a 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics. View full-sized article here

Both phonograph and clock motor is contained in a box the size of a large camera, and the hour for the morning serenade is set by knob as in an alarm clock. When out of use the case is folded up to make a neat and attractive table or mantel ornament.

Osborne 1

Boasting a Z80A CPU with 64K RAM, dual floppy disk drives, RS-232C/IEEE 488 interfaces, 5-inch CRT, and weather resistant portable housing, this portable computer paved the way for laptops — introduced as the Osborne 1 in 1981 for $1795. View full-sized advertisement here. (Thanks, Will T)

IBM 5110

This IBM 5110 advertisement was from the February 20th, 1978 issue of TIME magazine. With your choice of BASIC or APL programming language, diskette or tape-based system, the 5110 can be custom configured to fit your needs — all for under $18,000 ($54,844.75 in 2005 dollars). View full-sized advertisement here

There was a time when $18,000 wouldn’t even cover the monthly cost of a new computer. But the new IBM 5110 Computing System shown above sells for $18,000 (other configurations range from $10,000 to about $30,000).

Flat Screen TV from 1958

According to this old Popular Mechanics article, flat screen televisions have been around since 1958 — or at least the technology. Designed mainly for military use, it just never caught on due to patents/licensing issues. Click the image for full article.

From the article: “The picture tube, only 2-5/8 inches thick, is made of two rectangular pieces of plate glass with about an inch of space between them. The edges are sealed with powdered-glass solder to hold the vacuum. The surface of the thin tube is the equivalent of a 21-inch conventional screen.”


$589.99 CD Player

In 1983, you could’ve purchased this brand new CD player — the size of a VHS deck — for $589.99, complete with “LASER” etched onto the tray. View full-sized advertisement here

You’ve heard stereo before, but never like this. Treat your ears to music that sounds so real, you might just think it’s the original. Our Compact Digital Audio Disc Player (CD) uses a sophisticated laser system to delicately lift the sound off compact discs for phenomenal sound.

(Thanks, Brian L)

IBM Data Processing Machines

Gone are the days of gigantic “IBM Data Processing Machines” that were able to compute a whopping 14,000 operations per second. Click here for the full-sized advertisement.

They’re doing all kinds of work from production planning and job sequencing operations to helping engineers design planes and analyze flight test data. Getting facts fast is important in every business field.


Flying Saucer Camera

This “Flying Saucer Camera” was first introduced back in 1953 and was designed specifically for the Air Force. It featured one lens to “take regular pictures” while the second lens “separates light into colors so scientists can judge the source and make-up of saucers”.[Source]

Wrist Watch Camera from 1939

This wrist watch camera was ahead of its time, invented by Jujiro Ichiki, it took real pictures — 36 pictures in one loading — and is equipped with a f .4.5 lens. [Source]

“Radio Man”

Designed by Swiss-engineer August Huber, the “Radio Man” stood seven feet high and consisted of “a maze of automatic switches, relays, and other controls”. Built-in microphones allowed “Radio Man” to receive spoken commands — such as walking, talking, or even yodeling. Full-sized image here.

When this modern monster talks through the loudspeaker installed in its chest, its lips move in time with its speech. An ultra-short-wave receiver installed in its torso enables the “radio man” to follow orders transmitted to it by radio from remote points.


10MB Hard Disk for $3,495

That’s right, a 10MB hard disk for only $3,495 back in 1980 — and it’s refurbished to boot. A brand new unit would have cost you $4,495. If adjusted to 2005 dollars, that’s $11,415.77 (new)/$8876.11 (refurbished). View the full-sized advertisement here.

And this isn’t one of your 3.5″, half-height 5 1/4″ or even full-height 5 1/4″ hard drives either. No; it’s a hulking, old-school, non-Winchester jobbie that takes interchangeable disk cartridges

Duck Hunt-Style Game from 1935

This Duck Hunt-style game made its debut in a 1935 issue of Modern Mechanix — basically consisting of two light guns that were used to shoot an electric eye on a bird. View full-sized article here

Photo-electric cells are mounted in the bodies of duck targets which move across a panelled opening at one end of the room. Each gun has its source of light which flashes on when the trigger is pressed. If a marksman “hits” the photo-electric cell directly in the center of the bird’s body, the duck falls and the number of respective hits is registered automatically in light.

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