20 Iconic Things Turning 50 in 2024

There was more the ’70s than just bell bottoms and Disco.
Thanks, 1974.
Thanks, 1974. / kutaytanir/E+/Getty Images

The 1970s were an irrefutably iconic era in history. The decade gave us bell bottoms, the Disco revolution, and plenty of products that left their mark. Several items, like the Rubik’s Cube and Dungeons & Dragons, celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2024. From their humble beginnings in garages and labs, these objects from 1974 have grown to become integral parts of our everyday lives.

1. Post-It Notes 

In 1968, a scientist named Spencer Silver accidentally developed an adhesive that struck the balance of being weak enough to separate papers without tearing while still being strong enough to stick to an additional surface. But Silver and his company couldn’t think of a practical way to market the adhesive. For a time, it remained a fruitless idea.

Everything changed when a man named Art Fry entered the picture in 1974. While singing in church, he wondered if there was a way to leave a stick-on bookmark in his hymnal without damaging it upon removal. Fry and Silver worked together to develop prototypes, and eventually, the modern-day Post-It Note was born.

2. The Rubik’s Cube 

There aren’t many products that both educate and entertain—but the Rubik’s Cube, developed in 1974 by a Hungarian puzzle-lover named Ernő Rubik, is certainly an exception. Initially called a “Magic Cube,” it was marketed as a tool to help children learn about three-dimensional objects, but it wasn’t actually built for that purpose. Rubik was genuinely fascinated by geometry and invented the cube to challenge himself. By doing so, he created a frenzy of fans called “cubers” and a legacy that lasts to this day.

3. The UPC Bar Code 

Barcode on a water bottle
The UPC bar code revolutionized retail. / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Inventor Joe Woodland came up with the idea of what is now known as the bar code while relaxing on the beach. He jotted a design in the sand and knew that it had the potential to revolutionize shopping.

After going through a series of trials, prototypes, and designs, the first UPC Bar Code was scanned in a small Ohio town called Troy in 1974. The product that started it all? None other than an average pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum. Now, Woodland’s invention is a permanent fixture in the world’s shopping experience—not to mention an absolute blessing for those who have to regularly conduct stock inventory.

4. The Silver Robotic Arm 

Despite ongoing debates regarding the ever-increasing use of robots and the development of AI—the latter of which is coding and programming that creates systems with human-like intellectual processes, while the former refers to the machines themselves—the importance of robotics within modern society can hardly be questioned. The year 1974 was a big one for robotics, particularly in the industrial context. It’s when MIT student David Silver invented what is now referred to as the “Silver Arm.” 

The device was built to simplify small-part assembly and was equipped with touch sensors and the ability to provide tactical feedback—functions that were practically unheard of in robotics. The machine paved the way for automated production.

5. Bailey’s Irish Cream 

If you’ve ever enjoyed a nutty Irishman or other coffee-based cocktail, chances are that you’ve had the opportunity to taste Bailey’s Irish Cream. This liqueur is iconic for being the first of its kind, a surprisingly delicious combination of the richness of cream and the powerful punch of whiskey. Though cream-based alcohol is now fairly common, this wasn’t the case back in 1974.  

6. The Heimlich Maneuver 

Before Henry Heimlich popularized his namesake abdominal thrust maneuver—which he detailed in a 1974 article called “Pop Goes the Café Coronary”—the common response to choking was repeated strikes to the back. The Heimlich Maneuver started as a theory based on the doctor’s observations in dogs and turned out to have a high success rate in preventing fatal choking episodes.

7. Stephen King’s First Novel, Carrie

Stephen King
The author Stephen King. / Theo Wargo/GettyImages

Often referred to as the “King of Horror,” novelist and film director Stephen King has been taking on the frighteningly impactful genre for decades. King’s first novel, Carrie, is a story about a young girl who is relentlessly bullied and retaliates with telekinetic powers. The novel kicked off King’s long and decorated career in the horror genre in 1974. 

8. The U.S. Privacy Act 

The U.S. Privacy Act is as important today as it was when it was enacted in 1974. Think about it like this: Imagine the government has a huge filing cabinet with folders about everyone, containing things like your name, where you live, and maybe even your medical history. The Privacy Act regulates how federal agencies collect, use, and disseminate people’s personal information. It’s not just about hiding the information either—it’s about keeping it safe and ensuring the government doesn’t commit unwarranted invasions of privacy.

9. Connect Four 

Connect Four, developed by the board game company Milton Bradley, debuted in 1974. It was inspired by the classic Tic-Tac-Toe; Connect Four players seek to get four chips into an uninterrupted row to secure a win.

10. Skittles

Photo of a person holding a handful of Skittles
Taste the rainbow. / Yuriko Nakao/GettyImages

Skittles was originally invented in the United Kingdom in 1974, though the confection didn’t enter the U.S. candy scene in North America until 1979. There isn’t a lot of confirmed information regarding the origins of this fan-favorite candy—rather than state the truth, the website for Skittles contains a wild tale about how the rainbow treats came from space.

11. Modern Liposuction 

The first documented instance of someone attempting cosmetic fat sculpting occurred back in 1921, though that method was quite painful and had horrifying results. In 1974, a father-son duo deployed an improved version of the procedure that remains the basis of modern liposuction techniques. Arpad and Giorgio Fischer used a criss-cross suctioning method that yielded far better outcomes than earlier attempts, and although they only applied this technique to the outer thighs, it remains the basis of this now-common aesthetic procedure.

12. DayQuil

DayQuil has served many a person suffering from a nasty headcold since it hit shelves in 1974. It was originally known as DayCare, as it includes non-drowsy ingredients suited for daytime relief from a cold or flu.

13. The Meow Mix Jingle

The cat food brand Meow Mix hit the market in 1974. That same year, the brand aired its first commercial, featuring its now-signature jingle sung by singer Linda November. 

14. Kinder Surprise Eggs

Kinder Surprise is an egg-shaped chocolate candy with a hollow center meant to store a small gift or prize. The egg, which debuted in 1974, is only one of a vast array of Kinder chocolate products.

Though Kinder Surprise is theoretically an excellent idea, it has a rocky relationship with the United States government. In 1997, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned Kinder Surprise in the United States, deeming it a choking hazard. But the treat remains well-loved in European nations like the United Kingdom.

15. The Canon “Datematic”

Photography became a lot more accessible in the 1970s. In 1974, Canon developed their “Datematic” 35 mm camera. The compact camera’s main draw was its lightweight design, which manufacturers achieved by building the camera from reinforced plastic. The camera served as inspiration for future SLR cameras.

16. Dungeons & Dragons 

Dungeons and Dragons game pieces displayed at a gaming conference.
Dungeons & Dragons game pieces displayed at a gaming conference. / Jeff Swensen/GettyImages

The tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons has been embedded in pop culture since 1974. Though the game is well-known as a benchmark in fantasy media, it didn’t begin with that intention. Dungeons & Dragons was initially meant to be a medieval combat game, with a short included guide detailing how it could also be used in a fantasy setting. This small element became its primary appeal; the game’s first run sold out within a year of its release.

17. Bold Laundry Detergent

Bold, a brand of laundry detergent owned by Proctor & Gamble, was released to the UK market in 1974 as their first low-suds biological laundry detergent. It has remained a popular product ever since.

18. The Arecibo Message 

The Arecibo Message was transmitted via a device known as the Arecibo radio telescope. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t a genuine attempt to contact aliens. Instead, it served as a testament to how far space technology had come.

19. People Magazine 

With nearly 2600 issues under its belt, People magazine is one of the most iconic pop culture news sources in the U.S. The magazine has had nearly every celebrity from Cindy Crawford to Leonardo DiCaprio adorn its cover. 

Its first issue hit newsstands in March of 1974. Who was plastered on the paper’s first cover? None other than actress Mia Farrow, known for her portrayal of Daisy Buchanan in that year’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

20. The Volkswagen Golf 

Volkswagen launched its popular Golf model in 1974. The model has been through several important phases, with seven generations and over 35 million sold units worldwide. Before the Golf’s release, the Beetle dominated the Volkswagen lineup due to its reputation for both accessibility and affordability. But once the Golf hit the market, it quickly set a new standard for compact cars and demonstrated the innovative ability of the Volkswagen brand.