Flashback: 1963 and 1995

Flashback time again this afternoon. You can catch me on BBC Radio Manchester on 95.1 at 16:30 or on Listen Again via the iPlayer. This week’s years are 1963 and 1995.


  • The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (Ascii) system was introduced. Dull but vital — before this came along all computers spoke different languages making it tricky to exchange information between them.
  • The first Touch-Tone phones were introduced, beginning the end for the electro-mechanical dial introduced in 1919.
  • Syncom 2 became the first artificial satellite to go into a geosynchronousorbit. Without this capability there would be no satellite TV and no satnav.
  • Philips introduced the ‘compact cassette tape cartridge’, the standard for for recording and playing music for many years after. The mix tape was born, as was the classic slogan ‘Home taping is killing music’. You can draw your own parallels with the modern day debate about downloading.
  • “Instant” color film, or self-developing color photography, is introduced by the Polaroid Land Company.
  • Robert Kearns invented the intermittent windscreen wiper. Car manufacturers infringed his patent until 1990 before they agreed to pay him royalties.
  • The first emoticon — the smiley — was invented by Harvey Ball


  • The Java software platform was launched, with the dream that a piece of software could be written once and run anywhere. Though this dream hasn’t come true exactly, it has reached more than 4.5 billion devices and is probably on your PC, your mobile phone and possibly even your TV and Bluray player. It is an integral part of many ‘Web 2.0’ applications.
  • DVD was announced in November 1995
  • Windows 95 was introduced, making the internet much more accessible to the mass market.
  • Apple tried, and failed to enter the console market with the ‘Pippin’. Though it was never marketed as an Apple product (it was produced and badged by Bandai) it is still known as one of the company’s biggest failures
  • Nintendo had its own failure in 1995, the Virtual Boy, a console built in to a set of monochrome 3D goggles. It was no match for the PlayStation.
This post forms part of my Blogs series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Blogs page.

Tom Cheesewright


Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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