10 Totally Groovy Gadgets Sold on TV in the ’60s and ’70s

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If you were a kid growing up during the 1960s and 1970s, you were limited to just a few choices when it came to watching television. There were only a few networks, and with the exception of PBS, all of them made you sit through commercials. Most of the commercials advertised products of dubious value, and if you saw them enough times, they became etched into your memory.

 

Take a trip with us down memory lane as we remember the gadgets sold on television during those glorious decades. Many of them have been replaced by products that did the same things, only better, but they sure seemed like revolutionary steps forward when we saw them advertised on television way back when.

Image Credit: Shanina/ istock.

1. Ginsu Knives

The Ginsu knife promised consumers it was the last word in effective cutlery. The commercials would demonstrate its great utility by showing someone cutting through a tin can with it and then using the same knife to cut a tomato. We’re not sure that anyone ever used one to cut a tin can because who cuts tin cans? The answer may be “nobody,” but it made for an amusing and memorable commercial all the same.

Image Credit: ginsu knives by alexandre nakonechnyj (CC BY-NC).

2. Chia Pets

Chia is a flowering plant species in the mint family. Chia Pets are terracotta figurines that sprout it within a couple of weeks of ownership, with an end result resembling animal fur. The first one ever made was introduced in 1977, and they caught on with consumers due in no small part to an utterly simplistic jingle that referred to the object as a “Ch-ch-ch-chia” pet and would not leave your head for a full 24 hours.

Image Credit: Scott Thompson/ istock.

3. Mr. Microphone

Mr. Microphone is a cordless microphone that allows the user to hijack nearby FM radios and start singing, telling jokes, or engaging in other amplified radio wave tomfoolery. The commercials encouraged its use as a surefire method to liven up parties and also as a way to harass passers-by from one’s car, a practice better known today as “sexual harassment.” Hey, it was the 1970s, and making unwelcome public advances was considered funny!

Image Credit: Dragos Condrea/ istock.

4. The Buttoneer

Unlike some of the products on this list, the Buttoneer was a godsend. If you ever lost a button on your shirt or coat, sewing it back on was a chore, and even if you did it right, that particular button would always seem “off” somehow. The Buttoneer, meanwhile, did the job perfectly in about two seconds, resulting in a button that often outlived the rest of the ones on the original garment. The gadget was made by Avery Dennison, a company that also made price tag guns, and we feel that in both cases, whoever invented those things deserves the Nobel Prize.

Image Credit: Ricky Deacon/ istock.

5. Popiel’s Pocket Fisherman

People who like fishing have their work cut out for them trying to wrangle all the gear into a convenient configuration, and the length of the average fishing pole compounds the problem. Thankfully, Popiel’s Pocket Fisherman was there to save fishing enthusiasts from this problem by offering a compact combination rod and reel that you could fit in a car’s glove compartment, per the commercial. Popiel’s Pocket Fisherman was one of several products created by a company called Ronco, who also gave us the Electric Food Dehydrator, the Cap Snaffler, and GLH-9, which was short for Great Looking Hair Formula #9, better known as hair in a spray can.

Image Credit: Onandter_sean/ istock.

6. The Miracle Painter

Commercials for the Miracle Painter said the gadget was a great way to paint a ceiling if you’re wearing a tuxedo, since it won’t drip on you. It promised to make the paint roller obsolete and even allow consumers to tame stucco, that most unpaintable of surfaces. Unlike a lot of products advertised on television, the thing actually worked, but while the commercials said you could paint an entire room without a drop cloth, we advise against such foolhardiness and recommend using the drop cloth anyway.

Image Credit: Mike Duffy/ istock.

7. Record Vacuum

Taking care of vinyl records is a chore. Eventually, you will tire of blowing specks of dust off of it and just get used to the cracks, skips, pops, and other surface noises. The Record Vacuum promised to alter this state of affairs by providing a gadget that audiophiles could use to conveniently remove all of that stuff by loosening microdust particles in a way that looks more harmful to the record than spilling ketchup on it. If you consult the commercial on YouTube, you will find scant positive opinions in the comments about the product’s effectiveness, and one commenter said it destroyed their beloved copy of “Frampton Comes Alive!”

Image Credit: The Museum of Classic Chicago Television/ istock.

8. Mr. Coffee

If you’re like the rest of the civilized world and need to make a pot of coffee at home before you even consider venturing outside, you have Mr. Coffee to thank for the fact that you can do that. It was the first-ever automatic drip coffeemaker, and while paid pitchman and former New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio made the dubious claim in the commercial that it would make “the best cup of coffee you ever tasted,” we must give our utmost respect to everyone involved in inventing and popularizing this thing, as most of the other ways of making coffee at home are so labor intensive and unsatisfying that you might as well not even bother waking up.

Image Credit: Mr. Coffee by Angela CoffeeRank (CC BY).

9. K-Tel Record Selector

If you hadn’t already destroyed the playing surface of your vinyl LPs with the Record Vacuum, you were still left with the terrible problem of finding the record you wanted to listen to in a poorly organized pile. Instead of just storing them vertically on a bookshelf with the spines facing out like a normal person, you could use the K-Tel Record Selector, which would allow you to gently browse your collection while the gadget did the thumbing through for you. It solved a nonexistent problem, but the commercial was amusing.

Image Credit: KtelClassics/ YouTube.

10. JCPenney Portable TV

The JCPenney Portable TV dates back to when, as the commercial said, a standard color television could be “trouble.” The commercial was extremely vague about what that trouble was and how the JCPenney Portable TV succeeded in addressing it, and the $419 price they were asking for it in 1972 translates to an eye-popping $3,127 in 2024 dollars, which is more than enough for any consumer to decide to avoid the purchase altogether. But how about that tint, huh?

Image Credit: Bionic Disco/ YouTube.

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