As we look forward to the year 2020, we can also look back at how far we have come. The innovations and events of 1970 will all be 50 years behind us in this new year. You might be surprised at how old — or maybe by how young — some of these milestones are. 

1. All My Children

A new soap opera called All My Children premiered on ABC on January 5, 1970.  Viewers followed the ups and down of Erica Kane and the other residents of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, for 41 years, until it was cancelled in 2011. The series was revived for a few months in 2013 on several streaming services. It was shuttered permanently after 10,755 episodes.  

2. Irish Spring

Irish Spring turns 50 years old in 2020. The deodorant soap was introduced first in Germany in 1970, and made its way to the US in 1972. 

3. The Boeing 747

The world’s first “jumbo jet,” the Boeing 747, made its first commercial flight on January 22, 1970. The plane flew for Pan-Am from New York to London. In a twist that will surprise no one, the historic flight was actually scheduled for January 21st, but the was delayed for six hours after an engine overheated, and a second 747 was brought in to make the trip.   

4. M*A*S*H (the movie)

In 1968, Richard Hooker wrote MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. He later wrote several sequels. MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

The original book was turned into a movie called MASH (written as M*A*S*H on the poster), which hit theaters on January 25, 1970. The movie, starring Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland, was made for $3 million and eventually earned $81 million and became the this-biggest film of 1970. Fifty years later, more people are familiar with the TV series that followed in 1972 and ran until 1983.   

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie career

On February 5, 1970, a comedy film called Hercules in New York opened nationwide after a two-month run in New York only, starring a young Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. His accent was so thick that his lines had to be dubbed, but it was the beginning of a successful career.   

6. The ban on cigarette advertising on TV

On April Fool’s Day in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act. The law had mandated health warnings on cigarette packs since 1965, but the new act amended the warnings as being given by the U.S. Surgeon General. The act also banned all cigarette advertising on radio and TV beginning on January 1, 1971. However, that deadline was relaxed to allow advertising on the New Year college bowl games.  

7. The Beatles as an ex-band

The biggest musical group on earth had been having trouble for some time, but fans hoped they would work it out. Then on April 10 of 1970, it became clear that wouldn’t happen as Paul McCartney’s public statements indicated that the Beatles were definitely breaking up. Beatlemania lived on long after the Beatles ended. 

8. “Houston, we’ve had a problem”

Priest presiding over mass at Jim Lovell’s family home while Apollo 13 is aloft.
Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

After two historic trips that saw astronauts walking on the moon, the Apollo 13 mission brought us back down to earth by showing how dangerous space travel really is.

Astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert launched on April 11, 1970. They never landed on the moon, as a ruptured oxygen tank disabled crucial life-support systems in the command module. For several days, we watched from earth as NASA cobbled together a plan to return the astronauts to earth, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they made it back by the skin of their teeth.  

9. Earth Day

Every year, we celebrate Mother Earth and our responsibility to care for her on April 22nd. Back in the 1960s, cities were covered in smog and we inhaled lead from gasoline and other sources. Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson had the idea to set aside a day for a “teach-in” to bring awareness of environmental concerns.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, 20 million people participated in demonstrations, educational forums, cleanups and tree-planting projects. That began a movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. By 1990, countries around the world were celebrating Earth Day.  

10. The Nerf ball

Parker Brothers introduced what they called the “world’s first official indoor ball,” which was made of foam and wouldn’t break windows or lamps or hurt anyone it happened to hit. They called it Nerf. The foam ball and the concept of playing ball indoors was invented by  Reyn Guyer.

The popularity of the Nerf ball led to a long line of Nerf products, from various balls and equipment to guns that shoot foam ammunition. 

11. The Kent State shootings

By 1970, anti-war protests had become commonplace. But the Kent State University protests made the demonstrations — and the response from authorities — impossible to ignore.

On May 4, members of the Ohio National Guard shot into a group of protesters with live ammunition, killing four students and wounding nine others. A Gallup poll conducted soon after the shootings showed that 58% of the general public blamed the protesters for the deaths, while only 11% blamed the National Guard. But students were galvanized by the incident and by President Nixon’s public indifference to the news, and launched strikes and demonstrations in the aftermath that involved more than 700 campuses and shut down more than 450 schools.  

12. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The United Nations Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT, was presented to nations around the world in 1968, and went into effect in 1970. The goal of the treaty is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology. In 1995, the treaty was extended indefinitely, and has now been signed by 191 counties.  

13. The Chevy Vega 

Detroit auto makers, suffering under competition from Japanese companies, felt pressured to build smaller, more economical cars. Introduced on September 10, 1970, the Chevrolet Vega sold like hotcakes, but no one at GM was excited about it. The car’s thin metal rusted quickly, and the engine tended to overheat. Within a couple of years the Vega earned a bad reputation among its millions of owners. The model was discontinued in 1977, and soon there were few Vegas left on the streets. 

14. The Ford Pinto

Bettmann/Getty Images

One day after the Vega was unveiled, Ford introduced its new compact car, the Pinto. The Pinto also sold well, but it had a design flaw in the fuel tank placement that meant a rear-end collision could lead to fire or an explosion. Deaths and injuries from Pinto fuel tank ruptures led to a recall, 117 lawsuits and even reckless homicide charges against Ford. While the tank was redesigned for the 1976 model, the Pinto was forever branded as a firetrap, and production ceased in 1980.   

15. The New York City Marathon 

The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon race in the world, attracting thousands of runners from all over the world. It wasn’t so big 50 years ago. The very first marathon in the city was limited to Central Park! On September 13, 1970, 127 runners paid $1 to participate, and 55 people finished the 26-mile route. 

16. Doonesbury

Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury debuted on October 26, 1970, in 28 newspapers serviced by the new Universal Press Syndicate. The strip followed college student Mike Doonesbury and his social circle that included jocks, hippies and activists. The strip is still being produced once a week on Sunday, with repeat strips appearing in newspapers on weekdays. Michael Doonesbury is now an aging baby boomer, with an even wider circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances.   

17. The Environmental Protection Agency

In response to growing concerns about pollution, oil spills and auto emissions, the U.S. government established the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate various government programs related to the environment. The EPA marks its beginning as December 2, 1970, the day the agency began operations.    

18. Corelle

Corning Glass Works introduced a line of dishes made of tempered glass laminated in three layers. This tough glassware was named Corelle. Some folks have now been using the same Corelle dishes for fifty years. 

19. The Jackson Five

The Jackson Five had been family members since birth, and a band since 1965, but it was in 1970 that they became stars. The Motown album Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 was released in December of 1969, and gave us the group’s first #1 hit, “I Want You Back” in January of 1970. They went on to have three more #1 songs in 1970: “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.”

The Jackson Five (later known as The Jacksons) recorded music through the 1980s, and Michael, who was 11 years old in 1970, went on the become a global superstar.  

20. More than a few notable people

Tina Fey and Matt Damon on the set of ’30 Rock.’
NBCU/Getty Images

If you’re turning 50 this year, you’re in good company. Some notable folks were born in 1970, including Matt Damon, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Melania Trump, Tina Fey, Uma Thurman, Ted Cruz, Sarah Silverman, Paul Ryan, Christopher Nolan, M. Night Shyamalan and Naomi Campbell. They’ll all be turning 50 in 2020. 

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