Gadgets featured in this June 1985 installment of Popular Science’s “What’s New in Electronics” included a precursor of the wall-mounted flat-screen TV and a 4-color typewriter that could generate charts and graphs.


Using the “General Electric Kitchen Companion” families could listen to music on the radio or play cassette tapes, or even leave each other recorded messages. (Watch video demo). One can imagine the people of the mid-eighties got a special kind of thrill from leaving recorded audio messages for housemates rather than sticking an old fashioned note on the fridge.

The Matsushita prototype television used a new type of thin picture tube that brought technology even closer to the dream of a true “hang-on-the-wall” home theater screen. While Matsushita initially struggled to overcome high production costs, a 14-inch model was released in Japan in October 1993 and found its way to the U.S. the following year. At just 3.9 inches thick, it was three times thinner than conventional models but ten times more expensive, costing consumers $2700 ($4700 by today’s standards). Its primary competitor at the time was a 2.4″ inch thick model sold by Fujitsu for the hefty price of $12,000 ($21,000 today). Needless to say, it would be a while before the average consumer started outfitting their home theaters with flat-screens.

In the same space-saving spirit, the compact PhoneMate 5050 was introduced as an all-in-one phone and answering machine. Looking back 40 years, times had certainly changed. The first commercially successful answering machine (though not the first in existence) was the 1949 Electronic Secretary. It was created by inventor Joseph Zimmerman and businessman George W. Danner, who founded Electronic Secretary Industries in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It played back announcements on a state-of-the-art 45rpm record player, and used wire recording technology for message capture and playback.

Also featured in the article was a waterproof computer bag designed by Prairie Power Systems for the Apple IIc included a battery pack that kept the computer powered when not in use.

Finally, the SmithCorona GraphText 90 “pen plotter” typewriter printed with an ink pen instead of a ribbon. Users could change out the pens to print in up to four colors. The typewriter could also store information in memory, and create pie charts, bar graphs, linear charts and grids from data that was entered. (Watch video demo)