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Can you pick a favourite product of the past 60 years?

60 products

Right now, you’re probably reading this on a computer, laptop, tablet or even a phone. Over the past 60 years, we’ve seen a lot of innovative products appear in our homes. We’ve whittled down a list of 60 top products rated by us, but what ones would you choose?

‘We want you to come up with a list of the 60 most important products of the past 60 years’. This was the challenge set to a small team of Which? product researchers when we first discussed ideas for our 14-page celebration of ‘60 products that changed our lives’ in November’s edition of Which? magazine.

Cue big gulps all round as we grappled with how to create a list of just 60, from the many thousands of products that Which? has tested since it was founded in 1957. Explore the Which? Timeline to find out more.

Picking products

Establishing our criteria was of course essential. What did we mean by ‘most important’? Did they have to be products that you would buy, such as a camera or domestic appliance? Or could they be technological developments, such as the internet or global positioning satellites?

Did they have to be invented after 1957, and should we select only the first example of that product. What about Which? Best Buys or best sellers?

We settled on the idea that these products should be important because they changed the way that we live over the past 60 years. This includes products that have made our homes simpler to run, transformed how we use our leisure time and made it easier to travel or communicate across great distances.

Top products

Our fairly youthful team had the disadvantage of not even being born when Which? was founded, so to come up with our list we’ve spent many hours combing through dusty Which? back issues to get ideas.

Luckily, many members responded to our Help Wanted requests in Which? magazine to tell us about the products that had the most impact on them, and it was a pleasure to read their stories of how buying an automatic washing machine, stair lift or tablet computer had made their lives better.

Members of our Which? Connect online panel contributed their own ideas, too, giving us a list of 10 generic products to investigate further:

1. Computer
2. Internet
3. Mobile phone
4. Smartphone
5. Automatic washing machine
6. Car (safety, reliability etc)
7. TV
8. Microwave
9. Dishwasher

Although we hope that we didn’t leave any life-transforming products out, whittling down the list to just 60 was hard. We expect that some may think ‘how could they have missed XYZ from that list?’.

So what would you put on your list of 60 most important products? And cast your vote on what you think will be the most influential product of 2017…


Eight out of the above ten would be on my list, but one item that made a huge impact was the humble compact disc. For the first time in the history of recording there was music without a scratch of a needle or the hiss of a tape and a single disc held a complete work without interruption. The DVD similarly did the same to the video recorder. I know streaming has taken off, but I love my collection and the medium it plays on. Aesthetically this has been far more important than most household appliances – useful though these undoubtedly are.

You have obviously never heard looked after vinyl on a decent turntable,no cd player,and i have heard some of the best in the world costing nearly £30000,or the best streamers come close to vinyl on a decent turntable,i have got a £27000 system with a very good streamer a Naim nd5xs and a naim ddx cd player and my linn lp12 turntable anihilates them both and every streamer and cd player i’ve heard as well

Cd was a totally vile sounding piece of crap when it came out,and everyone who had heard or owned a decent turntable such as a Rega planar 3 and above just laughed at how bad it sounded.both cd and streaming have improved but they still are not as good as vinyl.remember we humans hear in analogue,vinyl is analogue so will always sound better.coding a signal into only 1’s or 0’s does not come close to the complexity of our ears which have 20000 hairs,each tuned to one sound frequency.we cannot hear or see digital,every digital product has a dac converter,and huge amounts of information are lost in the coding/decoding processes that cannot be recovered.cd’s only sounded “clear” because of all the information lost,the bass was practically non existent,and the sound was glassy.compare the first cd recoring released dire strait’s brothers in arms is vile on the original cd recording and viler still on vinyl because it is a digital recording and a good turntable shows how bad it really sounds.compare the song sultans of swing on a turntable then plaay any track from brothers in arms through the same system and that will show you just how bad cd was.

I have to agree: when CD was first produced in about 1981, with Philip’s claims to “Perfect Sound for ever” it was terrible; at that time I was running Grahams Hi-Fi in London; we listened to it and refused to stock it! Our criteria were (and remain) the ability of a system to make music; in exactly the same way (possibly almost subliminally) as one judges a live musician’s ability on whether they can sing/play in tune and in time (tempo), CD was initially and clearly unable to maintain the integrity of tune and tempo. Incidentally, those Criteria were introduced by Linn Products in Glasgow and Naim Audio in Salisbury, two UK companies who continue to make some of the best Hi-Fi in the world. Those companies, with Rega and Meridian, have now improved CD to the point where it does actually reproduce Music! To be fair, there are also some companies in the USA, France and Japan that could be included.

E McLaughlin says:
18 October 2017

Cash points for cash – no more rushing to the bank before 3.30pm.

Not forgetting that in back in 2000 we campaigned against the introduction of ‘direct charging’ fees for using cash machines in the Link network. The banks dropped their plans to charge for cash withdrawal 🙂

Terry says:
18 October 2017

Gosh I’m so sad, kitchen rolls, where would I be without them!

I have three dogs and buy more kitchen roll than I do bread! It’s a life saver

The Smartphone is undoubtedly the cleverest – as it enables me to do things I wouldn’t dream of being capable of.
My tablet is great for photographs, and keeping in touch whilst away from my Computer.
Dishwasher, Electric Kettle, Toaster, Microwave are essential to modern living.
The TV remote control is omitted from your list, but it is particularly aggravating when the battery dies.
I particularly like led lights on strips which can be used decoratively on shelves, glass, stairs and other dark areas.

I wouldn’t be without my Smart phone, I do wonder how I managed before.

I agree with the lighting, especially important for severely sight impaired people.

For me the top one from that would be the washing machine it is indispensable and second i’d say the internet since it helps keep me well informed about the news and to buy products easier.

Anybody rich people who remember Izal, or the poor ones who remember torn up pieces of newspaper, might consider soft toilet tissue quite important.

Lizzie says:
18 October 2017

Hi, I remember the cold outside lav with a nail in the wall and newspapers torn and threaded on string!! We’ve come a long way since then.

Nigel Woodburn says:
18 October 2017

At least the newspaper was being recycled. ☺

Maria Carlin says:
18 October 2017

I think l preferred the newspaper print on my bottom to the Izal scratch. Haha!

William (BILL) Booker says:
4 November 2017


Yup, i think we all remember similar situations.
My godfather, a farmer , now decd at least 40 years had a ‘very popular’ 3 -holer earth closet at the bottom of his orchard. House had no other convenience being an old Estates farm dating back at least 400 years. (Sadly, Farm is no longer there, having been demolished by Estate in a drive to ‘Gentrify’ a typical country farming village).

Imagine -after 0100 G.M, at least 10 degreesF of snow ,frost etc, a walk of about quarter of a mile, through house vegetable garden, Orchardetc. to find closet already full with part of a family of 7, possibly including youngest child, seated in middle. It was a real pleasure to join the 2 milkers bringing in the 60 or so milking herd from approx 0300 GM. milked 2 at a time in the small milking parlour. (about 20 yards round the corner). Any one who has experienced it will know what i mean – temperature rises gradually inside and can get very warm even on a freezing cold winter’s day.

We have only ever seen 1 other similar , and we cannot remember where, possibly one of the Lincolnshire or East Anglia agricultural/Farming type museums. I would love to take my 7 year old Grand- daughter to see it and tell her some of my (older) tales. Can any member enlighten me?

So , if we are looking at basics then the modern type of internal, flushing toilet system, manufactured by mr C. etc would get my vote. I think it has been mentioned elsewhere but i am a recent new visitor to this member’s chatroom. and cannot recall when.


Margaret McFadyen says:
18 October 2017

The Contraceptive Pill, has made the life of this generation of women possible. No other invention has had the world wide influence of this one invention.

Lizzie Hirst says:
18 October 2017

Back in the late 1960’s/70’s the Pill was untried and untested – it was a very high dose to give to young girls/women and now far more is known about it. It definitely caused dreadful hormone problems in later years as I myself know only too well. It is safer now but I would never recommend my daughter/ granddaughter to take it without full research of all trials and side effects even on the so-called mini pill. Yes, the Pill gives freedom to this generation but, to us 60/70’s guinea pigs, it caused irreparable damage.

I agree that the Pill is probably the most important discovery during this period: in giving women the freedom to choose life, love and liberty, The Pill has has made the most changes to our society: in this process, it has also changed the concept of ‘Family’, not, I have to admit, without some adverse results.

I’m not sure when the deep freezer was ‘invented’, but it wasn’t in common domestic use in 1957. It has made a huge difference to life, particularly in remoter parts.

Age reversal treatments and smartphones. I also believe artificial intelligence is a breakthrough technology.

MARY says:
18 October 2017

I am 65 years old and I grew up without central heating! The long winters were very cold and damp with icicles forming on the inside of the windows. It was terrible so central heating is what I could not do without. After this it would be all the labour saving devices and TV.

Chris Hale says:
18 October 2017

I cannot argue with any of the products listed. It may not be a product but we should not ignore our education. This has not only made it possible to design and produce these items but also to use and enjoy many of them.
The wealth created from their sale has fueled the research and development which has given us better products and new innovation.

Are you, Chris Hale, seriously suggesting that UK Education during this period has IMPROVED!!! By and large it has deteriorated to the extent that thousands of UK residents leave secondary education with poor basic arithmatic, not to mention the inability to spell (without a ‘Spell-checker’), let alone articulate an argument or write English that is grammatically correct and punctuated properly.

it would have to be the washing machine – without it I would not have the time to enjoy all the other products. For my mother washing was hard work. Monday washing it and hopefully drying it. Tuesday ironing it. Two mornings gone for one load. We have more clothes now than my childhood one to wear and one for best and I put in 2-3 loads a week. I would never have had time to do anything with the other household chores to fit in.

I agree Jay, the washing machine is great – and the tumble dryer? In the winter I find the tumble dryer invaluable

I’d add LEDs. They are the right colours, long life, and will save households and commercial users a good deal of energy. But look at their versatility – screens, streetlights, torches, car lights, signals, communications….and so tiny.

I couldn’t live without my laptop,it has been an absolute Godsend for me especially now I am a pensioner and not too well at the moment.I can do almost everything without leaving the house so yes it has to be my computer!

That’s great to hear how it’s helping you everyday, Marilyn. I hope you’re feeling better soon though.

What do you use your laptop most for?

Jean says:
18 October 2017

Digital photography- the ability to take as many pictures as I like without costing money to print if they are no good- wonderful to be able to keep the ones you love and delete the bad ones and get them printed or just see them on screen

My mum and sister would agree with you on that one, Jean. Do you use any additional tools, like Photoshop?

Dave says:
18 October 2017

60 Years ago domestic hot water was heated mainly by a coal fire, central heating was not in most homes.
Central heating and hot water at the top of my list followed by a washing machine/telephone
Hifi/ colour television/ gas/electric fires/microwave/ computer.
I believe electricity was not in a lot of homes 60 years ago? so maybe I should put that at the top of the list?
60 years ago the car was expensive but now available to most people

Andy Vind says:
18 October 2017

I’d agree with 7 of the 10 listed but would add both double glazing and central heating were two products that changed lives and improved wellbeing.

For me it would be the Internet as I buy a lot of products online which saves me searching around the shops looking for specific items. I also find it invaluable for comparing prices for utilities, Car Insurance etc.
Having cash terminals and debit cards has also been great allowing me to pay for items online and get cash outwith banking hours.

Proper sanitation (e.g. flushing toilet connected to a sewer system) and clean water (e.g. tap connected to a water supply).

Helen Bradford says:
18 October 2017

My radio!