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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…


Best product in last 60 years: the internet, which has transformed many aspects of communication both socially and for business.
Best new product: new battery technologies, which will be the enabler for “not always on” energy such as solar.

I would put the computer top of the list but also couldn’t be without my printer/fax/scanner…

automatic washing machine. Time saving, cuts out so much drudgery. A boon to both homemaker and those in paid employment

tv is high on the list but can now watch tv on my computer via internet – so its internet and laptop – not only useful for information but entertainment as well.

As we were told beforehand, Which? was on the One Show last night. It’s on iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b098rwm9/the-one-show-18102017

Go to 46:50

That wasn’t @patrick in a red shirt was it?

I did not see him but the three and a half inch floppy disk was definitely not in use in the 1970s.

I saw this question pop up on Twitter last night so I did a bit of research to see if it was true and apparently they were developed in the late-60s and became commercially available in 1971.

Thanks Victoria. It’s probably difficult to get the eight inch disks these days.

Would anyone like some unused floppy disks, compact cassettes and VHS tapes?

Visuca says:
19 October 2017

Thanks for this one: I am aware of but I was sorry I missed it in direct.

@alfa Wasn’t me! I do work on that floor though and saw Dominic in the room. I should have wandered into shot… 😛

I could not live properly without my marvellous electric bike. This has given me mobility to enjoy the countryside etc. which I could not have done adequately, as I cannot walk far. It has also given me hours of enjoyment with family and grand-children, when out walking and cycling. Indispensible!

Mike Noble says:
19 October 2017

My most important purchases have been my glasses and my dental plate.

Peter says:
19 October 2017

Radio is essential

Is anything essential for living apart from food and water ?? Essential is the wrong word Helpful would be better

Completely agree! Fresh food, clean water and most importantly LOVE.
Nothing else really matters. We can all live without gadgets, TV and technology.

The computer has changed the world completely – for good and bad!

wavechange commented on the impressive list posted by Pilkington, and asked what one product would he take to a desert island. This seems the ultimate test. He may be consulting his family as he has not yet replied, but I thought about what I would take. I’ve chosen a smart phone with an Amazon app, so I can get next day delivery of anything else I want.

You would need a blue wheelie-bin for their couriers to put the parcels in, Malcolm.

Could I take an ice cream maker to a dessert island?

There might already be lyons on your island.

I’m not sure I want Lyons Maid, but the maybe the maid could help with the housework.

A teensy weensy problem with taking any type of technology to a desert island is that it can’t possibly work.

I would say a good book – but that’s not a gadget and has been around longer than 60 years – so I would say… an ipod/phone to listen to music. Although, alfa makes a good point about it possibly not working so maybe… a Walkman!

I’m glad you haven’t mentioned Mr Whippy. 🙂

I sold that once in my school holidays, from a van round. I was told by the regulars to add a couple of pints of milk to the gallon of liquid “cream” that went into the freezing and squirting machine, and all the regulars said how much nicer the ice cream tasted.

Vera Bishop says:
19 October 2017

I think the twin tub washing machine followed by the automatic one has been the most helpful to me. Before I acquired one I used to stand all day doing the washing, ending up with very sore, raw hands and fingers!

Margaret Robinson says:
19 October 2017

My iPad and varifocal spectacles

Following my stroke in June 2015, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone – Speech Assistant application- I have speech problem x

Computers where 1978 in the UK and the BBC was not the best one for games also it was Xerox and the Apple LISA that used the mouse first.

Mrs Clarke says:
19 October 2017

I agree it is the Internet especially the World Wide Web released by Tim Burners Lee. I spent a month without it and it drove me mad no having and instant answer from a world library. It has also helped in the research of all the other inventions.

The internet has also caused us many problems It is useful but also a dangerous invention the criminal has made very good use of it to extract peoples money from them easily

Not something we see but without it no smart machines, computers etc: the microchip

Paul says:
20 October 2017

iPhone for me

John says:
20 October 2017

Washing machine, most definitely. I remember my mother hand-washing clothes in the bath until her hands were red raw. Then it was all put through the mangle – a two man job – watch your fingers! Finally, the drying was hanging about for days in front of the fire. Then it was time to start all over again!

I can’t live without this or that, strange how we take them all for granted these days, and yet still have people going to food banks!
If i had the choice, i would give the lot up tomorrow and go live on a desert island and get away from the rat race the modern World is not a nice place to live anymore!