/ Home & Energy, Technology

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
10.Tablet

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…


Comments

I cannot live without my Contact Lenses that i have worn since 1990 and my subscription to Which Magazine that i have enjoyed since at least 1965, and The ONLY magazine that is worth its weight in gold ,an invaluable read which has prevented me from making many expensive mistakes

Thanks, Rosemary. That’s lovely to hear!

We have covered many of the products that make our lives easier and more enjoyable. Perhaps we could look at products that might not immediately come to mind.

I’m not sure when they were invented but some excellent adhesives and sealants have made an appearance in the past 60 years.

– Epoxy-resins (Araldite was the first household example) are far stronger than any adhesive that had gone before.
– Super-glues (cyanoacrylate adhesives) are incredibly strong if used to stick the right sort of materials.
– Silicone-rubbers are widely used by DIY enthusiasts to provide a flexible and waterproof seal round baths, showers and window frames. It bonds to glass so well that it is easy to make an aquarium from glass sheet and silicone sealant.
– PVA adhesive will be familiar to every amateur wood worker and is rather better than the ‘bone glue’ that our parents or grandparents may have used.

You do need to use the right glue. You can but Rabbit Skin Glue “Traditional glue used in the preparation of gesso and as a base for gilded and painted surfaces. Also use as a glue size for gold and metal leaf.” Also Pearl Glue “Essential for re-gluing or repairing antique furniture, only glue compatible with the original used, enables joints to be taken apart again during future repairs. If you need to break the joint at a later date just heat or steam apart.”

Certainly there is a wide choice of products that, correctly chosen, work very well. Just as well when they bond aircraft together.

We used a lot of silicone as a bonding medium – flexible and heat resistant. However it does not stick to some surfaces without using a primer. When I made a new window frame for my garage (non standard size, but have you seen their prices?) I asked the glass supplier what was best to bed the glass on, thinking old-fashioned putty. Use silicone sealant he said. I used thin, small, spacers – very short bits of wire will do for example – to space the glass off the wood to ensure the silicone did not all squeeze out and had an even thickness.

The way of getting the best out of modern adhesives and sealants is indeed to choose the right one, or to experiment if information is not provided. Many years ago I discovered that silicone sealant could be used to bond glass to stainless steel but it would not stick to aluminium. Maybe we are getting too technical. 🙁

Wow – I’m very impressed that these products actually appeared on the list. I wonder when they were first appeared in the shops.

It’s not so long since I used the last of a tube of Araldite, which had cost 5/6 in the 60s. In between I used many packets of the rapid version, which hardened much faster. I first met super-glue years before I saw it in shops. The boss of a small company stuck two bits of metal together and challenged me to pull them apart. I failed, of course, and then he showed me that they could be separated with a sharp blow.

My father was an Araldite enthusiast too, and I’m still using some of his adhesive collection.

As far as I can see no one has mentioned the disposable nappy, surely this was something that was a Godsend to all parents.

Phil says:
20 October 2017

Has no one mentioned the VCR and it’s DVD/PVR successors? These really revolutionised home entertainment, being able to record TV programmes to watch at the time you wanted and rent/buy films.

Mind you still waiting for someone to work out a way of re-cycling the billions of cassettes that are now obsolete and redundant.

Phil says:
21 October 2017

Fully agree. They contain too many different materials and the tape itself is impossible to re-cycle economically. Charity shops stopped accepting them years ago.

Perhaps Which? should put up a prize for anyone who can think of a way of re-cycling video cassettes.

Take them to your local scrapstore, someone will find a way to reuse them. I took mine apart and unravelled the tape to knit a cloak for a halloween costume- modern horror story- an oil slick.

Digital radio 🙂

The contraceptive pill, washing machines, hoovers, paracetamol. These have not only transformed women’s lives, but made it possible for them to learn, to work, to take part in society.

The mobile phone which has transformed people’s lives in Africa in ways that would not have been envisaged by the designers of the mobile.

How about a refrigerator?

Phil says:
21 October 2017

Available long before 1957.

Keith says:
21 October 2017

What about Viagra?

And men 🙂

Without doubt the automatic washing machine, fill it, start it and forget it, even I, a mere male can work one (most of the time anyway), and it gives you time to enjoy the other 59 runners.

what3words – I think it will change the World !!!

[Sorry Neal, we’ve edited this comment to remove the link as it appeared to be too promotional and therefore broke our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Will this take off? I can’t remember the multitude of passwords I have let alone preassigned words for my front garden of which there are there are nearly 100 combinations.

Googling ‘healthier.puts.pokers’ does suggest healthy eating will improve your poker game.

I think that my personal most helpfulll item is my potato peeler, Ideal for those with arthritic hands!!!.

William( BILL) Booker. says:
4 November 2017

I have recently met an electronic type of (all metal) potato peeler, based on the age-old Lancashire potato-peeler.

Guess what – it is AA battery driven- it does not help if you accidentally drop it in the dish washer or the dirty pans manual wash, (with the battery still in) .
It does not have any warning on the peeler, the glitzy, plastic package or on the battery compartment itself.

This is now with our local Trading Standards, for investigation – there was no manufacturers name. I do not hold out much hope in view of T.S. pressures re underage drinking etc.

I meant to send a photo etc to WHICH but forgot before i consigned it to the Post Office tracking service.

Not having been on this chat site before, But a long established member, I think i have abided by the rules etc. Hope to comment more on others in future.

Hi Bill, thanks for joining us on Convo. Please keep us updated on what Trading Standards have to say – I’m sure lots on Convo will be interested.

My mum was cooking Sunday lunch yesterday and came in with both thumbs wrapped in a tea towel. Apparently her new peeler (which only cost 99p) was not very good. She had cut herself three times in total, who knows why she continued after the first cut. I hope you were lucky enough to avoid any injury.

I thought that the reason we use potato peelers was because they are safer than knives. Rather than peeling, I rub vegetables with a green scourer, which avoids the need for peeling and sticking plasters. I do have a stainless steel peeler to hand if needed.

Uhhh…bits of green stuff come off those scourers wavechange. 😖

We have 2 nail brushes, one for hands, the other for veg. The veg one is always a green colour.

I think I would notice bits of green stuff on my veg, and everything is well rinsed before cooking. I have not come to grief ye……

If you would ask me which product i would miss the most it would be my computer. So my answer has to be the computer…

Any competition like this is actually a bit silly (But if it gets You on Prime Time Television, OK). Different circumstances and needs require different products. It is impossible to decide whether a smart phone (Which doesn’t work everywhere), is better than goretex clothing that keeps you dry (When it is a bright warm sunny windless day). As they taught me at school “You can’t add apples and oranges”!

Sandra Sherriff-Meyer says:
23 October 2017

So many things have changed my life… Top of the list has definitely been my iPhone. It’s a combination of phone, satnav, Internet, email, news and social media platforms.
Next has been in my car – cruise control, parking sensors, central locking, key click boot opening.
Lastly, advances in Surgery driven by technological innovation. I do hope that, one day, these will help resolve damage to my spine and do the same for others .

Without a doubt my washing machine and my dishwasher

LCD Projectors, far more relaxing than any TV

Electric power tools have transformed diy and workplace outputs. The old days of a brace and bit or hand drill to drill holes seems quite extraordinarily labour intensive. As for drilling into masonry – – the Rawplug device that you had to hammer in by hand and twist!!!!

How can a gadget that may be introduced in 2018 become runner up in the list of most influential gadgets of 2017?