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1976: Cheap digital watches
1976:  Cheap digital watches
Texas Instruments' digital watch, which sold for less than $20, sparked a hot trend and helped revive the company.
Texas Instruments was slogging through a tough decade. The company invented the single-chip microprocessor, which revolutionized small devices like calculators. Then it got caught in a price war that decimated its sales in the very market it created.

But TI turned itself around with a product that seems almost silly in retrospect: an electronic digital watch that sold for just $19.95. The trend took off overnight and became a bona fide craze -- much to the chagrin of classic watch manufacturers, who saw their market share decrease rapidly.

TI was so successful, in fact, that it dropped the price of its digital watch to $9.95 less than a year later. But ever-cheaper knockoffs from Asia arrived in 1978, and TI's digital watch sales plummeted in 1979. The company left the digital watch business in 1981, though the devices live on as a throwback symbol of nerdery everywhere.

NEXT: 1996: Apple Pippin
Last updated January 04 2011: 11:17 AM ET
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