Remembering Jack Lord

Hawaii Five-0 and Technology



A lot of new technology was developed during the twelve years of Five-0. Here is a list of some of the advancements we saw through the years.


Analog to Digital Clocks. When the series began, the clock on McGarrett's desk was analog with a luminous dial. Within a year or two, the clock became a precursor to the digital clock. Its numbers were imprinted on small cards, which flipped over as the time changed. Later, he obtained a digital clock as we know it today. 


Remote Control. In "A Hawaiian Nightmare" (Season 7), bomber Bernard Brown used a remote control devide to raise his garage door and had plans to use it to set off explosives that would open the northeast rift of Mauna Loa volcano and flood the town of Hilo with lava. His wife and McGarrett, on separate occasions, used remote controls to operate television sets. Although they existed before, they were only coming into widespread use in the mid-1970s.


From Reel-to-Reel to Cassette. In 1968, at the very beginning of the series, McGarrett used full-sized, reel-to-reel tape recorders. Within only a year or two, he was using hand-held cassette players. I don't know if you remember when the cassette player came out, but like McGarrett, many people did not know whether to pronounce it "kay-sette" or "cass-ette."


Videotapes. We saw videotape technology in "Over Fifty? Steal" (Season 3). They were not contained in cartridges, however. Instead, they were played reel-to-reel with a separate television monitor. 


8-Track Tapes. We first saw 8-track tapes - in fact, the show featured them prominently - in "The Flip Side is Death" (Season 6).


Answering Machines. In "Air Cargo - Dial for Murder" (Season 4),  we were introduced not only to the answering machine, but to a remote message retriever for listening to messages recorded on a distant answering machine.Today, of course, no remote retriever is necessary; we can dial our own telephone numbers, key in a code, and retrieve our own messages.


Telex. The Telex originated in Europe in the 1930s as a means of transmitting information on paper. Western Union brought Telex to the United States in 1959. By 1962, transmission centers had been established in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Atlanta. By 1966,  additional centers had been established in Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Boston. Also in 1966, Western Union offered an option to connect using AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph) in order to use the teletypewriter (TWX, pronounced Twix). On Five-0, we began seeing Telexes in 1970, notably in "Over Fifty? Steal" (Season 3). In "You Don't Have to Kill to Get Rich - But It Helps" (Season 5, 1972), we received a good overview of how Telex transmissions were broadcast between the Mainland and Hawai'i using the Telstar satellite.


Telecopier. Telecopier is an early name for what we know today as the fax machine. Its development was begun in 1834 (date confirmed by several sources) by a Scotsman by the name of Alexander Bain; however, it failed to become either efficient or reliable until 1966. Then, Xerox Corporation invented an analog telecopier. For the first time, it was small enough to be manageable and easy to use so that the business community was willing to accept it. Even so, it required a telephone handset to be set upon what, today, we call a modem and made electrostatic copies. Output was slow and often difficult to read.  In the late 1970s, the Japanese introduced a smaller, more efficient machine, and the facsimile, or fax, was born. Today, the telecopier uses plain paper, is often digital in design, puts out copies in less than a minute, saves incoming messages until they can be printed, and produces easily legible text and virtually clear photographs.  On Five-0, we began seeing telecopiers in "You Don't Have to Kill to Get Rich - But It Helps" (Season 5, 1972).


Gigli Surgical Bone Wire Saw. In "The Flip Side is Death" (Season 6), we saw the latest advancement in orthopedic surgery. This super-strong metal wire replaced the conventional saw for cutting through bone. Not only was it less invasive; it also made a cleaner cut. As Che Fong said, the Gigli device was also  used by NASA on its Skylab missions for emergency metal cutting.


From Mainframe to PC / Reading Computer Printouts / PCs on Five-0 Desktop. In 1968, the only computers we saw were room-sized mainframes. In "Computer Killer" (Season 7, 1974), we started seeing personal computers, although no one used that term. Still, they had a monitor and keyboard and seemed to operate independently of a mainframe. Again, a telephone receiver was needed to attach to a modem in order to connect with another computer. This program was especially chilling in that it foresaw the problems of computer hacking and identity theft. In "A Woman's Work is With a Gun" (Season 7), we were introduced to computer image enhancement. Che Fong explained that it was developed by NASA to clarify "fuzzy" images. In "Over Fifty? Steal" (Season 3), we saw the Five-0 Team learning how to read computer printouts on large pages with feeder holes on the left and right edges and perforated page dividers. In "The Meighan Conspiracy" (Season 11), we see a PC on what used to be Kono's desk. No longer must the detectives go to the HPD to access the records they need.


Wireless Radio. For a strangely long period of time, the detectives either used the police radios in their cars or else went in search of a telephone to call one another. In Season 7, we began to see wireless radios, which appeared to operate something like walkie-talkies; they were connected directly to HPD central dispatch. In "Hit Gun for Sale," McGarrett refers to the radio as a "CP unit" and tells HPD officers to "switch to TAC 9."


Identi-Kit. At the beginning, Five-0 usually relied on artists' renderings of suspects. Although we saw an identi-kit in Season 1 and Season 6, it was not explained or elaborated upon until Season 7, "Right Grave, Wrong Body." Using an identikit, the detectives were able to have witnesses compose likenesses of suspects using an Identi-Kit. Every style of hair, eyes, eyebrows, glasses, nose, mouth, moustache, and beard, as well as every facial shape, were presented on clear plastic sheets, which could be superimposed on one another to give a witness the opportunity to mix and match characteristics in order to develop an accurate facsimile of a perpetrator.


Direct-Dial Telephone Service. In the first few seasons, calls to oversea locations took twenty minutes to put through. In the early 1970s, 0+ and 1+ dialing became available, and calling the mainland or Singapore became as simple as calling next door. The quality of the calls improved, too. No longer did one have to strain to hear what the distant person was saying.


Push-Button Telephones.  Interestingly, the Five-0 office did not receive push-button telephones until Season 11 ("The Sleeper").


Moving Toward DNA Testing. We had not reached DNA testing, yet, but we saw signs that forensics was moving in that direction when Doc Bergman was able to determine the blood type of a rapist from his semen.


Heat-Seeking Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs). In "Death's Name is Sam" (Season 8, 1975), we are introduced to the first heat-seeking, surface-to-air missiles. It was diverted from the aircraft it was intended to bring down with the use of phosphorous flares, which generated sufficient heat to "throw off" the missile.  It is possible that heat-seeking technology was also used in "The Capsule Kidnapping" (Season 8). New equipment aboard the Coast Guard cutter Cape Corwin was able to track the kidnappers' boat and the SCUBA diver, who swam from the boat to the shore at Sand Island to pick up the ransom money. Images of both appeared as blips on what appeared to be a radar scope.


Emergency Flashers. Starting with "'V' for Vashon" - part 1 (Season 5, 1973), we saw cars with emergency blinking lights. The first instance was on Danno's black Ford LTD.


Cryogenics. In "Frozen Assets" (Season 10), we saw a clinic dedicated to preserving dead bodies to be brought back to life when the cure for what had killed them was found. Because the price was high, the clinic more nearly resembled a country club than a hospital. Still, this new (in the late 1970s) technology was well represented - along with some of its problems.


Modern Emergency Room / Ambulance / Paramedics. In "The Burning Ice" (Season 4), we saw a modern emergency room. Rather than a treatment area consisting of a room off a corridor, it was a cubicle within a large, open area with privacy being provided by curtains. In "Blood Money is Hard to Wash," we saw a modern ambulance and paramedics, rather than ambulance attendants, who told the emergency room staff why they were bringing the patient for treatment.


Stenotype Machine. In "Sing a Song of Suspense" and "Loose Ends Get Hit" (Season 8), we saw stenotype machines being used, first to take a witness' deposition and, then, by a court reporter.