depends what time you consider "way back when".
They have some random pics scattered through this thread, of old bong ads from the late 70s. They can be found in here.
In the 60s most water pipes were of the hookah design. Which have never been really good for grass. The smoke gets stale too quickly. Less common were the bamboo water pipes which worked the best but only have so many uses for a daily head. And there were the ceramic looking ones. Like somebody bought a vase and drilled a hole in it. Then put a downstem.
By the 70s "Glass Head", "US Bongs", "Apogee" and their various other titles were common making both ceramic and glass pipes of all shapes and sizes. As well as regular ball bottom and straight glass bongs. Carbs caught on during this time as well.
Then there was the slow evolution to the glass you still see today. Those big soft glass bongs got common in the 80s. Then the raked glass, and fumed glass. Early 90s glass bubblers got real popular for some reason. By the late 90s silver fumed ball bottom bongs like "Jerome Baker Designs" were the high end stuff. Turn of the century you started to see GonG, and perolated designs from people like RooR and PHX. Then the explosion of science glass.
Don't worry. You didn't miss much. Many smokers such as myself didn't bother to use them up until the last decade. Those big soft glass bongs are junk. Hit hot, harsh, and stale. Jbd's were light years in improvement, but they still have a lot of drag by today's standards.
In fact the main explosion in glass technology has really been the last 5 years. We are damn slow to pick up on stuff. All we had to do was drill holes in a metal downstem. Could have done that thirty years ago. But nobody did until the turn of the century. Lol. Stoners are slow to learn apparently.
The only thing that was neat with bongs from the 70s is they had some that were table top pieces. Not meant to be carried and moved much, and they were self contained. The base of the water pipe was also a three sectioned tray. For ash, for fresh green bud, and for your lighters and scissors.