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The 1960s Science and Technology: Overview

Before the 1960s, space travel was considered to be pure fantasy, the subject of science fiction novels and films conjured up by writers with vivid imaginations. However, the beginning of the decade saw the first human beings flying through space and orbiting the Earth. In April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin became the first man in space, orbiting the Earth in a 108-minute flight on board the Vostok I spacecraft. Less than a month later, astronaut Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space. His flight lasted 14 minutes and 28 seconds. Before the decade ended, human beings had landed on the moon. Neil A. Armstrong, one of three astronauts participating in the Apollo 11 mission, became the first to set foot on the moon's surface. It was the 1960's most highly publicized scientific and technological achievement. In one of the decade's most celebrated quotes, Armstrong noted, as he set foot on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The date was July 20, 1969.

Exploration of the heavens was not limited to humans traveling in spaceships and landing on the moon. Satellites were launched into outer space throughout the decade. As they circled Earth, they performed a range of functions, from relaying live television signals across the oceans to recording weather patterns. During the 1960s, astronomers increased knowledge of the solar system by measuring distances between planets and mapping out their surfaces. They observed cosmic events, newly discovered stars, and quasars (the most distant objects from Earth).

While astronomers were investigating the nature of the heavens and astronauts, cosmonauts, and satellites were orbiting Earth, scientists were also exploring the depths of the ocean floor. Forms of life were discovered in deep seas where none were thought possible. It was determined that, over the course of time, the ocean floor was widening. Three Sealab expeditions to the ocean's depths set out to ascertain if individuals could live and work underwater for extended periods of time.

Great strides were made in the evolution of computers. More were produced, and they became more readily available for business and commercial use. While the age of the home computer still was well into the future, the development of silicon chips and integrated computer circuits created an electronics revolution. A range of previously unimaginable devices and products were developed, invented, or patented during the decade, including cordless, battery-powered telephones that were precursors of cell phones, word processing machines, and computer keyboards.

Advances in medicine brought new or improved vaccines for many diseases, including polio, measles, and rubella (German measles). The marketing of the birth control pill also allowed women unprecedented control over their reproductive cycles.

In biology, the first genes (which are the basis of heredity) were isolated, and much was learned about the nature of heredity. Researchers were also striving to learn about the history of our planet. Archeologists and anthropologists devised ways of determining the origin and age of Earth, the manner in which human beings evolved, and the age of artifacts of earlier time periods. The "big bang" theory was thought to explain the origin of the universe. In addition to the focus on Earth's past, scientists devoted attention to the planet's future. Environmental science emerged as a relatively new field of study during the decade. There was increasing concern about the effects of pollution generated through human activity, and the decade saw the first warnings that a greenhouse effect (also known as global warming) could alter Earth's temperature.


Patrick Geddes ( Cities in Evolution, 1915), Lewis Mumford ( Technics and Civilization, 1934), and Robert Furneaux Jordan (Victorian Architecture , 1966) describe three ages of technology. Before these three periods came two others, the first characterized by human power (with or without the use of the wheel), and the second by humanpower combined with that of animals, such as horses and oxen. These two earlier periods of technology saw the building of enormous medieval cathedrals, Roman acquaducts, and the Great Wall of China. One must emphasize, moreover, that looking at human history, we find both (a) a considerable overlap of periods and technologies and (b) older sources of energy continue to find uses, often major ones, long after new ones appear and even dominate. After all, as images of life on the River Thames reveal, the nineteenth century may have been the age of steam power, but people still cross rivers by poling a punt or pulling on the ropes of a small boat used as a ferry.

The Eotechnic (c.1660): wind and water as prime movers wood as a basic material merchants as controllers windmills, wagons and galleons as tools typical power unit &mdash a turret windmill of 14 horse power.

The Paleotechnic (c.1860): coal and steam as prime movers iron as a basic material laissez-faire capitalists as controllers mobile and static steam engines as tools typical power unit &mdash Newcomen steam engine of 75 horse power.

According to Jordan, "The eotechnical epoch &mdash the [eighteenth-century] industrial revolution of wood and wind &mdash was concentrated upon the newly drained fens and fertile East Anglian flats, while the big, slow, smug rivers, like the Trent and the Ouse, were busy with sailing barges.

"Victorian England was yet one more shift in the . . . pattern &mdash a sure sign that it really was a new technical epoch and not merely the story of a few inventions &mdash an industrial revolution being social as well as mechanical, also geological. It was a shift from the oolite, the lias and the sand to the coal measures. What had been the wooded hills of Yorkshire or Wales became, almost overnight, a land of squalid villages and black, roaring, crowded cities. Villages and small country markets became the Birminghams and Glasgows that we know. The railways and factories needed the coal, and the railways linked the factories to the new ports. . . the model of the Liverpool docks was the showpiece to the Great Exhibition of 1851. [Jordan, 30-31]


The Walkman, launched in 1979, became our go-to music device throughout the 1980s. A revolution in music and wearable technology, the Walkman was so popular it sold over 200 million units. &ldquoDon&rsquot you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea!&rdquo Sony Chairman, Akio Morita. In 1987, digital hearing aids were released, revolutionizing the healthcare industry.

&ldquoUsage of healthcare, wellness, and medical apps is up 16% from last year to 28% of consumers. Nearly two-thirds of physicians said they would prescribe an app to manage chronic diseases like diabetes.&rdquo

The Information Revolution

Universities and defense establishments dominated the development of computing in the forties, fifties, and sixties, but business requirements pushed forward the evolution of information technology.

The concept of information technology jobs, as distinct from computing jobs, first emerged in the early seventies. Networks and PCs put computers on the desks of non-computing staff, and the application of computing to business processes required the creation of specialists to create, adapt, and maintain both the hardware and software that would support business activities.

The invention of the spreadsheet and the word processor brought stable applications that enabled office workers to increase their productivity. Software packages for businesses created a new branch in IT, which created different types of IT jobs even within a given discipline.

For example, anyone who wanted to be a programmer could choose a career path working in the IT department of a corporation. Or they could forge a career working in a software house.

Specialist languages, adapted to different functions in IT, emerged and segregated programming staff into categories. A business running a database needed programmers experienced in Oracle or SAP programming, and it also needed C programmers to write networking software.

C programmers specializing in network applications would not be considered for jobs writing database applications. The diversification of IT actually restricted the career paths of workers. More computers in the world meant more work in IT however, people trained in a language that never took off, such as Smalltalk, would soon find themselves unemployed.

Progressive flexibility of the labor force meant that businesses became less willing to retrain employees who were stuck in dead end technologies. Some lucky specialists found themselves with skills that were in high demand, but in short supply. This caused their earning potential to rocket while those skilled in retired technology found themselves unemployed.

The Sixties: Moments in Time

This timeline offers a sample of newsworthy happenings from the 1960s. The events used in this interactive timeline were chosen on the basis of importance at the time, and continuing significance for American culture at the start of the 21st century.

Viet Cong Emerge

An armed coalition of communists and insurgents emerge in South Vietnam.

U.S. Buildup Begins

White Paper advises increased U.S. presence in Vietnam.

U.S. Will Fire Back

Kennedy declares U.S. advisers in 'Nam will defend themselves.

$2 Billion Wasted

Kennedy hears from Senate leader after Saigon trip to see outcome of U.S. aid.

U.S. Gets Tough

New in office, President Johnson pushes for stiffer policies on Vietnam.

Coup in Saigon

South Vietnam military sets up third government in three months.

Gulf of Tonkin

The USS Maddox is on spy patrol 30 miles off the coast of Vietnam when it reports an attack by three enemy vessels. Another U.S. ship reports an attack on Aug 4. (Later inquiries will cast doubt on both reports.) On Aug 7, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing Pres. Johnson to wage war against North Vietnam without a formal Declaration of War.

U.S. Navy Arrives

After North Vietnam goes into Laos, U.S. moves 2 carriers offshore.

Operation "Rolling Thunder" Begins

Johnson approves Rolling Thunder in February, believing that a program of limited bombing in North Vietnam will deter support for Vietcong. Rolling Thunder continues for three years and eight months, involving 305,380 raids and 634,000 tons of bombs. Results include: 818 pilots killed and hundreds more captured 182,000 civilians killed in North Vietnam.

First Anti-Vietnam War Teach-In

Anti-war faculty members and the SDS publicize and protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam. About 3,000 attend.

U.S. Goes on the Offensive

U.S. troops in Vietnam get permission to go on the offensive.

Martin Luther King Opposes War

Breaking with the President, Martin Luther King announces his opposition to the war.

385,300 U.S. Troops in 'Nam

More troops are on their way: 33,000 are stationed in Thailand 60,000 sail offshore.

Protesters March to U.N.

400,000 march to U.N. building and hear speeches by Martin Luther King and Dr. Benjamin Spock.

March to Pentagon

Norman Mailer joins march to Pentagon He recounts events in Armies of the Night for which he earns a Pulitzer.

Secretary of Defense Resigns

Robert McNamara is ousted following months of increasing conflict with the President and military leaders. McNamara's removal is precipitated by private communications with the President, and public remarks questioning Johnson's policies. Just weeks before, McNamara had testified in a Senate hearing that U.S. bombing raids against North Vietnam were not achieving their objectives, movement of supplies to South Vietnam had not been reduced, and that neither the economy nor the morale of the North Vietnamese had been broken.

Tet Offensive Launched by Vietcong

To the Vietnamese, Tet is a culturally important celebration of the Lunar New Year. U.S. planners and troops are unprepared when the North Vietnamese and Vietcong use festivities as cover, surging into Saigon and other key cities. Within days, U.S. forces retake most areas an intense battle for Hue rages for 26 days. Retaking the area, U.S. troops discover mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of people who had been executed during the Communist occupation during and after Tet. The Offensive is a military disaster for the guerillas, with 37,000 dead. The U.S. lost 2,500 men, undermining public support for the war and giving the Vietcong a political victory.

Cronkite Urges Negotiations to End War

CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, known as America's "most-trusted man," files a special report from Vietnam. He experiences intensive combat in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive. Departing from accepted news style, Cronkite shares his personal feelings, telling viewers he is "more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." Insiders see this as a key factor in Johnson's decision to offer negotiations and not seek re-election in '68.

My Lai Massacre

Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, is on a "search and destroy" mission in the hamlet of My Lai. Something goes horribly wrong, resulting in violent death for hundreds of unarmed civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. After one and a half years, the officer at My Lai, Lt. William Calley, is brought up on murder charges. News of atrocities at My Lai doesn't reach public media until November 1969. In March 1971, Calley is convicted and sentenced to life he is paroled in September 1975 after serving three and a half years.

Chicago 7 Trial Begins

Charges are tied to rioting at '68 chicago convention. The defendants use the proceedings to put the War on trial.

Two Million Take Part in Peace Moratorium

A one-day nationwide action, the Peace Moratorium is the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Protestors include many first-time activists. Events include religious services, street rallies, public meetings, school seminars, and marches. Participants wear black armbands to signify opposition to the war and honor the dead. Washington, D.C., a natural focal point, draws 250,000 demonstrators.

U2 Plane Shot Down

Soviet Russia shoots down U.S. spy plane. Pilot Francis Gary Powers is detained for two years.

Students Protest HUAC Tactics

First Televised Presidential Debate Airs

The debate between presidential candidates Kennedy and Nixon is broadcast nationally on all TV networks (only three networks exist in 1960), and on network radio. It is a Monday evening, and 70 million viewers are watching. On TV, Nixon is visibly pale and badly attired, while Kennedy appears tan and relaxed. Political campaigning is suddenly a new ballgame, and image can beat substance.

Kennedy Elected

John F. Kennedy wins presidency in tightest election since 1884.

Bay of Pigs: Failed Invasion of Cuba

CIA-backed Cuban exiles launch a failed attempt to remove Fidel Castro from power. An international embarrassment, the episode puts Kennedy's leadership in question.

U.S. Denies Soviet Control of Space

The battle for technological superiority is a central theme in the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia -- and space technology is especially valuable because of military applications such as nuclear missile systems. On April 12, 1961, the Soviets put the first man in space. In response, Kennedy delivers a televised speech on May 25, announcing a new vision for the U.S. in space. His goal is to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and before the Soviets do. NASA is under pressure to produce rapid progress in the space program. On February 20, 1962, NASA's first effort, Friendship 7, carries astronaut John Glenn around Earth three times.

Kennedy Warns of Possible Nuclear Attack

President Kennedy advises citizens to be ready for nuclear attack, and build family bomb shelters.

USSR Tests Hydrogen Bomb

The Soviet Union fires a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb, the biggest explosion in history.

First SDS Convention

The convention yields a '60s student manifesto, the Port Huron Statement: Agenda for a Generation.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Photos by U.S. spy planes reveal the Soviets are positioning camouflaged nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy orders a naval blockade of Cuba to prevent delivery of more missiles. The world holds its breath during a week of tense negotiations to resolve the standoff. The crisis ends when Russia agrees to remove the Cuban missiles, in exchange for the U.S. removing similar missiles from Turkey. It was a week that brought the world to the brink of mutual nuclear annihilation, and spurred one of the greatest quotes of the Cold War, when Secretary of State Dean Rusk observed, "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other guy just blinked."

Nixon Loses Governor's Race

Nixon blames his California defeat on the media, saying, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

"Hot-Line" Phones Installed

A pari of "hot line" phones are installed in the Oval Office and Kremlin, a direct result of the prior year's crisis in Cuba.

Kennedy Assassinated

President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Lyndon Johnson is quick sworn in as President.

Democrats Hire Ad Agency

Democrats hire a top-10 ad agency for the '64 campaign. Agency produces a number of hard-hitting spots, including the "Daisy Ad".

Johnson Defeats Goldwater

Receiving more than 60 percent of the popular vote, incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson easily defeats Republican Barry Goldwater. During the campaign, Goldwater is an overt hawk regarding the war in Vietnam, while Johnson takes a sharply contrasting stance, suggesting de-escalation. In fact, the war escalates dramatically during the next 4 years of Johnson's administration.

Johnson Signs Medicare Bill

The legislation establishes a health program for the elderly.

Voting Rights Act

The legislation ends discrimination at the polls.

Edward Brook Elected

The Republican from Massachusetts becomes the first African American Senator in 85 years.

Thurgood Marshall Confirmed

The U.S. Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall to the becomes first African American to sit on the U.S. supreme court.

Robert Kennedy Asassinated

Senator Robert Kennedy dies of gunshot wounds in Los Angeles, a day after winning the California Presidential primary.

Shirley Chisholm Elected to Congress

Shirley Chisholm becomes first African American woman elected to Congress.

Violence Scars Convention in Chicago

Turmoil and Robert Kennedy's death push the party toward chaos, while anti-war demonstrators are beaten by police. Prominent activists are charged with inciting the riots.

Richard Nixon Wins Presidency

Running on a platform of "law and order," Republican Richard Nixon and running mate Spiro Agnew narrowly defeat incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Nixon receives 43.4% of the popular vote, just seven-tenths of 1% more than Humphrey. Third-party segregationist candidate George Wallace receives about 15 percent of the popular vote. Nixon wins a second term in 1972, and resigns from office in 1974.

SALT I Negotiations Begin

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) begin negotiations to curb nuclear capabilities of U.S. and USSR.

Elvis Leaves Army

First LASER is Demonstrated

Physicist Theodore Maiman uses a core of man-made ruby to create the first successful LASER (an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation). The invention has an immediate effect on pop culture, heavily promoted in science fiction books and movies. Inspired by the laser, scientists immediately begin work on fiber-optics technology. Four decades later, lasers are used as precision surgical tools and measurement devices, and also appear in everyday objects such as laser printers, or compact disc and DVD players.

"The Pill" is Born

Here is the first drug developed for social rather than medicinal purposes. At first, the Pill is only available to married women, but American culture rapidly adopts the new contraceptive choice. By 1965, over five million American women are on the Pill, even though many states still have laws prohibiting prescriptions for unmarried women and minors. The Pill does not cause the sexual revolution, but certainly enables it. The Pill also brings contraception out of the bedroom and into the living room. It becomes a common theme of magazine articles and books - and even co-stars with David Niven and Deborah Kerr in a 1968 movie: Prudence and the Pill.

Dylan's First Public Performance

TV Called A "Vast Wasteland"

In a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, Newton Minow, head of the FCC, criticizes broadcasters for not doing more to serve the public interest.

Ken Kesey Publishes "Cuckoo's Nest"

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a grim satire is set among the patients and workers in a mental institution.

Marilyn Monroe Dies

Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, 36, is found dead in her bedroom.

First Artificial Heart Implanted

Dr. Michael E. De Bakey implants artificial heart in human for first time at a Houston hospital. The Patient survives for only four days.

Vatican II Begins

Pope John XXIII opens Vatican II. The council holds four sessions and closes Dec. 8, 1965.

Smoking "Hazardous To Your Health"

The first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health is a landmark document, contradicting decades of tobacco advertising that suggest healthful benefits. The report contains powerful material, and intentionally leaves much to speculation. It is released on a Saturday morning to deter a knee-jerk reaction on Wall Street. Acting voluntarily, The New Yorker and other leading magazines start to refuse tobacco ads. Within months, Congress has passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, requiring health warnings on packages and banning ads on broadcast media.

Beatles Appear on Sullivan Show

The Beatles [Hyperlink To Newsmakers] make two appearances on Ed Sullivan Show. Over 70 million people watch each show.

Nader Examines Auto Industry

Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe At Any Speed, questions motives of the auto industry.

The "Hippie" Comes Into Being

Michael Fallen starts a series of stories for the San Francisco Examiner, introducing the word "hippie" to readers. Fallen's articles describe the migration of beatniks from North Beach to Haight-Ashbury in search of cheaper rents, some popular hippie hangouts such as the notorious Blue Unicorn, and the generally bohemian lifestyle of the beatnik/hippie community. Fallen's articles are widely read, but "hippie" doesn't appear in mainstream language for two more years.

Cold War Satire Premiers

The film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, tells the story of the comic chaos which ensues when a Soviet submarine runs aground near a small New England town.

Star Trek Debuts

For next three years, science fiction program goes where no TV series has gone before.

First Super Bowl

Forty million TV viewers watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Summer of Love

Usually this description refers to 1967, in and around San Francisco when the "hippie movement" was in full flower. Particularly during the summer months, thousands upon thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury to take part in a somewhat pale imitation of the true hippie experience. Many were drawn by the gentle lyrics of a song penned by John Phillips, member of The Mamas & the Papas. Phillips' song San Francisco (written in anticipation of the Monterey Pop Festival in June) romanticizes the era and atmosphere. Scott McKenzie's cover-version of the song is on the airwaves by May -- just in time for summer vacation.

If you're going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.

Rolling Stone Magazine Premiers

The first issue of Rolling Stone, a new magazine devoted to music and popular culture, debuts featuring John Lennon on the cover.

Judi Ford is Crowned Miss America

Telecasts of the Miss America Pageant are among the most popular TV shows of the late '60s, regularly capturing two-thirds of the audience. Feminists realize this popularity means access to national media. In 1968, feminist protestors demonstrate on the Boardwalk outside the Pageant, crown a sheep, and throw symbols of female restraint into a "Freedom Trash Can." Media attention is immediate and generally positive, encouraging protestors to return in subsequent years. In the same city on the same day, the first Miss Black America Contest is held to protest the exclusively "white" Miss America Pageant. In the wake of these protests, Pepsi-Cola withdraws sponsorship of the Miss America Pageant, saying it no longer represents the values of American society.

Judy Garland Dies

The actress is killed by an overdose at age 47. Over 20,000 mourners attend her funeral.

One Small Step for Man

Along with Walter Cronkite, over half a billion people watch as the Apollo 11 lander settles on the lunar surface at 4:19 PM, EDT. News anchor Cronkite is almost speechless, exclaiming, "Man on the moon. oh, boy!" Six hours later, people are still riveted to the images from space as Neil Armstrong gently sets foot onto the powdery surface of the Moon at 10:56 PM. Buzz Aldrin also walks on the Moon, while the third member of the mission, Michael Collins, remains in orbit aboard the command module.

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace, Music & Love

An estimated audience of over 400,000 people gather for three days of music near Bethel, NY, swarming across the pastures of Max Yasgur's dairy farm. The festival is the brainchild of four men under age 26 (including one with a multimillion-dollar trust fund). Only 186,000 tickets are sold, so around 200,000 people are expected - but the amazing lineup of bands and musicians draws many more. Fences are pushed over and tickets become pointless. On opening night, sponsors declare free admission to all, and the word spreads like wildfire. Police estimate a million more people trying to reach Woodstock are stuck in traffic jams up to 50 miles away. In rain and mud, thousands listen to Janis Joplin, The Who, Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Country Joe & The Fish. On the last morning, guitarist Jimi Hendrix wakes the crowd with a riveting solo version of the national anthem. The final cost is $2.4 million. A film of the concert is released the following year.

First E-mail Message

The first computer transmission is carried by ARPANET at 10:30 PM on October 29 from a host computer at UCLA to another host computer at Stanford.

Sesame Street Debuts

Program is first broadcast on NET, predecessor to PBS.

First Sit-In Protests

A group of students launch protests against segregation at a "Whites only" lunch counter of the Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC.

SNCC Founded

In Raleigh, N.C., African American college students create the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to give young blacks a stronger role in the civil rights movement.

"Freedom Riders" Leave D.C.

An interracial group of protesters board buses and travel to the South to test President Kennedy's commitment to civil rights.

Ban-The-Bomb Protests

Anti-Nuclear Activists coordinate worldwide protests against nuclear weapons.

Silent Spring Published

Rachel Carson's book makes case for the urgent need to protect the environment.

James Meredith Registers at "Ole Miss"

On Sept 20, with the support a Supreme Court ruling, James Meredith arrives at the Univ. of Mississippi in Oxford, intending to enroll as the school's first black student. The state Governor physically blocks Meredith's progress on Sept 20, and again Sept 25. Talks between the White House and the Governor fail to produce a solution. The Kennedy administration orders federal marshals to Oxford. On Sept 30, rioting kills two students, and wounds 160 marshals. The next morning, Meredith officially registers as a transfer student he graduates in 1963. Bob Dylan writes Oxford Town about Meredith's experiences.

The Feminine Mystique Published

Betty Friedan launches the modern feminist movement with her critique of the role of women in society.

Gloria Steinem Writes Playboy Bunny Article

As a freelancer for Show magazine, she writes an infamous undercover expose about harassment and injustices while pretending to be a Playboy bunny.

"I Have A Dream. "

During the Civil Rights March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. delivers one of his most impassioned and memorable speeches to an audience of 250,000. Speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King sets aside his prepared notes to describe his vision of an nation that will "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.'" Later this year, King is named TIME's Person of the Year.

Freedom Summer Begins With Murder

The SNCC organizes Freedom Summer to increase voter registration and build a grassroots political party in Mississippi. Three young activists disappear on June 22: Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney. Their bodies are found on August 4, buried in an earthen dam. Investigation results in 21 arrests, and conspiracy convictions of seven Ku Klux Klan members in October 1967. Exactly 41 years after the murders, on June 22, 2005, Edgar Ray Killen is convicted on three counts of manslaughter for masterminding the killings.

Civil Rights Act

Legislation outlaws discrimination on basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

MLK Awarded Nobel Prize

Martin Luther King Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malcolm X Assassinated

The Nation of Islam leader is killed during while delivering a speech in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom.

Watts Race Riots

Six days of rage and riots in Los Angeles leave 34 dead and $200 million in damages.

Stokely Carmichael Takes Over at SNCC

Soon after taking charge at the SNCC Carmichael rejects nonviolence and invokes "Black Power".

NOW is Born

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded with the stated purpose of bringing "women into full participation in the mainstream of American society."

Black Panther Party Founded

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton found the Black Panthers in Oakland, CA. In stark contrast to the nonviolence endorsed by civil rights activists, the militant Black Panthers approve the use of violence for defense. The Black Panthers gain notoriety for patrolling streets in black berets and jackets, heavily armed with weapons. Their doctrine of self-determination and strength initially draws thousands of converts.

Abbie Hoffman Protest at Stock Exchange

Abbie Hoffman creates chaos on floor of the New York Stock Exchange by tossing (fake) currency from the gallery.

SSFU Student Strike

Five-month student strike begins at San Francisco University. The protests result in the creation of the nation's first ethnic studies program.

Wave of Campus Uprisings rolls over U.S.

Weeks of violent student uprisings begin with an extended student strike at U.C. Berkeley, and continue with takeovers and sit-ins at University of Massachusetts, Howard University, and Penn State.

Stonewall Riots

Judy Garland's funeral attracts gay mourners to the Stonewall Tavern in New York. A melee with police breaks out when someone resists arrest, launching the Gay Liberation Movement.

Native Americans Occupy Alcatraz

The protesters fail to gain title to the island, but inspire a native movement.


During the 1990s, DVDs enhanced the home movie-watching experience, Beanie Babies became ubiquitous, the Chunnel opened, and the digital answering machine answered its first call. On the medical front, researchers discovered the HIV protease inhibitor. and Viagra.

Apart from the fuel-cell-powered car and the optical mouse, the ’90s were relatively quiet on the invention/technology scene, however, three things were momentous: the World Wide Web, Internet protocol (HTTP) and WWW language (HTML) were all developed. Oh yes, and two websites you might have heard of—Google and eBay—arrived as well.


A Digital Timeline

A History of Digital Technology

(added May 3, 2002)
(revised March 1, 2019)

An attempt at charting the trajectory of digital technology, with special attention to graphical applications. Comments solicited, corrections gladly considered, links and images most graciously desired. (Special note: those attributed as inventors or creators more often were joined by many others, some named, some not. And dates are often only approximations.)


Doug Engelbart at Stanford

As a graduate student in electrical engineering at UC Berkeley after World War II Doug Engelbart began to imagine ways in which all sorts of information could be displayed on the screens of cathode ray tubes like the ones he had used as a radar technician during the war, and he dreamed of "flying" through a variety of information spaces.

Hypertext editing system (HTML)

Andy van Dam & Tim Berners-Lee

The idea behind HTML was a modest one. When Tim Berners-Lee was putting together his first elementary browsing and authoring system for the Web, he created a quick little hypertext language that would serve his purposes. He imagined dozens, or even hundreds, of hypertext formats in the future, and smart clients that could easily negotiate and translate documents from servers across the Net. It would be a system similar to Claris XTND on the Macintosh, but would work on any platform and browser.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

Robert Dennard

At that time, RAM was a known and used concept: memory reserved for writing to and reading from in a temporary fashion, to be erased every time the computer is turned off. However, in the mid-1960s RAM required an elaborate system of wires and magnets that negated in practice RAM's theoretical efficiency. Dennard's revolutionary achievement was to reduce RAM to a memory cell on a single transistor. His key insight was that it should be possible to store binary data as a positive or negative charge on a capacitator. After several months of experimenting, Dennard had reduced his RAM cell to a single field-effect transistor and a data line that both wrote and read the charge in a small capacitator. The ultimate effect of Dennard's invention was that a single chip could hold 16 million RAM cells

—The Lemelson-MIT Program's Invention Dimension


Ken Olsen at Digital Equipment Corporation

The DEC PDP-8 computer on March 22, 1965, is generally recognized as the most important small computer of the 1960's. It was the least expensive parallel general purpose computer on the market, the first computer sold on a retail basis, and the first parallel general purpose digital computer sold in a table-top configuration.


Department of Defense

The global Internet's progenitor was the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) of the U.S. Department of Defense. This is an important fact to remember.

The Creation of the UNIX* Operating System

After three decades of use, the UNIX* computer operating system from Bell Labs is still regarded as one of the most powerful, versatile, and flexible operating systems (OS) in the computer world. Its popularity is due to many factors, including its ability to run a wide variety of machines, from micros to supercomputers, and its portability -- all of which led to its adoption by many manufacturers.

Like another legendary creature whose name also ends in 'x,' UNIX rose from the ashes of a multi-organizational effort in the early 1960s to develop a dependable timesharing operating system.

Floppy disk drives were originally introduced commercially as a read-only device to hold microcode and diagnostics for large IBM mainframe computer systems in the early 1970s.

—Accurite Technologies Inc


Gilbert P. Hyatt & Ted Hoff at Intel

In 1969, a Japanese firm called Busicom contacted Intel about developing custom chips for its new desktop-printing calculator. Hoff thought there was a better, simpler way to develop the technology than what the Japanese were initially looking for. Rather than build 12 customized calculator chips, each with a single specific function, Hoff proposed that Intel develop a more universal CPU chip[computer processing unit] that could also run the calculator. The idea of a CPU on a chip had been around since the early 1960s but had not been feasible then. But Fairchild and Rockwell had both done some preliminary work in the area and Hoff thought he could make it work.

The history of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) goes back to the 1970s. Project Smalltalk was established at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc) which attempted to look into the future. The idea was to assume that in the future computing power would be abundant and inexpensive. How could the best use be made of the power available? Two influential developments resulted: object-oriented programming and the graphical user interface.

Altair personal computer

Ed Roberts at Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS)

Altairs were originally "Hobbyist" computers and have their roots in kits. They helped define the "personal" in Personal Computers. These machines where part of an open architecture concept that later made the PC successful. The S-100 bus allowed Altairs to be expanded and created opportunities for other companies to form.

William Thomas Sanderson

Programming language— Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC)

A commercial version by Bill Gates & Paul Allen

Paul Allen: "So, I called up Ed and [said: we have] this basic [interpreter] and. it's not that far from being done, and we would like to come out and show it to you."

First Digital Cameria

Steven Sasson, Kodak, et al

In the winter of 1975, Steven Sasson, a young engineer working in the Applied Research Lab at Kodak, tested out a new device for the first time. Now known as the first true digital camera, it was cobbled together using leftover parts he found in the lab. Thirty five years later, President Obama awarded Sasson the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his invention.

Word processor (Electric Pencil)

Michael Schrayer

At that time, in the CPM world, the Electric Pencil was the word processor of the day. I took the care to contact Dave Schrayer, author of Electric Pencil and asked if I could use the same "dot" commands for printer formatting. This way, electric Pencil users would already know the commands if they decided to go to EasyWriter. Or go with Electric Pencil if they had to work in CPM.

Apple computers

Steven Jobs & Steven Wozniak

Wozniak had been dabbling in computer-design for some time when, in 1976, he designed what would become the Apple I. Jobs, who had an eye for the future, insisted that he and Wozniak try to sell the machine, and on April 1, 1976, Apple Computer was born.

Network intercommunication—
Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

As time passed many enhancements were made to the existing protocol but by 1973 it was clear that [the first network] was unable to handle the volume of traffic passing through it. The TCP/IP and gateway architecture was proposed in 1974. This protocol was to be independent of the underlying network and computer hardware as well as having universal connectivity throughout the network. This would enable any kind of platform to participate in the network.In 1981 a series of requests for comment was issued, standardising the TCP/IP version 4 for the Arpanet.

Spreadsheet program (VISICALC)

Dan Bricklin & Bob Frankston

The idea for the electronic spreadsheet came to me while I was a student at the Harvard Business School, working on my MBA degree, in the spring of 1978. Sitting in Aldrich Hall, room 108, I would daydream. "Imagine if my calculator had a ball in its back, like a mouse. " (I had seen a mouse previously, I think in a demonstration at a conference by Doug Engelbart, and maybe the Alto). And "..imagine if I had a heads-up display, like in a fighter plane, where I could see the virtual image hanging in the air in front of me. I could just move my mouse/keyboard calculator around, punch in a few numbers, circle them to get a sum, do some calculations, and answer '10% will be fine!'" (10% was always the answer in those days when we couldn't do very complicated calculations. )

The original laser printer was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Xerox Engineer, Gary Starkweather adapted Xerox copier technology adding a laser beam to it to come up with the laser printer.

Atari microcomputer

Steve Mayer and Ron. Milner

Atari is most known for its innovations in video game technology. But a wealth of computer products and technologies were pioneered by Atari. In 1979 Atari Inc. showcased its first computer product at the Winter Consumer Electronics show.

From that point on Atari created innovative 8 bit computers which were manufactured and supported up until 1992!

Unix User Network

Tom Truscott, Jim Ellis, & Steve Bellovin

Usenet came into being in late 1979, shortly after the release of V7
UNIX with UUCP. Two Duke University grad students in North Carolina,
Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, thought of hooking computers together to
exchange information with the UNIX community. Steve Bellovin, a grad
student at the University of North Carolina, put together the first
version of the news software using shell scripts and installed it on
the first two sites: "unc" and "duke."

Star was designed as an office automation system. The idea was that professionals in a business or organization would have workstations on their desks and would use them to produce, retrieve, distribute, and organize documentation, presentations, memos, and reports. All of the workstations in an organization would be connected via Ethernet and would share access to file servers, printers, etc.

Movies from 1960s were most creative in cinema history, study finds

LAS VEGAS A new study has found that films created during the 1960s belong to the most creative era in cinema history, CBS Las Vegas reports.

Physicist Sameet Sreenivasan of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York conducted a detailed data analysis of novel and unique elements in movies throughout the 20th century.

Sreenivasan analyzed keywords used on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) to observe trends. A novelty score was given based on the number of times any given keyword was used to describe another film.

Films that had higher novelty scores featured a word that was rarely used to describe it. While films with lower novelty scores had a keyword used to describe a variety of them.

A range from zero to one was applied as the novelty score, with the least novel being zero. To depict the evolution of film culture over time, Sreenivasan then lined up the scores chronologically.

"You always hear about how the period from 1929 to 1950 was known as the Golden Age of Hollywood," Sreenivasan said to Wired. "There were big movies with big movie stars. But if you look at novelty at that time, you see a downward trend."

Trending News

After studio systems fell in the 1950s, filmmakers burst with new ideas which enhanced the movies during the 1960s. Films like Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, Breathless in 1960, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in 1966 were all very well received.

In addition, plot lines, novel styles and film techniques helped create the increase in Sreenivasan's analysis of that period.

The films analyzed spanned a 70-year period and the study appears in Nature Scientific Reports.

Students will:

  • Gather information in many ways and from many sources
  • Watch video clips, listen to music, view art and images, and read
  • Interview people who experienced the '60s
  • Think deeply about what they learn
  • Form and defend opinions
  • Use available technology to access information, and design and present a product
  • Express and present views and ideas in different ways

Note: To provide a foundation of information and cultivate interest, students and teachers are encouraged to use The Sixties: The Years that Shaped a Generation video as a primary resource, and to become familiar with the wide variety of resources and information available on this Web site, as well as other OPB and PBS sites. The suggested video clips, radio and TV programming, and supporting Web sites are an ideal way to provide students with access to the issues, faces, places, feelings, music, delights and horrors that shaped the 1960s.

Lynn Conway contributed to the invention of modern computer processors, despite facing discrimination for being transgender.

Dr. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson is an aerospace engineer at NASA and an advocate for women in stem.


Quantum entanglement and teleportation is sci-fi technology in real life. Scientists teleported a particle into orbit.

Jeff Baxter: Rock 'n' rock guitarist, innovator — counterterrorism expert? The very interesting life of the.

The world of travel may be on the verge of getting a lot faster with hypersonics.

Watch the video: 1960s History: Science and Technology - 1965-1969


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