Just What Were the 1960s, Anyway?

When I was growing up in the 1960s, there was some speculation as to how that era would be remembered.  Would it be the Nuclear Age or the Space Age?

Now it’s become pretty clear it was actually the Transistor And Birth-Control-Pill Age.

I was reminded of this because we’ve recently passed two milestones, according to The Writer’s Almanac  —

On May 9, 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of the world’s first commercially produced birth control pill.  Of course, people have been experimenting with birth control for millennia.  It wasn’t until 1951 that Carl Djerassi, a chemist working in a lab in Mexico City, synthesized the key hormones that made the pill possible.  Clinical trials took years, as they usually do, but drug companies were afraid to market the pill due to fear of a religious backlash.  But our culture was changing;  more women wanted to stay in college, even after marrying, and to delay children for careers.  This new contraceptive was discrete, affordable (a month’s supply initially cost $2), and effective — perfect for the times.

How revolutionary was it?   Today, the number of women completing four years of college is almost seven times what it was before the pill’s introduction.

Read the complete entry at  http://writersalmanac.org/page/2/.

On May 7, 1952, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer first presented the concept of the integrated circuit, also known as the microchip.  Drummer was born in Yorkshire, England in 1909 and studied electrical engineering at Regent Polytechnic in London.  During World War II, he worked in the Ministry of Defence group responsible for the first radar screen.

Dummer thought of making the various parts of an electrical circuit out of a single piece of silicon, which would eliminate the distance between components, speed up the signal, and eliminate the need for precise soldering.  It would also be smaller, enabling it to be fit into smaller devices.  Five years later, Dummer presented a prototype of his idea, and tried to get the British government to invest in the integrated circuit, but no one wanted to take a chance on such a revolutionary idea.  It was American scientists who patented their own circuit in 1958, and it would be years before the United Kingdom had a semiconductor industry.  Although Dummer didn’t get a patent for his concept, he is known today as “The Prophet of the Integrated Circuit.”

The complete entry is at http://writersalmanac.org/page/4/.

So I guess this shows where our priorities really are.

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