1969: Technological Leaps and Bounds
Where the world was headed
Many Richmonders watched the televised stroll on the moon. Some gathered in front of public TVs as Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. left footprints in the moon dust.
- At a lower altitude, the Concorde was taking flight in 1969, boasting a top cruising speed of 1,450 m.p.h., breaking the sound barrier and crossing the Atlantic in 3½ hours. The supersonic ship didn’t live up to the hype and is now merely a museum piece.
- However, the Boeing 747 was all that and a bag of chips, and it’s still going strong.
- Despite the excitement of air flight, consumers had a right to be cautious, with frequent airplane crashes and hijackings making headlines.
- On the ground, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, a classic muscle car, was introduced. Other popular cars included the Chevy Camaro, Corvette, Dodge Charger, Ford Mustang, Mercury Cougar and Pontiac GTO.
- The U.S. was in the midst of a spike in bicycle popularity. Depending on your age, you might have been atop a Huffy or a Schwinn Sting-Ray, possibly with a banana seat and, maybe, with three-speed hub gears and hand brakes. And you might have gotten it at family-owned Agee’s Bicycles in Carytown.
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on two nifty inventions: computers that take the place of bartenders (without listening to sob stories) and a device to detect tailgaters. Other inventions were the laser printer, an electric, computer-controlled robot arm and the UNIX computer operating system.
- The first temporary artificial heart was implanted that year, and heart transplant surgery, a new procedure, continued to make headlines.
- In a nod to science, Presbyterians officially accepted that evolution may not contradict the Bible.
- Environmentalists speak ever louder about the need to balance progress with sustainability and suggest an annual Earth Day, which begins the following year.
POPULAR SCI-FI RELEASES
- Dune Messiah (Dune #2), by Frank Herbert
- The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
- I Sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
THE SPIRIT OF EXPLORATION
- People around the world followed Thor Heyerdahl and crew in their reed boat, Ra. Although they had to abandon ship after traveling more than 4,000 miles from Morocco toward Mexico, Heyerdahl felt they had proven that Egyptians could have traveled to the Americas long before Columbus.
- A British oarsman, John Fairfax, became the first person to row solo across an ocean: 4,000 miles, 180-days, from the Canary Islands to Miami.