Friday, January 28, 2022

The 50 Years Since 1969

More Straight Talk

As I sit here today, I ponder about the changes we’ve seen in the last 50 years which occurred during the year 1969.  Many of those changes we couldn’t even have imagined, or only have been dreamed about when I was 19 years of age.

It was in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to put a man on the moon in the next decade.  We accomplished that lofty goal in July of 1969, when we sent Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Ed “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., along with Apollo 11 to an orbit around the moon.  On July 20th we would send Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface of the moon to complete that quest that President Kennedy had envisioned. Quite an accomplishment when you think that today we hold more computing power in our hands with a small calculator than they had on their mission to the moon.

Some of our accomplishments had nothing to do with great scientific endeavors.  Such was the case when over a half a million music lovers descended upon a small village in upstate New York and created an impromptu pop culture phenomenon known as Woodstock in August of 1969.

The Beatles would release their final album together when “Abbey Road” was released to the public.  It would stay on top of the charts here in America and the UK for over 80 weeks and remains as one of the Beatles top selling albums of all time.

For those that were UFO enthusiasts, the release of the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book did little to dissuade their belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life and visits to earth by strange spacecraft.  That release of the 17-year study that began in 1952 changed few minds and the speculation continues today.

On January 20, 1969 Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.

Over 250,000 demonstrators would march on Washington in protest of the Vietnam War, later that year some of the first withdrawals of troops from Vietnam would take place.

On July 25 the word Chappaquiddick would become an albatross that would hang around the neck of Senator Edward Kennedy, as a young intern from Kennedy’s office would be found dead in the vehicle Kennedy was driving the next morning.

Two hundred forty-eight people would perish as a result of Hurricane Camille when she slammed into the Mississippi Coast.

The Public Broadcasting System was created in 1969.  Sesame Street would debut that year on PBS with the Muppets as the starring characters and a staple of early morning children programming for many years.

Bell Bottom Jeans and the tie-dye shirts would become a rage in teenage fashion.

Popular films of the year included: “The Love Bug,” “Funny Girl,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “True Grit,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang,” “Easy Rider” and “Where Eagles Dare.”

Technology didn’t take a back seat to pop culture, entertainment of politics.  The Boeing 747 jumbo jet made its debut in aviation circles, while in Europe, the Concorde would hold some of its first test flights, that would eventually propel us into supersonic air travel.

The Microprocessor was invented opening the way for the computer revolution that would follow and the miniaturization of circuitry.  The internet would be spearheaded by the U.S. Military and eventually lead to huge advances in the civilian world such as computer gaming, personal computers, cellular and GPS technology.

Today we live with smart TVs that can talk to our smart phones that interconnect with our mini-tablets that can run our basic home functions such as turning on or off lights, security and starting our dinner for us while we drive home.  However, it appears we still can’t figure out how talk to our kids at the dinner table while one or all of us fumble with one of these gadgets, which is a shame.

It seems the minute we leave our homes we must be connected by an electronic leash.  You must wonder how we survived in 1969 before the advent of the mobile phone around 1973.  Were we so inept in our daily responsibilities or were they not as complicated as they are today?

I’ve come to the opinion that we must add a course in cellphone courtesy into the curriculum offered to our elementary school students.  I know it’s probably to late for their older siblings or even their parents to do any good for them.  However, having to listen to the many woes of a junior in high school regarding a failed relationship or an adult complaining about their better half is just a little annoying at times.     

If a call is important, excuse yourself from the crowd, walk to a private area and take the call if necessary, otherwise just tell the person you’ll call them back.  You owe that courtesy to those you are with and those near you.  You also owe it to the person you’re sharing the road with to put down the damn phone and concentrate with your driving; 1.6 million crashes annually involve the use of a cellular device.

Yes, 1969 was an interesting year, but as we look forward to 2019, we must learn from those missteps and be aware that there may be unintended consequences to some of those choices we make, whether it is in who we choose to vote for, how far we will allow technology to rule our lives and the value of the simpler things in life we take for granted.

The speed by which technology will impact our everyday lives will be mind-boggling in the next 50 years, compared to what it has been these last five decades.   We owe it to the generation just born and those yet to come to make wise choices, for we will live with them for years to come.

Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at

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