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The 1960s by any standards was a time period that was revolutionary. It is a period that could be said to arouse nostalgia or bad feelings for those who were around during that time. Marwick explains that most people agree that no matter the perspective, something avant-garde did happen in the 60s. The 60s can be described as an era of moral turpitude, radical politics, entertainment reinvention, changing family mindsets, lifestyle changes, scientific and technological advancements among other developments. This period is accredited with being historically significant as it transformed the social, political and cultural ideas. Critiques have however argued that nothing of lasting importance happened in the 60s and that it was a period of naivety and empty spectacle. This can however be countered with the many significant events that happened in the 60s and the revolutionary individuals that emerged during the period. This paper is going to examine why the 60s is labeled as a revolutionary period. The paper is going to explore significant events that happened in the 60s in order to show that the 60s was indeed a significant period.
The Sixties: A Revolutionary Period
In the 1960s there was a radical political revolution. This is mainly because of political movements such as the black civil rights movement in America, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, among many others. The black civil rights movement in America reached its peak in the 60s though it had began in the 50s. This movement was a struggle by the African Americans to be granted civil rights. The movement is mostly associated with Dr. Martin Luther and his famous speech; ‘I have a dream.’ Martin Luther headed the Southern Christian Leadership Council, which organized several peaceful protests to demonstrate against discrimination of minority groups. The ‘I have a dream’ speech is still famous up to date and in 1964 Martin Luther received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize award. He was however assassinated in 1968. The legacy of Dr. King however lives on till now and he is celebrated through the Martin Luther King Day every year on the third Monday of January. The civil rights movement of the 60s was however successful in that black people’s rights were more recognized with the enactment of the the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The 60s was also an age of information technological advancements. In 1964 International Business Machines (IBM) launched the system 360 which was a computer that revolutionized many businesses in America. This computer was used as a mainstay computer by many companies and businesses between 1964 and 1978. Abbate explains in her book that the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was also developed by the United States Department of Defense throughout the 60s. ARPANET was the first equipped packet switching system, and was also known as the first form of internet. Packet switching revolutionized data communication in the 60s and continues to do so till present. Internet technology has also transformed the way we live our lives. The ATM and barcode scanners were also invented in 1960s. The ATM was invented by John Shepherd Barron and was first introduced in Barclays Bank in UK in 1967. The first barcode scanner was commercially used in 1966. The ATM and barcode scanners are still in use up to date and they have revolutionized many areas of finance and shopping.
The sixties are also termed as revolutionary because of the technological advancements of the decade. There was a competition between the Soviet Union, now Russia and the U.S about who would send the first man to outer space. The Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into outer space in 1961. In 1969 the first man landed on the moon; it was Neil Armstrong from America. There were also other outer space missions in the sixties. There was also advancement in the medical fraternity. In 1960 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the female birth control contraceptive. The first heart transplant also took place in 1967 and it was performed by a doctor from South Africa. Baenninger explains that in 1963 chemist Leo Sternbach launched a drug called Valium into the American market. Valium is a tranquilizer drug that is often prescribed to relieve anxiety. Valium went on to become the most prescribed pill between 1969 and 1982. Even though valium has been said to have extreme side effects and was reported to be addictive it helped many deal with anxiety and alcoholism. The ultrasound was also invented in the 60s. The ultrasound has been used in sonography to help view unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs. This is the most common use of ultrasound but it is also for so many other purposes including in cleaning teeth and in welding plastics together. This was a technological milestone that is still being enjoyed to this day. In 1965 chemotherapy was first used in cancer treatment. This discovery has helped many to this day deal with the deadly cancer disease.
It is very clear from the events presented that the sixties was a revolutionary period. The novel ideas that were presented then still continue to have an impact up to date. The technological and medical advancements made in the 60s are still in use to this day and they have revolutionized the way we live our lives. The 60s might have been viewed as flamboyant and unserious with such things as rampant abuse of hard drugs and the hippies culture; but there were many events that occurred during that decade that have shaped history as we know it.
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