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Views into the Future from the Recent Past

  • Konrad Zuse develops a fully programmable digital computer.

  • Actress Hedy Lamarr designs a radio guidance system for torpedoes based on automatic frequency hopping—and thus a precursor of Wi-Fi.

  • Emergence of Cybernetics

    In the United States, Norbert Wiener establishes a science for regulating and controlling machines analogous to the human brain and social organizations.

  • Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    On August 6 and 9, these Japanese cities are largely destroyed in attacks by the American military; hundreds of thousands die as a result.

  • End of World War II

    On May 8, World War II ends in Europe, and on September 2 it ends in the Pacific.

  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) is founded.

  • First Universal Computer

    The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) is used to calculate artillery range tables and is programmed mainly by women.

  • Hungarian-British physicist Dennis Gabor invents holography.

  • Invention of the Transistor

    The electronic semiconductor is used in communication technologies, power electronics, and computer systems.

  • British doctor Nicholas H. L. Ridley inserts the first artificial intraocular lens into a human eye.

  • Development of the Turing Test

    Alan Turing uses a test to evaluate machine intelligence: a human conducts a conversation with two unknown interlocutors, one of whom is a computer.

  • First issue of the manga series “Tetsuwan Atomu” (Iron Arm Atom) by Osamu Tezuka: Astro Boy is an autonomous robot with superhuman powers.

  • American citizen Christine Jorgensen undergoes gender reassignment surgery in Denmark and becomes the first transgender activist.

  • The newsletter “Transvestia: The Journal of the American Society for Equity in Dress” is the first transgender publication to appear in the United States.

  • Detonation of the First Hydrogen Bomb

    Conducted on November 1 on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.

  • Molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick decode the double helix structure of DNA.

  • Birth of Industrial Robotics

    A patent is filed for Unimate, the first programmable robot: an industrial robot with an arm and gripper used in the automotive industry.

  • The world’s first nuclear power plant is built in Obninsk near Moscow.

  • The first wireless remote control is invented.

  • Rosa Parks’s refusal, as a Black woman, to give up her bus seat leads to her arrest and a boycott: the African-American civil rights movement begins.

  • Development of Artificial Cells

    Artificial blood substitute is obtained from modified hemoglobin.

  • Marvin Minsky establishes the scientific discipline of artificial intelligence (AI), which ultimately aims to replace humans.

  • The Soviet Union sends the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space on October 4. On November 3, Laika the dog flies into space aboard Sputnik 2.

  • First Cochlear Implant

    The electronic device replaces the damaged inner ear. It stimulates the auditory nerve and serves as a prosthesis for the hard of hearing.

  • Physician Åke Senning and engineer Rune Elmqvist develop an implantable pacemaker.

  • The term “cyborg,” short for “cybernetic organism,” appears for the first time in the journal “Astronautics.”

  • Germany’s First Birth Control Pill

    The contraceptive pill Anovlar is launched in the Federal Republic of Germany. Initially, it can only be given to married women with at least three children.

  • April 12: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

  • First breast augmentation with silicone implant

  • The first television satellite is launched into space.

  • NASA’s “Rocket Girls,” including African-American Katherine Johnson, calculate space mission trajectories—defying racism and sexism.

  • March on Washington

    On August 28, 200,000 people gather at the Lincoln Memorial to demonstrate in favor of an end to racial discrimination.

  • Development of the Belgrade Hand

    Yugoslav engineer Rajko Tomović designs the multifunctional prosthesis. Its fingers can grasp upon receiving an electrical signal from a control panel.

  • Invention of the Digital Camera
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, desegregating public facilities in the United States.

  • Military involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War

  • Founding of the American activist organization NOW (National Organization for Women)

  • “Fantastic Voyage” hits movie theaters: a tiny submarine embarks on a journey through the body of a comatose patient to stop a blood clot.

  • Color Television in Germany

    On August 25, Willy Brandt launches color television broadcasts with a symbolic push of a button. They had already existed in the United States since 1954.

  • The hippie movement celebrates the “Summer of Love.”

  • Doping tests are conducted for the first time at international sports competitions.

  • First Heart Transplant

    Following the operation by South African heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard, the patient survives only 18 days.

  • The Portapak portable video camera initiates video art.

  • Students protest globally against the Vietnam War and social structures.

  • In West Germany, the failure to confront the country’s Nazi past becomes an issue.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Is Dead

    The civil rights activist is assassinated on April 4. His death leads to riots and demonstrations in numerous American cities.

  • The “Red Power” movement in the United States combats discrimination against indigenous people, broken treaties, and advocates sovereignty and self-determination.

  • The Forerunner of the Internet

    The American Air Force’s ARPANET military computer network enables communication between computers for the first time.

  • Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” delegates key decisions on a Jupiter mission to the HAL 9000 computer.

  • The American Navy develops the Minsky Arm: a pioneer of computer-based artificial intelligence that can perform simple tasks with precision.

  • Neil Armstrong Sets Foot on the Moon
  • Woodstock Festival

    400,000 people celebrate “peace and music” for three days.

  • A police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn escalates and marks the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front. Annual Pride parades commemorate the event.

  • Optical fiber revolutionizes information technology.

  • Expo ’70 World Fair in Osaka showcases latest developments in technology. 77 countries exhibit, 64 million people visit the show.

  • Japanese computer scientist Takeo Kanade presents his fully automated face recognition system at the Expo in Osaka.

  • The Computer Tomograph Delivers its First Images
  • Ray Tomlinson sends the first email.

  • The Club of Rome publishes its report “The Limits to Growth.”

  • The Magnavox company introduces the first game console.

  • Atari releases “Pong,” the first commercially successful video game.

  • The First Genetic Engineering Experiment

    The First Genetic Engineering Experiment
    Biochemists Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen insert the DNA of a frog into a bacterium.

  • Oil Crisis

    The Arab states cut oil production and impose an embargo. The price of oil quadruples, and car-free Sundays are decreed in the Federal Republic of Germany.

  • The First Personal Computer

    “Popular Electronics” magazine introduces the first PC, the Altair 8800, as a DIY-kit for $397, prompting thousands of orders.

  • Andreas Pavel patents his “Stereophonic Reproduction System for Personal Wear.” In 1979, Sony launches the Walkman.

  • The first test-tube baby is born in Great Britain through in vitro fertilization.

  • The band Kraftwerk releases its album “Die Mensch-Maschine.”

  • The legendary video game “Pac-Man” is released.

  • The first automatic defibrillator is implanted in a human being.

  • Sony develops the first digital surveillance camera.

  • The Chaos Computer Club Is Founded in Hamburg
  • Ridley Scott’s film “Blade Runner” contemplates the life of androids.

  • The Motorola Dynatac 8000X, the first cell phone, is introduced: retractable antenna, battery life 35 minutes.

  • Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi discover HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. Both receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008.

  • The history of forensic DNA analysis begins with the (accidental) discovery of the genetic fingerprint.

  • A patent is filed for 3-D printing.

  • A Manifesto for Cyborgs

    Donna Haraway writes her legendary “Cyborg Manifesto,” rejecting rigid boundaries between humans and machines: the beginning of a posthumanist-feminist theory.

  • Explosion of the Nuclear Reactor in Chernobyl
  • Yoshizumi Ishino discovers the CRISPR sequence and paves the way for “genome editing”: DNA gene segments are excised and replaced by others.

  • Development of the first commercial virtual reality glasses.

  • American athlete Dennis Oehler uses carbon prostheses for the first time at the Paralympics, winning the 100m, 200m, and 400m sprints with new world records.

  • The US Department of Education creates the “Tech Act,” a law for technology-related assistance for individuals with disabilities.

  • 3-D Bioprinting

    A new method of micropositioning cells to build two- and three-dimensional synthetic tissues using a special 3-D printer is developed.

  • First “Worm” Attack on the Internet

    American student Robert Tappan Morris develops a program that paralyzes ten percent of the 88,000 computers connected to the internet at the time.

  • Fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Invention of the WWW

    At the CERN research center near Geneva the World Wide Web is created on the basis of a hypertext system.

  • Nintendo launches the Game Boy.

  • The “Trojan Room Coffee Pot Camera” transmits images of a coffee machine from a laboratory in Cambridge University to the world—and is considered the first webcam.

  • “Merry Christmas”: a PC sends the first text message to a cell phone.

  • The MPEG-1 standard for compressing digitally stored audio data is introduced.

  • Sony develops the robot dog Aibo, which can walk, move its ears and tail, produce sounds, and publish self-made pictures on the internet.

  • End of apartheid in South Africa
  • Sony’s PlayStation game console is launched.

  • Dolly the Sheep

    The first cloned mammal is created in Great Britain.

  • The virtual chick Tamagotchi, which has to be cared for like a real pet, invades children’s rooms all over the world.

  • C-Leg—a Milestone in Prosthetics

    The prosthetic leg controlled by a microprocessor reacts intelligently and in real time to everyday situations.

  • Willem van Eelen receives the first patent for the production of in vitro meat.

  • Cybernetics researcher Kevin Warwick has a silicon chip implanted in his arm to become the first human cyborg.

  • The movie “Matrix” speculates that the world as we perceive it is just a machine-generated computer simulation that uses humans as energy dispensers.

  • Decoding of the Human Genome
  • Humanity as a geological factor: chemist and atmospheric scientist Paul J. Crutzen coins the term “Anthropocene” with Eugene F. Stoermer.

  • PARO, a therapy robot in the form of a fluffy seal equipped with tactile sensors, is presented to the public in Japan.

  • The neurotoxin Botox is approved for cosmetic use.

  • The Anonymous collective is created in the 4chan forum: users can post texts or pictures anonymously, and “Anonymous” is named as the author.

  • Neil Harbisson, who is color blind, has an antenna implanted in his head. He can now hear colors and connect to other devices via Bluetooth.

  • Google Earth Goes Online.
  • German travel documents contain biometric data.

  • A complete face transplant succeeds for the first time.

  • Bina48, the “world’s most sentient robot,” is modeled on a human: a human consciousness in a synthetic body.

  • Steve Jobs presents the first iPhone.

  • Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly found the “Quantified Self” movement: Self-tracking of biological and physical data is used to evaluate and optimize people.

  • The First Bionic Hand

    The i-Limb hand is moved by muscle movements in the arm stump that control electrical signals.

  • Invention of the Cryptocurrency Bitcoin

    An individual or group named Satoshi Nakamoto releases open-source reference software for the first digital currency.

  • Instagram goes online.

  • Chelsea Manning submits classified documents on American wartime operations to the WikiLeaks disclosure platform, causing a worldwide uproar.

  • iPhone assistant Siri is the first voice control for mobile devices.

  • Meltdown at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
  • Breakthrough for Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence

    Alex Krizhevsky, Ilya Sutskever, and Geoffrey Hinton design an artificial neural network modeled on human decision-making capabilities.

  • Oscar Pistorius competes in the London Olympics as a bilateral amputee.

  • Black Lives Matter

    “Neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman shoots and kills Black teenager Trayvon Martin in the United States. His acquittal sparks a transnational movement.

  • Prostheses from a 3-D Printer

    Open-source programs make it possible to manufacture your own individual and custom-fit prostheses.

  • “Time” magazine ranks the selfie stick among the 25 best inventions of the year.

  • The mass of electronic waste in China reaches 12.3 million tons.

  • Racist Algorithms

    After only 16 hours, Microsoft deactivates its Twitter chatbot “Tay,” which learned and published discriminatory tweets from other users.

  • Hunting virtual mythical creatures collectively in real environments: “Pokémon Go” conquers the world.

  • Same-Sex Marriage

    Germany introduces the right to marry for people of the same sex.

  • REEM, the first AI-equipped police robot, begins its role as a service worker in Dubai.

  • Doping for the Brain

    Electrodes implanted in the brain improve the memory of those tested by 15 percent.

  • The action-adventure video game “Detroit: Become Human” addresses the use of androids in industry, commerce, and services as a dystopian scenario.

  • Fridays for Future

    Greta Thunberg demonstrates in front of the Swedish parliament for more climate protection; a worldwide climate movement forms.

  • The “Act to Amend the Information to be Entered in the Birth Register” enables the entry “diverse” in Germany.

  • During the coronavirus pandemic, a mRNA vaccine is developed. It introduces the blueprint of a virus molecule into body cells, which activates the immune system.

  • Tourists in Space

    SpaceX launches an all-civilian crew into the earth’s orbit.