1968 Revisited: Tech Blasts Off

Apollo 8In keeping with our theme this year of looking back at the year FRCH was founded and the evolution that has occurred since, I recently did a little research to learn more about what happened that year in addition to the well-known cultural and social changes that occurred.  Anyone who works with me would tell you I am NOT an expert in technology.  However, I am a believer in studying the past in order to better understand the present and the future – and in my research I quickly discovered that 1968 was a year that brought many advances in technology that continue to shape our lives today.  In those 12 months, while the country experienced social revolution, turmoil and great tragedy, some amazing advances in technology occurred at the same time.  Let the history lesson begin!


Advances in computer technology stand out first.  1968 saw the first public demonstration of the  computer ‘mouse’ by self-proclaimed “country kid” Douglas Engelbart.  The year also saw the introduction of the first computer with integrated circuits, “windows”, object linking, video teleconferencing and the invention of RAM (Random Access Memory); all while the first hand-held calculators were being perfected.  By the end of the year, large advancements had been made in the computer industry to allow for a more accessible, user-friendly and personal interface that would soon lead to the invention of microprocessors in 1971 and not long after, the almighty personal computer.  Interestingly enough, FRCH became the first architectural design firm in the Cincinnati area to use Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) in the early ’80’s; proof that even 30 years ago, FRCH was staying ahead and incorporating the latest in design technology.

Technology related progress was seen in other industries throughout the year.  The first bank ATM machine, the maiden flight of the Boeing 747, the first vehicle airbag systems were developed, and the 911 national emergency telephone service was established.  And this is just a short list.

Perhaps the most fascinating story of 1968 is the amount of progress that was made in those 12 months on NASA’s Apollo space program.  A total of four Apollo missions took place in 1968.  January saw the launching of Apollo 5, the first unmanned flight of the new lunar module and the first time a ‘throttleable’ rocket engine was fired in space.  On April 4, the same day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Apollo 6 became the final unmanned Apollo mission and continued the testing of the  lunar module.  Apollo 7, launched in October, was the first manned mission of the Apollo program.  And finally, December 1968 saw the first manned Apollo mission to leave Earth’s orbit and see the dark side of the moon, of course named Apollo 8.  Speaking of technology, the Christmas Eve broadcast from the Apollo 8 command module to Earth was the most watched television broadcast ever at the time it aired.  It is estimated that a quarter of the people alive at the time saw the transmission, either live or delayed.  Some even watched on their new color television sets although the broadcast was in black and white (1966 saw the first network conversion to color for all new television programs and color TV sets were gaining in popularity in the late ’60’s as the prices became affordable).

Apollo 8 broadcast

It’s amazing to me that within just one year, the Apollo space program went from unmanned tests to global television broadcasting while orbiting the moon.  Within just 7 months the world would watch the first lunar landing with the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

FRCH was founded in a year that saw great turmoil and upheaval throughout the world.   But in the midst of the cultural and social changes that were rapidly occurring some huge advances in technology were taking place at the same time; many of which helped to shape our industry and continue to effect the way we work and live our lives today.  As a design firm, technology plays an ever-increasing role from the tools we use in our craft to the way people interact with the environments we create.  As we did in 1968 and for the last 45 years, we will continue to stay on top of these rapid changes and seek out new ways that technology can change our lives, and those of our clients, for the better.

About mikeotto
I'm the Director of Human Resources for FRCH Design Worldwide. Fulltime Dad, part-time rocker and occasional blogger, I believe that Human Resources professionals in the design industry need to be as creative as the designers they work for.

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