1968: december 9

As expected, I couldn't maintain a recap of 1968 throughout the entire year. But I didn't want to let that project die without paying tribute to one more event from that monumental year, an event I've spoken of a couple of times before on this blog. It's something now known as The Mother of All Demos.


The Chronicle actually ran a fairly detailed piece on this yesterday, since Stanfurd is having an anniversary presentation today. Here is the blurb for the original session:

This session is entirely devoted to a presentation by Dr. Engelbart on a computer-based, interactive, multiconsole display system which is being developed at Stanford Research Institute under the sponsorship of ARPA, NASA and RADC. The system is being used as an experimental laboratory for investigating principles by which interactive computer aids can augment intellectual capability. The techniques which are being described will, themselves, be used to augment the presentation.

A mouthful, to be sure, but the basics are both simple and astonishing. On December 9, 1968, 40 years ago, Doug Engelbart gave a presentation where he introduced tools like the computer mouse to the world at large. When it says "principles by which interactive computer aids can augment intellectual capability," it means ... well, it means a large chunk of what many of us do everyday on our personal and work computers. And this was in 1968.

The link above takes you to video of the presentation ... it's long, but fascinating. Some of the descriptions on that page of the video give a sense of the breadth and foresight on what was being shown:

  • Doug introduction, "if you had a workstation at your disposal all day that was perfectly responsible....or responsive."
  • Word processing beginning with "blank piece of paper," text entry, Illustrates cut, copy, file creation including header with name, date, creator. Doug is shown using keyboard, mouse, and chord keyset.
  • Doug demonstrates capability ... to jump between levels in the architecture of a text, making cross references, creating Internal linking and live hyperlinks within a file.
  • This segment discusses control devices, the keyboard and mouse. "I don't know why we call it a mouse. It started that way and we never changed it."
  • Doug illustrates how NLS can be used to construct, collaboratively modify, and ultimately publish reports and papers. He shows how to examine and modify the paper he and his colleagues wrote for this conference, sets formatting for printing, hypertext linking and viewing of document.

1968: october 31

On this date 40 years ago, President Johnson announced that he would stop all bombing of North Vietnam. This decision was tied to new peace talks with Hanoi. Operation Rolling Thunder, the name given to the Americans' bombing campaign, had lasted for 3 1/2 years. Wikipedia tells us that "Estimates of civilian deaths caused by American bombing in operation Rolling Thunder range from 52,000 to 182,000." Whatever the objectives of the campaign (and they were varied, changing, and often unclear), it is considered to have been a failure.

Near the end of Johnson's speech, which came just before the 1968 election, he stated:

I do not know who will be inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States next January. But I do know that I shall do all that I can in the next few months to try to lighten his burdens as the contributions of the Presidents who preceded me have greatly lightened mine. I shall do everything in my power to move us toward the peace that the new President--as well as this President and, I believe, every other American--so deeply and urgently desires.

1968: more october 26 tv

Once again with a tip of the cap to Blog Wilkins for hunting this stuff down.

Looking over the TV listings for October 26, 1968, Bay Area version, I see, besides the channels I spoke of earlier and some others that didn't come in at our house, two other UHF channels, 20 and 44. So we had a bit more TV than my last post may have suggested. The rest of this post is pure nostalgia and thus, pure crap, but here goes.

When Channel 40 began broadcasting with that Boston Blackie movie, ABC was showing the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game (the Irish were ranked 5th in the country, but State won, 21-17). Later, ABC's Wide World of Sports had stock-car racing and table tennis. In those days, you could have a popular sports show with events that had occurred days or even months earlier ... hardcore fans might know the results, but the casual viewer would tune in to the National 500 Stock-Car Championship, taped eight days earlier, without knowing who won (in this case, Charlie Glotzbach).

Some of the shows are tagged "COLOR" ... not every show was in color in those days, so those tags were important.

That afternoon, Channel 3 showed the Japanese sci-fi movie Attack from Space, which I watched many times as a kid. The plot is described as "Spies from the planet Sapphire force a Japanese scientist to aid them in their plans for invading earth." This was one of the infamous "Starman" movies, straight-to-TV American edits of Japanese films.

Channel 11 from San Jose showed the immortal TV series Spotlight on Speed. Immortal at our house, at least ... the show was created by my uncle, and starred my aunt (my dad's sister) as "Miss Speedway."

Channel 40 ran episodes of an odd series called Silents Please. This series would take silent movies and edit them to fit a 30-minute time slot. This wasn't easy ... the first movie on the Ch.40 run was Old San Francisco, which in its original form ran 88 minutes.

Finally, it's worth noting, as Patrick Ellis did in an earlier comment, that most stations went off the air during the early morning hours (although UHF channels soon came up with the all-night movie format for insomniacs). Patrick mentioned the national anthem being played before signoff ... there was also an odd show, I think it ran fifteen minutes, that was shown before the national anthem on some channel. It was called Ebbtide, and it consisted of poetry read on a voiceover while the picture showed waves crashing on rocks with a lovely lady in a flesh-colored bathing suit posing for the camera. The lady's name was "Lorelei" ... she was my aunt, the same one who played "Miss Speedway."

1968: october 26

Thanks to the entertaining Blog Wilkins (the title will mean something to Bay Area baby boomers), I can tell you a lot more about the schedule on Channel 40 than I could have a day ago. Why does this matter? Because 40 years ago today, Channel 40, a UHF station out of Sacramento, went on the air. My memory could certainly be wrong, but as best as I can recall, Channel 40 was the first UHF station to actually show interesting stuff in our neck of the woods. Young readers might well wonder what the hell a UHF station is ... just imagine one of those gazillion cable channels no one watches, only the picture is fuzzy and you need a separate pair of rabbit ears to make it come in at all.

When I was growing up, we had more television stations to watch than most people, because Antioch was situated between San Francisco and Sacramento. The SF channels were harder to get ... we had an antenna on the roof for those, with a dial inside the house that changed the direction of the antenna to point either to the City or to Sacramento. Each of those two cities had a network outlet, which at that time meant ABC, CBS, NBC, and NET (not yet PBS). Oakland had Channel 2 ... channels were called by their numbers in those days ... Channel 2 was independent. Channels 2-13 were VHF ... don't ask me, but they're the channels every TV got, and in Antioch, 2 was indie, 3 was NBC Sacramento, 4 NBC SF, 5 CBS SF, 6 NET Sac, 7 ABC SF, 9 NET SF, 10 CBS Sac, and 13 ABC Sac. That's all you got to watch. No cable, no satellite, no Internet, just those channels.

Channel 40 was on the UHF part of the dial ... later there was 44 and 20 and 36, but 40's the one that began it all in our house. (There was some dinky channel in Concord or something like that which showed Grade-Z stuff, but it's long forgotten.)

So, what did Channel 40 show on October 26, 1968? Thanking Blog Wilkins again, the first thing to appear on Channel 40 was the movie Meet Boston Blackie. Blog will be adding more details about 10-26-68 later in the week, but in the meantime, over those first two years, among the staples of Channel 40 were kids shows, rassling, and Bob Wilkins. Wilkins showed old horror movies late on Saturday nights, and was a cult favorite who also worked out of Channel 2 in Oakland. Rassling was even more interesting in this regard. Both Channel 40 and Channel 2 showed pro wrestling from the same federation, run by Roy Shires. Since Sacramento and Oakland/San Francisco were considered separate television markets, Shires didn't worry about keeping the story lines the same, so sometimes you'd have one guy as champ on Channel 2 and a different guy as champ on Channel 40. Ah, the joys of living in Antioch, able to watch it all.

This is not a nostalgic plea for the good old days when you only had 4 or 5 programs to choose from. But post-boomers may not realize just what television culture was like in those times. They were times when adding a local, hard-to-get UHF channel that showed old movies and pro rassling was exciting, because it increased your options by a large percentage.

Here's a bit of Wilkins from the mid-70s:

1968: october 10

This is a couple of days late, because I've gotten so used to the baseball schedule of the last couple of decades that I forgot there was a time when the World Series ended in early October.

The 1968 World Series is remembered as one of the better ones in the game's history. 1968 was the Year of the Pitcher, and none shone as brightly as Detroit Tiger Denny McLain, who won 31 games. The team's MVP might have been outfielder Willie Horton, who made the All-Star team and finished the season with 36 HR, second in the league. Then there was All-Star catcher Bill Freehan, who played in 155 games, 129 of them behind the plate, and hit 25 HR. On the other hand, there was Don Wert, one of the odder All-Star choices (he hit .200 for the season), and Ray Oyler, who hit .135. It was Oyler's abysmal bat that prompted one of the most famous strategy moves in Series history, when Detroit manager Mayo Smith decided to play outfielder Mickey Stanley at shortstop in place of Oyler. Stanley had never played SS in his entire professional career. Stanley didn't have a particularly good Series ... he hit .214 and made a couple of errors. But his presence in the infield meant Smith could play three other good hitters in the outfield, and those three (besides Horton, there was Jim Northrup and future Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline) hit very well.

The Tigers' opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, were led by the amazing Bob Gibson, who posted a 1.12 ERA for the entire season. (On the other hand, their catcher was a motormouthed know-it-all named Tim McCarver.)

The first two games were in St. Louis. In Game One, Gibson struck out 17 and shutout the Tigers, 4-0. In Game Two, the Tiger bats woke up, including pitcher Mickey Lolich, who homered in an 8-1 victory.

The Cards took the first two games in Detroit to open up a 3-1 lead, with Orlando Cepeda homering in Game Three and Bob Gibson outdueling Denny McLain in Game Four, 10-1. In Game Five, Lolich took the mound hoping to keep the Series alive ... Cepeda homered in the first inning as St. Louis took a 3-0 lead, but the Tigers came back to win in a game most famous for its National Anthem, sung by Jose Feliciano.

And so, back to St. Louis. In Game Six, McLain finally had a good game, and Detroit ran away with a 13-1 win, setting up a seventh game. Bob Gibson was back for one more try ... Mayo Smith opted for Mickey Lolich, pitching with only two days rest. After six innings, the game was scoreless. The Tigers put up a three-spot in the top of the 7th, Lolich went the distance for the third time, and Detroit won the game and the Series, with Lolich being named Series MVP.

The next year, Major League Baseball began divisional play, making the 1968 World Series the last under the traditional format that had lasted for the entire 20th century to that point.

1968: october 5

On this date, the trial of the Catonsville Nine began. The Nine were Catholics, including priests, ex-priests, ex-nuns, artists, and others, who earlier in the year poured napalm on a batch of draft files and set them on fire. The trial lasted through October 9 ... they were found guilty of destroying property and interfering with the Selective Service.


1968: october 2

Forty years ago today, members of the Mexican police and military killed 200-300 people in what became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre.

As in so many places in 1968, Mexico had a strong leftwing student movement. The upcoming Summer Olympics in Mexico were a focal point of protests, with the government hoping for tourist dollars and a good impression on the rest of the world, while students wanted fundamental changes. On the night of October 2, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City, the authorities moved in on several thousand gathered protestors and started shooting. It took almost thirty years before the Mexican government launched an investigation into the events in Tlatelolco (the name for the area of Mexico City where the massacre occurred).

1968: september 22

A new #1 on the American charts. I had an English teacher in high school ... don't remember which one it was, one of the younger ones ... one day in class, he/she did a close reading of "Hey Jude," explaining that "Jude" was British slang for penis ... listening to the song with that information in your head leads to a v.different interpretation than I'd previously considered. I'm pretty sure my teacher was fulla shit, though.