The importance of some inventions of the 1960s was not apparent until the end of the 20th century. Some, especially those in the area of technology, needed much development before they were ready for general use. Others were immediately put into use. The inventions of the 1960s have had global impact on today's economy, world communications and health care.
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Automatic Teller Machine
The first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed at Barclay's Bank in London in 1967. John Shepherd-Barron invented it. He and several other engineers registered patents for automatic teller machines. James Goodfellow was at work as early as 1965 to develop a system of personal identification numbers (PINs) imprinted on a card. But the first machine required a voucher issued to the customer by the bank. The customer went to the bank for vouchers, and later used them to extract packets of 4.54 Kilogram Stirling, the only amount the ATM dispensed.
Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse in 1963. He conducted his research at the Stanford Research Institute. Benjamin Edwards, in "Macworld" magazine, writes that Bill English built the first mouse based on Engelbart's sketches. The mouse tracked movement with two perpendicular wheels attached to analogue potentiometers, which converted motion into a change of resistance that controlled the cursor on the screen. The mouse made computing much faster. Users no longer needed to use their keyboards to navigate the screen.
Scottish inventors Professor Ian Donald and Dr John McVicar developed the first usable ultrasound machine. They adapted technology used to detect flaws in industrial metal during World War II. Hospitals first used their invention in the early 1960s when they realised the potential use of ultrasound in obstetrics. Sue Thorn, in "The Endicronologist," reports that within only a few years, ultrasound scanning became a regular part of prenatal care. It made pregnancy and childbirth much safer. Today's hospitals find many uses for ultrasound technology, especially in surgery and diagnostics.
Oral Contraceptive Pills
Experimental biologist Gregory Pincus developed the first oral contraceptive. The pill hit the market in 1960. It gave women more control over reproduction than they had ever had before. The first successful oral contraceptive was a combined hormonal treatment. The production of both oestrogen and progesterone increased when a woman used the pill. The hormonal increase mimicked the state of pregnancy, causing ovulation to cease.
Robert Dennard invented random access memory (RAM) in the late 1960s. It made home, office and mobile computing possible. His computer memory provided an internal storage system that allowed room for both programming and data storage. Today's computing still uses RAM, it is the standard for the industry. Before RAM, computers were huge and only technology developers in universities had them. Dennard's invention allowed the computer industry to build smaller computers that were more accessible to academics and non-academics alike.
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- Mac World: The Computer Mouse Turns 40, Benjamin Edwards, August 2008
- New Scotsman: Obituary John Shepherd-Barron, May 19, 2010
- MIT: Inventor of the Week Archive
- Scotland.org: The Development of Ultrasound
- The Endocrinologist: A Short History of Oral Contraception, Issue 80, Summer 2006, Sue Thorn
- Idea Finder: Inventor Robert Dennard