1968 Retrospect: Credit Cards

According to the 1968 The World Book Year Book, “Bank Credit Card programs, despite a faltering start 10 years earlier, were flourishing in 1968.” Several new card programs joined the great credit race in 1968–most notably the Interbank Card group (later to become MasterCard). These new cards were introduced to compete with the successful Bank Americard (later to become Visa). In 1970, MasterCard was the industry leader. They remained in this position for about a decade until Visa’s innovative and aggressive marketing finally earned it the industry’s top spot.

In 1968, US credit card debt totalled $8 billion (in current dollars). As of January 2008, that total had ballooned to  $947 billion. For perspective, that is $8,094 per household. There’s nothing more American than crushing debt, right? Well, gotta run. I’m just about up to the pay window at McDonalds and I need to find my Visa card.

1968 Retrospect: Professional Basketball

A new professional basketball league, the American Basketball Association (ABA), started up in 1968. It saw only limited success and all teams lost money in the first year. The league lasted only 8 years before merging with the NBA in 1976.

In the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain was the Player of the Year for the 3rd consecutive year. In the 1967-68 season, Chamberlain became the all-time leading career scorer at the time with 25,434 points. In July, Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for 3 players and cash.

The St. Louis Hawks won the Western Division and the Philadelphia 76ers won the Eastern Division. However, neither team made it to the finals. In the end, it was the Boston Celtics going up against the Los Angeles Lakers. With the scoring of John Havlicek and the defensive skills of player-coach Bill Russell, the Celtics beat the Laker 4 games to 2 to win their 9th championship in 10 years.

The NBA also added two new teams for the 1968-69 season: The Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. They each paid a franchise fee of $2 million. Contrast this with the $300 million franchise fee that the Charlotte Bobcats paid 3 years ago.

1968 Retrospect: New Words

The English language is always evolving. New words are added and others slowly fade away. In 1968, The World Book choose words to be added to the 1969 edition of its dictionary. These words were no doubt in use for several years prior to 1968, but they finally gained common enough acceptance to finally be recognized.

It’s quite a long list, but I have pared it down to the more interesting ones. Below are some that you will certainly recognize, then some that never quite caught on.

Here are some words that you will certainly recognize:

  • arm twister
  • ax grinder
  • beefcake
  • brain-picking
  • character assassination
  • day-tripper
  • diploma mill
  • fertility drug
  • guinea-pig
  • handgun
  • hippie
  • in-joke (now inside joke of course)
  • instant replay
  • meat-and-potatoes
  • Medicaid
  • plain-Jane
  • R and R
  • speed reading
  • trendsetter
  • tween
  • zap

Here are some that apparently didn’t catch on after all. (Warning: a few of these are racial insensitive and rightly no longer used. They are only here as a historical study.)

  • Bob’s your uncle – you know the rest; that’s all there is to it
  • breen – a brown-tinted green color
  • Chinese homer – a home run made on a hit that travels only a short distance
  • daymare – an experience that is like a bad dream
  • GUM – state-operated department store in the Soviet Union
  • nebbish – a drab, clumsly, inconsequential person
  • nudnik – a tiresome, annoying person
  • rice Christian – an Asian or African native who converts to Christianity soley to receive food provided by missionaries
  • roadeo – a contest or exhibition of skill in driving automobiles, trucks, etc.
  • slanguage – slangy language
  • squaw winter – a brief period of prematurely cold weather in early autumn
  • telephonitis – an excessive or abnormal urge to make telephone calls

1968 Retrospect: Gun Control

The recent tragic shootings will no doubt once again raise the debate on gun control. It is interesting to note that there was very little gun control in the United States prior to 1968.

However, let’s take a look at the nationwide gun control legislation prior to 1968:

  • 1927: The first nationwide gun control law passed, banning the mailing of handguns.
  • 1934: Fully automated firearms are heavily regulated, owners are required register, and heavy transfer taxes are imposed.
  • 1938: The first broad legislation impacting all guns. Guns dealers were required to be federally licensed and keep records of who purchased guns. Violent felons were prohibited from owning firearms.

Then on October 22nd, 1968 the strongest gun control legislation in US history was passed. The Gun Control Act of 1968 included the following provisions:

  • The mail-order sale of all firearms was prohibited except between licensed manufacturers, dealers, and collectors.
  • The importation of non-sporting (i.e. military grade) weaponry is prohibited.
  • Firearms sales are prohibited to those who are convicted of any non-business felony, are mentally incompetent, or use drugs.
  • Sales of handguns were prohibited to those under 21, and other guns were prohibited to those under 18.

Imagine that: Just 40 years ago, your 15-year-old son could go out and buy a handgun!

1968 Retrospect: Dentistry

According to the 1968 Year Book by The World Book, “A leading dental research scientist predicted in 1968 that tooth decay may be preventable in less than 10 years. Dr. Seymour J. Kreshover, director of the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) in Bethesda, MD, made the prediction on the basis of successful work done at the institute in pinpointing the organism of decay.”

Well, this prediction was way off. There have certainly been improvements in dental health, but I don’t think we can say that we are anywhere near preventing tooth decay.

In 2002, clinical trials began on a genetically modified mouthwash that should stop tooth decay. The mouthwash is squirted onto the teeth in a 5-minute process. The treatment is expected to last for a “considerable time.” The most recent information I could find indicates that the trials are moving along very cautiously because of FDA concerns. You see, this treatment permanently replaces the bacteria in the mouth that causes cavities with another bacteria. Yeah, I think it’s a good idea to proceed cautiously when you are talking about permanently altering your body’s chemistry!

1968 Retrospect: Fashion

According to The World Book 1968 Year Book, “Fashion was stripped of its dictatorial powers in 1968 by a revolutionary assertion of individuality.” After seeing some of the associated pictures, I’m thinking that the “dictatorial powers” should have been quickly reasserted.

1968woman.jpg

Okay, this isn’t actually all that bad, but what are these four ladies doing? Whatever it is, I think it is illegal in about 17 states.

1968man.jpg

I’m not typically in favor of the federal government telling us what to do. However, I believe that I could stand behind a federal law banning a guy from dressing like this. At the very least, he should have his Man Club membership revoked.

1968 Retrospect: Recorded Music Formats

In 1968, recorded music sales hit $2 billion worldwide, with about half of that being in the United States. Of the sales, 60% went to LP albums, 30% to single disks (45s), and 10% to tapes (including 4-track, 8-track, and cassette).

1968 was a turning point for the cassette format. It was the first year that cassette player sales surged past 4-track and 8-track equipment sales. Further, cassettes player sales were set to move past record players within five years.

 

A new format was introduced in 1968 that you may have never heard of: The Pocket Disc. It was introduced toward the end of the year as a truly portable format. It was 4 inches in diameter and sold for 49 cents. The idea was that you could put it in your pocket and take it with you to play at a friend’s house. It would play on a standard turntable (so long as it wasn’t one of the automatic ones) or you could purchase a smaller version of the turntable to play these discs. They even sold the discs in vending machines. However, this was a short-lived fad–passing into oblivion after only a couple of years.

Because of the short life of this format, I have not been able to find a lot of other information. The discs are extremely rare and go for hundreds of dollars now.