IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Echoes from the Summer of Love

1967 was also when the world got its first handheld calculator, a breakthrough in the technological revolution. It also saw some more familiar things: a GOP in turmoil, war in the Mideast and controversy in baseball. Some things just don't change...
The first handheld calculator, Texas Instruments’ Cal Tech, made its debut as the Summer of Love was just beginning.
The first handheld calculator, Texas Instruments’ Cal Tech, made its debut as the Summer of Love was just

It was all California, simultaneously hot and cool. It was big because it was small. It was the highest of high-tech and the lowest of low-profile.

And the tech set looked at it and slavered.

It was not 2007, and it was not the iPhone.

It was 1967, and it was the Cal Tech.

It was the world’s first handheld calculator. And it gave birth to the nerd, the geek — the love child of the Summer of Love.

Gentlemen, start your fingers
When Texas Instruments debuted the Cal Tech on March 29, 1967, it immediately democratized technology. Computers were no longer the monopoly of the buzz-cut white guys in skinny black ties and shortsleeve dress shirts walking around NASA. And some day, you, too, would have your own blipping, flipping communicator, thanks to the integrated circuit, the bedrock component of the modern computer, cell phone and TV.

The Cal Tech proved that personal, mobile technology wasn’t just a fantasy dreamed up by the prop masters on “Star Trek.” Today, about two centuries ahead of the “Star Trek” schedule, the cell phone already “exceeds the imagination of ‘Star Trek,’ ” said Capt. Kirk himself — William Shatner — marveling aloud at a technology conference in Canada this year.

Heck, Kirk’s communicator didn’t even have video.

Tragedy on the launch pad
That technological race to the future, though, looked in considerable doubt just two months earlier, when the Apollo space program suffered a tragic birth.

The AS/204 rocket due to have taken Col. Virgil Grissom, Col. Edward White and Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chaffee on a two-week mission orbiting the Earth — as the first step toward the “one giant leap for mankind” — was destroyed by fire during a training simulation on Jan. 27, 1967.

All three astronauts were killed in the accident, and AS/204 was renamed Apollo 1 in their honor. (Two more planned launches later in the year were scrubbed, and that’s why the launch series skips from Apollo 1 to Apollo 4.)

The Apollo 1 capsule has never been displayed to the public. According to NASA, it remains in an environmentally controlled warehouse at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Summer of Love or Summer of ’07?
Does this look familiar? The Republicans are looking for a way to seize the presidential nomination against the backdrop of an intensely unpopular war. They have the old hawk who lost seven years ago, but he has to deal with a newcomer named Romney and the prospect that disenchanted conservatives will have a folksy actor to rally behind.

The wars? Vietnam and Iraq, of course. The old hawks? Former Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John McCain. The newcomers named Romney? George and son Mitt. The folksy actors? Ronald Reagan and Fred Thompson.

Not so much love
While hippies celebrated Free Love, music and drugs on the West Coast, the summer of 1967 also marked the peak of the civil disorder that characterized the second half of the decade. During the Summer of Love, 164 incidents were reported in 128 cities, according to figures compiled by Max Herman, a professor at Rutgers University-Newark who is a leading scholar of the urban unrest of the civil rights era.

The worst disturbances came in a period of just two weeks in July. From July 14 to 17, 23 people died and more than $10 million of property was damaged in Newark, N.J. Beginning July 23 and running for five more days, 43 people died and $22 million of property was damaged in Detroit.

Both riots were sparked by police activity in predominantly black neighborhoods, but Herman says the underlying causes were more complex, encompassing police brutality, poverty and opposition to the Vietnam War.

Summer of Love or Summer of ’07?
Chevrolet plans to take the market by storm with its new Camaro, described as “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”

Answer: Summer of Love and Summer of ’07.

The Camaro was introduced in 1967 as a direct response to Ford’s galloping Mustang. It was redesigned for 1968, so the inaugural line of Camaros was the only one to sport side vent windows. Enthusiasm petered out, and the last Camaro rolled off the line in 2002.

But Camaro devotees are a fanatic bunch, and after five years of lobbying by bereft hotrodders, Chevy announced this year that the Camaro will once again hit the streets by 2009.

Not so much love
If there was any doubt that Israel had built a mighty military machine, the so-called Six-Day War erased it.

In the late spring of 1967, Egypt expelled U.N. forces from the Sinai Peninsula, blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea and called for unified Arab action against Israel. Israel responded in June, carrying out an attack on the Egyptian air force. That drew Egypt’s Arab allies into the fighting, but not for long.

Israel overwhelmed the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which agreed to a cease-fire. After just six days, Israel had taken over eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Golan Heights. Disputed but official tallies put the Arab forces’ losses at more than 21,000 dead and 6,000 taken prisoner; Israel lost only 779 dead and 15 prisoners.

Summer of Love or Summer of ’07?
Alarmed by historic batting statistics, Major league Baseball undertakes an investigation and concludes that something is seriously wrong with the game. Rules changes are planned to get things back in whack.

Answer: Summer of Love and Summer of ’07.

The steroids scandal continues to have ramifications as Barry Bonds trails suspicions along with him on his way to the career home run record. But baseball was going through another upheaval 40 years ago, one that would eventually lead to a revolution in hitting.

By 1967, pitchers had added the slider to the venerable fastball-curveball-changeup repertoire, and hitters were being overmatched. Only eight players hit more than 30 home runs that season, while more than 25 pitchers recorded earned-run averages below 3.00.

Owners looked into the decline of hitting after the 1967 season but chose to do nothing; it was not until the next year, when Carl Yastrzemski led the American League with an anemic .301 batting average, that they finally lowered the pitcher’s mound to level the playing field. That touched off a hitting explosion that has continued to this day.

Not so much love
The Academy Awards took on a decided social-consciousness tone in 1967 as frustration over racial inequality bubbled over into the streets.

“In the Heat of the Night,” in which Sidney Poitier’s Northern, African-American detective gradually wins the respect of a racist Mississippi police chief, won Best Picture (Rod Steiger, as the small-town cop, won Best Actor), while Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress for her role in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner," in which a white woman’s black fiancé (Poitier, again) gradually wins the respect of her old-fashioned father.

Paul Newman braved cholesterol poisoning in “Cool Hand Luke.” And “The Graduate” permanently imprinted Anne Bancroft’s legs, Simon & Garfunkel’s music and the word “plastics” in the American mind.

But perhaps the most important movie of that year (and of many years) was “The Battle of Algiers,” a documentary-style black-and-white film about the Algerian war for independence in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Guerrilla movements as diverse as the Black Panthers, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization all used the film as inspiration and propaganda. It is still considered a chillingly realistic depiction of guerrilla warfare — so much so, The Washington Post reported in 2003, that the U.S. Defense Department screened “The Battle of Algiers” for Pentagon planners to illustrate the obstacles U.S. forces would face in Iraq.

Summer of Love or Summer of ’07?
Fashion designers incorporate the hottest youth look into their new designs, and soon everyone is strolling around in tie-die T-shirts, Mao jackets and flowing kaftans.

Answer: Actually, that was just the Summer of Love. Would you be caught dead in tie-dye?

And we come full circle
“The Beat Goes On,” Sonny & Cher proclaimed in one of 1967’s biggest hits. The beat does go on.

On Sept. 2, a 40th-anniversary concert in Golden Gate Park will commemorate the Summer of Love. Among those scheduled to relive the Be-In of 1967 are Country Joe (of “and the Fish”), Canned Heat and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

It will, of course, be Webcast. You can listen in on any number of handheld devices just about the same size as that first TI Cal Tech calculator.