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1959: Sex, Jazz, and Datsuns

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Censorship’s Wane

Barney Rosset, hell-raising proprietor of Grove Press, declared war on anti-obscenity laws by announcing on March 18 that he was publishing the uncensored text of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel, banned by the U.S. Post Office for its graphic sex scenes. Rosset’s battle seemed doomed. The Supreme Court had condemned as “obscene” any work whose “dominant theme … appeals to prurient interests.” But at the Manhattan trial, Rosset’s lawyer, Charles Rembar (also Norman Mailer’s cousin), put forth the creative argument that no work can be deemed obscene if it contains “ideas of even the slightest social importance.” U.S. District Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan found that reasoning persuasive, distribution restrictions were lifted, and the Grove edition of Lady Chatterley went on to sell 2 million copies, sating—and further unleashing— a pent-up hunger for once-forbidden fruit.


The Microchip

At the Institute of Radio Engineers’ March 24 trade show in the New York Coliseum, Texas Instruments introduced a new device that would change the world as profoundly as any invention of the century—the solid integrated circuit, a.k.a. the microchip. At a press conference, the inventor, Jack St. Clair Kilby, a self-described “tinkerer,” held up the match-head-size prototype while TI’s executives presciently boasted that it would revolutionize not only rockets, missiles, and satellites but also TVs, radios, telephones, and medical instruments.


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