1938

  • Adolf Hitler seized control of the German army, and invaded Austria and part of Czechoslovakia.
  • The first colour television was demonstrated in London by John Logie Baird.
  • Instant coffee was invented by Nestle.
  • The ballpoint pen was invented by Laszlo Biro.
  • Tupperware was invented by E S Tupper.
  • The game of Scrabble was invented by A M Butts.
  • Superman made his first appearance in D. C. Comics’ Action Comic Series Issue #1. It sold for 10 cents.
  • Bugs Bunny made his debut in the cartoon, Porky Hare’s Hunt.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length Technicolor cartoon film, was released by Walt Disney.
  • Japan declared war on China.
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1945

  • Adolf Hitler commited suicide, taking with him his bride of one day. Germany surrendered, thus ending the war in Europe.
  • The first atomic bombs were dropped by the US on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on 6 August, and Nagasaki on 9 August. Japan surrendered on 2 September. The Second World War ended.
  • The US occupied South Korea; the Soviet Union occupied North Korea.
  • Indonesia declared independence from Dutch rule on 17 August.
  • The United Nations was established on 24 October.
  • Microwave cooking was discovered by Percy Spencer when a chocolate bar in his pocket melted while he was experimenting with microwave radio signals.
  • The first plastic mannequin was introduced.
  • George Orwell wrote Animal Farm.
  • Paramount Pictures released a cartoon featuring Casper, the Friendly Ghost.
  • Singapore returned to British colonial rule after World War II.

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1958

  • The US launched three satellites and established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – a year after the Soviet Union launched two satellites, including one with a space dog, Laika.
  • In China, Mao Zedong began the ‘Great Leap Forward’.
  • The first heart pacemaker was installed by Dr Ake Senning in Stockholm.
  • A prototype silicon integrated circuit was built by John Kilby of Texas Instruments.
  • Barbie doll was patented by Ruth Handler, and marketed the following year.
  • Lego was introduced as a toy system by Godfred Christensen, who built upon ideas that his carpenter father, Ole Kirk Christensen, developed in 1949.
  • The Hula Hoop was ‘reinvented’ by Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin. Various types of hoops had existed since 3,000 BC in Egypt.
  • Instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando, who founded Nissin Co.
  • The first ‘Greatest Hits’ album, featuring the songs of Johnny Mathis, was introduced and it stayed on Billboard’s Top 100 chart for nine years.
  • Pop stars Michael Jackson and Madonna were born.


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1959

  • Singapore was ‘born’ the year after me. It gained self-government from British colonial rule and introduced the state flag, state crest and national anthem.
  • In the country’s first general elections, the People’s Action Party (PAP) swept 43 of the 51 seats in Parliament. Lee Kuan Yew became the Prime Minister, and retained the post until he stepped down in 1990 to become Senior Minister and, in 2004, Minister Mentor. The PAP remains in power today.


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1962

  • The Beatles released their first album. So did the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Barbara Streisand.
  • Actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead, apparently from suicide.
  • The Profumo sex scandal arose, and eventually led to the downfall of the British Conservative government in 1963.
  • Thalidomide, a morning sickness drug, caused thousands of birth defects.
  • Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, highlighting the harm of pesticides.
  • Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II, which modernised the Catholic Church.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted from 16 to 29 October.
  • Esalen, a centre of the human potential movement, was founded in California.
  • Singaporeans voted overwhelmingly to merge with Malaya and form Malaysia. People in Sarawak and North Borneo voted likewise.
  • Four-letter words first went public in the play, Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Marvel Comics introduced The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spiderman.

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1963

  • US civil rights leader Martin Luther King made his famous speech: “I have a dream…”
  • US President John F Kennedy was assassinated. In Vietnam, Buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest against the government. Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated.
  • Ronald McDonald replaced a little hamburger man called Speedee as McDonald’s mascot. Ray Kroc, CEO of McDonald’s, served the 1,000,000,000th hamburger.
  • Robbers in the Great Train Robbery in Britain made off with ₤7.2 million.
  • The first discotheque, Whisky-a-go-go, opened in Los Angeles.
  • Touch-tone telephones were introduced.
  • Malaysia was formed by Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) on 16 September. Indonesia declared a Konfrontasi (confrontation) with Malaysia.
  • In Singapore, television began transmission, while industralisation began with the setting up of National Iron and Steel Mills. A severe drought led to prolonged water rationing, prompting Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to launch a Tree Planting Campaign in the hope that more trees would attract higher rainfall. The campaign sowed the seeds of a Garden City.
  • Smiley was created by Harvey Ball, who was paid $45 for the artwork.


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1964

  • Singers Sonny and Cher wed. Cher wore bell bottoms and popularised the fashion.
  • Scientists established a link between smoking and cancer.
  • Japan began the Shinkansen Bullet Train service.
  • The Palestine Liberation Organisation was founded, with Yasser Arafat as its leader.
  • China detonated its first atomic bomb.
  • Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. Clay became a Black Muslim, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and, in 1965, retained his title with a first round knock-out victory over Liston.
  • The first BASIC program ran on a computer.
  • Roald Dahl published Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • Simon and Garfunkel made their debut with Wednesday Morning, 3am.
  • The Bose loudspeaker company was founded by Dr Amar Bose.
  • In Singapore, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was formed. Seventeen bombs planted by Indonesian guerrillas exploded. Communal riots broke out between the Chinese and Malays.


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1965

  • The US stepped up its involvement in the Vietnam war with ground combat troops.
  • Miniskirts and hot pants became the hot fashion. Both were attributed to British designer Mary Quant, who was inspired by the Mini Cooper car.
  • Gordon Moore, who later co-founded Intel, wrote in Electronics magazine that chips seemed to double in power every 18 months. This became Moore’s Law.
  • Lotfi Zadeh of California’s Berkeley University introduced Fuzzy Logic.
  • The People’s Republic of China was refused admission into the United Nations.
  • Indonesia became the first country to withdraw from the UN, in protest against Malaysia being on the Security Council.
  • Ferdinand Marcos became President of the Philippines.
  • In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew cried on national TV as he announced the country’s separation from Malaysia and declared independence on 9 August.
  • Nat King Cole, who popularised songs like Unforgetable and Mona Lisa, died.
  • The movie version of The Sound of Music premiered, starring Julie Andrews.
  • Louis Armstrong sang Hello Dolly.
  • Frank Sinatra won a Grammy for It Was a Very Good Year.


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1966

  • John Lennon caused a furore with his controversial and misunderstood quote, that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”.
  • LSD, the psychedelic drug, was made illegal.
  • A tortoise, supposedly given to the King of Tonga by Captain Cook in 1773, died.
  • Indira Gandhi became India’s first woman Prime Minister.
  • Army generals in Indonesia pointed guns to President Sukarno’s head and forced him to step down. Suharto became President. Indonesia ended its confrontation with Malaysia and rejoined the United Nations.
  • Catholic archbishops in the US did away with the rule against eating meat on Fridays.
  • The US tested biological weapons, but this was not revealed until 1981.
  • The US government established safety standards for motor vehicles that included safety belts, warning flashers and head restraints.
  • Pam Am placed a US$525 million order for 25 Boeing 747 Jumbo jets. A revolution in air travel was about to begin.
  • The Cultural Revolution began in a frenzy in China.


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1967

  • The first heart transplant was performed in South Africa by Dr Christian Barnard.
  • Israel fought the Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
  • Henry Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, died of cancer at age 61.
  • Rolling Stone magazine made its debut with 40,000 copies.
  • Jim Thomson, an American who revived the Thai silk industry after World War II, disappeared while hiking in the jungles of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
  • Rocky Marciano retired as undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion with a record 49 wins, 43 by knockouts.
  • Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing title and sentenced to five years imprisonment for draft evasion.
  • Following Independence, Singapore began drafting its first batch of army recruits and also issued its own currency.
  • Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was formed by Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • Hippies made it to the cover of Time Magazine. In a San Francisco neighbourhood, some 75,000 hippies gathered for a ‘Summer of Love’.


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1968

  • Vietnam peace talks began in Paris in May. Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia.
  • US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated.
  • Valerie Solanas, founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) shot pop artist Andy Warhol. Warhol survived; Solanas was judged insane.
  • In the Mexico Olympics, US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a black power salute on the winners’ podium, and were suspended by The US Olympic Committee.
  • The first computer mouse was demonstrated.
  • The Big Mac was created by a McDonalds franchisee, and sold for 49 cents.
  • Stewart Brand published the first Whole Earth Catalog.
  • Singapore held its first general election and the PAP won all 58 seats.
  • The British announced it would withdraw its troops from Singapore by 1971.
  • The Keep Singapore Clean campaign was launched, with a $500 fine for littering.
  • Scientists crossed the Pacific oyster with the Kumamoto oyster and got the worst traits of both.
  • The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly reached #2 on the pop singles chart.


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1969

  • Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
  • The first e-mail was sent over APRANET, a computer network set up by the US Department of Defense.
  • The Woodstock Music Festival opened, attended by some 400,000 people.
  • A clash between gays and the police at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, launched the homosexual rights movement.
  • Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying and the book helped launch the hospice movement.
  • Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather.
  • Seiko marketed the first quartz watch.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG), was said to cause ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’.
  • The May 13 racial riots in Malaysia spilled over to Singapore.
  • Big floods submerged large parts of Singapore in knee-deep water.
  • The Hague Summit was held to establish the goal of the European Monetary Union.


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1970

  • Intel created the first microprocessor.
  • GM redesigned automobiles to run on unleaded fuel.
  • The first Earth Day was celebrated on 22 April.
  • South Africa was excluded from the Olympic Games because of its Apartheid policy.
  • The United Nations admitted China (People’s Republic of China) and expelled Taiwan (Republic of China).
  • Cambodia' s Prince Sihanouk was overthrown and fled to China. Civil war ensued.
  • Linus Pauling declared that large doses of Vitamin C could ward off colds.
  • AT&T introduced customer dialing of international long distance calls, or IDD.
  • In Singapore, the ‘Two is Enough’ birth-control campaign was launched.
  • Fire crackers caused a fire that killed six people and injured 68. A partial ban on fire crackers was imposed and this was extended to a total ban in 1972.
  • Agatha Christie's Mousetrap was performed a record 7,511th time.
  • Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock.


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1971

  • After 1,200 years, Britain switched to the decimal pound.
  • The US suspended the conversion of dollars to gold.
  • The term ‘workaholic’ was coined by Wayne Oates, who wrote Confessions of a Workaholic.
  • Greenpeace was founded.
  • Starbucks opened its first shop in Seattle.
  • The first cellular phone was tested.
  • The laser printer was introduced.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway.
  • Singapore’s first President, Yusof bin Ishak, died and was succeeded by Benjamin Henry Sheares.
  • John Lennon released Imagine.
  • US theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, died. He was best known for his Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.


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1972

  • Pocket calculators, compact discs and Nike shoes were introduced.
  • Richard Nixon became the first US President to visit China and the Soviet Union. The Watergate scandal surfaced and eventually led to Nixon’s downfall.
  • A hostage crisis at the Munich Olympics Games claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes and five Arab abductors.
  • China’s Yellow River dried up for the first time before reaching the sea.
  • China told the UK that it wanted Hong Kong back.
  • East-Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh.
  • Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to win the international chess crown.
  • The Merlion, a creature with the head of a lion and body of a fish, was installed at the mouth of the Singapore River as the country’s tourism symbol.
  • Singapore banned Jehovah’s Witnesses because their male members refused to perform compulsory military service.
  • Dr Robert Atkins advocated a low-carbohydrate diet in Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution.
  • Alex Comfort published Joy of Sex and sold 12 million copies worldwide.


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1973

  • The World Trade Centre in New York was opened as the tallest building in the world.
  • The Sydney Opera House was completed at 14 times the original budget.
  • The Vietnam War ended. Half a million American soldiers, one million Vietnamese fighters and two million civilians were killed in the war.
  • Crude oil prices quadrupled, causing a worldwide economic shock. Wall Street collapsed and Warren Buffet took the opportunity to buy stocks at attractive prices.
  • Bruce Lee died at 32, three weeks before the opening of Enter the Dragon. John Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, died. Artist Pablo Picasso and cellist Pablo Casals died.
  • Spencer Silver of 3M Corp invented Post-It.
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak visited post-independent Singapore.
  • Singapore and China resumed contact for the first time since 1949.
  • Christian evangelist Bill Graham produced a rock festival that drew 650,000 people.
  • Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, which spent a record 591 weeks on the Billboard charts.
  • The Exorcist premiered with an X-rating.


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1974

  • Richard Nixon resigned as US President, after he admitted that he ordered a cover-up of the Watergate break-in. Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the journalists who exposed the Wartergate scandal, wrote All the President’s Men.
  • Juan D. Peron, President of Argentina, died. His third wife, Isabel, succeeded him.
  • Oskar Schindler, a Czech-born German businessman who saved about 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, died in Frankfurt. At his request, he was buried in Jerusalem.
  • Rubik’s Cube was created by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture. Some 250 million Rubik Cubes and imitations have since been sold.
  • Hello Kitty was created by Yuko Shimizu, a designer with Sanrio. She set 1 November as Hello Kitty’s birthday.
  • Scientists warned that aerosol sprays would cause ozone depletion, and lead to global weather changes and higher rates of skin cancer.
  • Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected in Toronto, Canada.
  • In Singapore, cable cars linking Mount Faber and Sentosa began their service.
  • Temasek Holdings was formed. Today, it employs over 170,000 people and controls a fifth of the Singapore Stock market.


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1975

  • Saigon fell to Vietnamese communists. The first group of Vietnamese boat people began arriving in Malaysia.
  • The Khmer Rouge began its brutal regime in Cambodia.
  • Archaeologists in Xian, China, unearthed more than 8,000 life-size terracotta figures created around 210 BC for Emperor Qin Shi.
  • Charlie Chaplin, silent movie comedian, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky and insisted on playing the lead role when he sold the script. Five Rocky films were made.
  • Zakir Hussain, tabla virtuoso, co-founded the band Shakti with John McLaughlin.
  • The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi popularised meditation.
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft.
  • Motorists in Singapore began having to display special paid licences to enter the Central Business District during peak hours.


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1976

  • The Viking robot spacecraft made a successful, first-ever landing on Mars.
  • Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese Communist Party, died. His closest colleague Zhou Enlai had died before him.
  • China’s biggest earthquake killed at least 240,000 people, but the unofficial death toll was estimated at 750,000.
  • Alex Haley published Roots, which later won a Pulitzer Prize.
  • In France, two California wines won a tasting event over several French classics.
  • Singapore started to clean up the Singapore River.
  • The Eagles recorded Hotel California. Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, which achieved multi-platinum status.
  • Agatha Christie, queen of crime fiction, died.


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2004

  • On 26 December, a massive undersea earthquake off North Sumatra gave rise to a tsunami that devastated coastal regions around the Indian Ocean, killed about 300,000 people and left millions homeless.
  • Lee Hsien Loong became the Prime Minister of Singapore, Abdullah Badawi the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian President.
    Ten Eastern European nations joined the European Union.
    Spain’s city of Barcelona condemned bull fighting.
  • Google, the Internet search engine, offered its shares at US$85 a piece.
  • A 1905 painting by Pablo Picasso, Garcon a la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe) sold for a record US$104 million.
  • Died: Kiharu Nakamura, who wrote The Memoir of a Tokyo-born Geisha; Bob Keeshan, who hosted Captain Kangaroo, a children’s TV show that ran from 1955 to 1991; Alistair Cooke, who hosted Letter from America over BBC Radio from 1946 to 2004; Estee Lauder, cosmetics pioneer; Ronald Reagan, former US President; Henri Cartier-Bresson, French photographer famous for ‘the decisive moment’; Christopher Reeve, Superman actor; Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
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Conceived: This book – BreakThrough - about my growing up years…


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