Glenn's times of space flights

October 29, 1998|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Maybe you weren't around the last time John H. Glenn went into space. Maybe you're a Gen-Xer, an MTV kid, a disco baby. If so, you can be forgiven for not understanding the country's latest nostalgia jag. But let's all pause for a moment and consider those pre-Beatles days when manned space flight was a new and out-of-this-world phenomenon, filling the future with promise.

Glenns four-hour ride was sci-fi made real. Even life with the Jetsons seemed a possibility. All we needed was a little more time with those gargantuan Burroughs 6800 computers and Tomorrowland would be ours.

Now -- with the millennium racing up on us, and Y2K looming, and the scramble on to find the Zeitgeist that will define the fin de siecle feeling we're having -- now, Glenn is taking another ride.

His last one wasn't so long ago, 36 years actually, the blink of an eye when you consider the grand sweep of epochs and ages gone by. But in reality, February 1962 was an antediluvian era, a time before the flood of technology and civil rights. We still had one foot in a world of vacuum tubes, IBM punch cards and segregation. With the other, we were stepping into JFK's New rTC Frontier. And who in 1962 could say what lay ahead?

So, here, a snapshot of then, measured against now

U.S. population:

1962 -- 180 million

1998 -- 250 million

Minimum wage:

1962 -- $1.15 an hour

1998 -- $5.15 an hour

Nelson Mandela:

1962 -- political prisoner

1998 -- president of South Africa

Communication satellites:

1962 -- One (Telstar)

1998 -- Too many to count (Iridium system, one of many, has about 60)

TV in Baltimore:

1962 -- 3 channels

1998 -- 61 channels

Grammy Best Song Award:

1962 -- "I left my Heart in San Francisco" by Tonny Bennett

1998 -- "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin

A new car:

1962 -- Chrysler Newport, $2,964

1998 -- Chrysler Concorde, $19,595

Daily newspapers:

1962 -- 1,760

1998 -- 1,509

Electronics:

1962 -- console stereo with 4-speed changer, $199

1998 -- 3-disc CD shelf model, $199

Chicken:

1962 -- 29 cents a pound

1998 -- $1.40 a pound

World Series champs:

1962 -- New York Yankees

1998 -- New York Yankees

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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