In the Magazine Tech & Science

Newsweeks Past: The Challenge of Automation

Automation
Computer technology is seen in its early stages in 1960s America. Walter Nurnberg/Getty

In 1965, America found itself facing a new industrial revolution. The rapid evolution of computers provoked enormous excitement and considerable dread as captains of industry braced themselves for the age of automation.  

Newsweek devoted a special edition to discussing “the most controversial economic concept of the age” in January 1965. “Businessmen love it. Workers fear it. The government frets and investigates and wonders what to do about it,” the report began. “Automation is wiping out about 35,000 jobs every week or 1.8 million per year.”

For some interviewees, the computer age was “a big, cold thing”. But Newsweek’s reporter was more cheerful: “To some, automation is the tide of the future, carrying golden galleons laden with untold riches. It is a mechanized, transistorized cornucopia which may someday free mankind from drudgery, fill his cupboard with abundance, and pave new ways to self-fulfillment.”