The Love Bug: ‘How a Baby Is Made’, 1971

How a Baby Is Made was the English language translation of Danish psychotherapist and “sexologist” Per Holm Knudsen’s children’s picture book Sådan får man et barn, published in Denmark in 1971. After winning the Danish Ministry of Culture’s children book prize in 1972, the rights were acquired in Britain where Piccolo Books, the children’s division of paperback publisher Pan, published it the following year…

“Unity, Precision, Thrust”: The NASA Graphics Standards Manual, 1975

n the mid-1970s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was in a period of transition. The final manned Apollo mission to the Moon, Apollo 17, had returned to Earth in December 1972; no further Moon landings were planned. NASA had recently kicked off their Skylab experiments in short-term orbital space station living (and détente-inspired collaboration with the Soviets), as well as announcing a reusable fleet of Space Shuttles…

“Spacy Spheres and Funky Shacks”: The Otherworlds of 1971’s ‘Domebook 2’

In the spring of 1971, it seemed everyone on the fringes of mainstream society in North America was trying to build geodesic domes: soaring gridwork domes made of plastic and steel, of wood, of concrete. Inspired by technocratic engineer-turned-counterculture guru and geodesic dome evangelist R. Buckminster Fuller, hundreds of back-to-the-land hippies sought to use his elementary architectural example…

“When Seconds Count”: Reader’s Digest’s ‘What to Do in an Emergency’, 1986

The world is a dangerous place, and nowhere is this more true—subjectively speaking—than in its safest, most fortunate corners. I’ve spoken before about how the postwar UK seemed sometimes to be living in a traumatized fugue state of danger and threat. Here, then, is the bible of that particular belief system: the Reader’s Digest’s 1986 What to Do in an Emergency

“Make Everything Skateable”: Natas Kaupas in ‘Wheels of Fire’, 1987

In 1985, right around the time one Marty McFly made a “board with wheels” out of a 1955 scooter to escape Biff and his goons, the skateboarding industry exploded. Up to then, the unruly and ruleless sport had been dominated by vert skating (pools, half-pipes) and, to a lesser extent, freestyle, where skaters did lots of technical, stationary tricks across a relatively small surface area…