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High tech, 1960s-style: 50 years ago--and thousands of technologies ago--the R&D 100 awards honored the first recipients.


The Beatles, Woodstock, Vietnam War protests, and the race to the moon may have been quintessential events of the 1960s. However, early in the decade, the editors of Industrial Research, the predecessor to R&D Magazine, recognized technology trends by identifying the most significant products of 1963, launching what would be called the "Oscars of innovation"--the R&D 100 Awards.

The editors and editorial advisory board reviewed more than 10,000 products that were developed, announced, or marketed during 1963. Selections were based on importance, uniqueness, and usefulness to research scientists and engineers.

"... very few products of this (or any) one year constitute breakthroughs to be ranked with the first color film, the first transistor, or the first laser," the editors wrote. "New product development today is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and writers or product publicity who shout 'breakthrough' every time the paint is changed on Old Model X are finding a disinterested audience in the research community."

On that note, some things never change. In each ensuing year, the R&D 100 judging committee has sorted through thousands of new products, and selected the 100 most significant of each year. Some were game-changers. However, most illustrate the evolutionary progress of science and technology.

A searchable list of all winning technologies, from 1963 to 2011 can be found at

The first decade, by the numbers

From 1963 through 1969, almost 340 different companies, universities, government research laboratories, and nonprofit research organizations were awarded IR/R&D 100 Awards, as primary developers or co-developers. Industry dominated the awards (Figure 1) in the 1960s.


General Electric topped the list of winners; its various divisions tallied 54 wins. Westinghouse Electric and RCA received 31 and 30 awards respectively. Union Carbide (22) and Varian Associates (21) rounded out the top five spots. Table 1 lists all companies tallying five or more wins in the time period.


The types of winning technologies illustrated the trends of the times. Analytical instruments and materials were leading categories in the first decade. Consumer, communication, and environmental technologies had yet to make a mark.

--R&D Editors

Notable technologies:


Self-lubricating materials, Westinghouse Materials Manufacturing Division Instant color process film, Polaroid


Computer with air-powered fluid logic components, Sperry Rand Univac Division Portable fluorescent X-ray instrument, Argonne National Laboratory


Mossbauer effect spectrometer, Nuclear Science & Engineering Flashcube, Sylvania Electric Products


Inorganic liquid laser, General Telephone & Electronics Laboratories Automatic map tracer, Bendix


Insect biometer, IIT Research Institute Life Sciences Division Ink-Jet printer, Recognition Equipment


Online data processing for analytical chemical instrumentation, Varian Associates Color copier, 3M


Wheel deceleration sensor and compensating system, Kelsey-Hayes Electronic video recording system, Columbia Broadcasting System
Table 1. IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by
Organization (1963 to 1969)

Organization                         Wins
                               (All divisions or
                                business units)

General Electric                      54
Westinghouse Electric                 31
RCA                                   30
Union Carbide                         22
Varian Associates                     21
Bendix                                16
Honeywell                             14
Hewlett-Packard                       13
Beckman Instruments                   10
Perkin-Elmer                          10
Carborundum                            8
Dow Chemical                           7
General Telephone &                    7
 Electronics Laboratories
Eastman Kodak                          6
IIT Research Institute                 6
Lockheed Missiles &                    6
Sperry Rand                            6
Sylvania Electric Products             6
Argonne National                       5
Bausch & Lomb                          5
Bell Telephone                         5
Boeing                                 5
Control Data                           5
FMC                                    5
General Precision                      5
IBM                                    5
NASA                                   5
Pittsburgh Plate Glass                 5
Semi-Elements                          5
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Title Annotation:2012 R&D 100: 50th ANNIVERSARY
Publication:R & D
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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