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Keeping a Long Term Focus

When Saturday Night Live started on TV in 1975 the cast members were collectively known as “The William ThomasNot-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players.” The idea was that they were on late at night on Saturdays because their material was not suitable for the family audiences who tune in from 8pm-11pm (“prime time”) for their television fix. But since then, the show has had a few TV specials that aired during prime time. Perhaps they were not ready for prime time at first, but prime time caught up with them. Sometimes, you have to take a chance on something that does not seem right for the conditions, and then wait for the conditions to change and catch up with you.

American research and innovation in the 1950s and 1960s had a long-term vision underlying them. The shock of the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik and the race to get to the moon spurred scientists and other innovators to pursue projects that would take many years to come to fruition. The products of defense and space research often did not affect lives for years or even decades, but the basic research continued nonetheless.

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