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"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge

Selektrogel  
  An over-the-counter gel to choose the sex of a child at conception.  

For the Age of Woman had indeed followed almost directly upon the Age of Power, though nobody had accurately foreseen it at the time. The relevant technique was called sperm electrophoresis, a ridiculously simple trick to perform in glassware - and the pharmaceutical manufacturers had quickly come up with a medium, an anion or cation exchange gel, which made it equally easy to perform in situ. Its purpose was sex determination of the child at conception.

By hindsight ... it ought to have been realized that the first several generations to have the trick made available to them would respond by "starting with a boy." That preference had already existed, and indeed was so primitive that it might possibly be instinctual. The result,in any event, was the world of today, heavily overburdened with males, most of them useless - at least in the sense that neither the economy nor the society could find places for most of them. Being a man, Jom was inclined to think that the real death blow had been struck by the release of Selektrojel to the populace as an over-the-counteror non-prescription item. Possibly if its use bad been restricted to couples psychiatrically certified to need a baby of a given sex -- like, say, a couple to whom unaided nature had given only a string of five daughters, or, no, better make it nine ... But that would not have worked either. The demand for the stuff had been far too great. Like alcohol, the trade in it could be regulated more or less effectively but it could never be restricted in any meaningful sense.

From And All The Stars A Stage, by James Blish.
Published by Unknown in 1971
Additional resources -

Thanks to Winchell Chung for suggesting this item, and supplying a quote.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from And All The Stars A Stage
  More Ideas and Technology by James Blish
  Tech news articles related to And All The Stars A Stage
  Tech news articles related to works by James Blish

Selektrogel-related news articles:
  - IVF Parents Pick Sex, Alter Balance Of Nature

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