Today in Tech History

Today in Tech History – Oct. 21, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1879 – Thomas Edison finished up 14 months of testing with an incandescent electric light bulb that lasted 13½ hours. It improved on 50-year-old technology to make light bulbs safe and economical by using lower electricity, a carbon filament and an improved vacuum.

In 1949 – An Wang filed a patent for a magnetic ferrite core memory, that he called pulse transfer controlling devices. Two years later he formed Wang computers.

In 1983 – The seventeenth General Conference on Weights and Measures ruled the meter would be defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second. This actually simplified it from the previous definition of 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red emission line in the electromagnetic spectrum of the krypton-86 atom in a vacuum.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 20, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1975 – Atari filed for a patent on the sit-down “cockpit” arcade cabinet, literally putting you inside the game. The game Hi-Way with the slogan “Hi Way — All It Needs Is Wheels”, was the first Atari game to use the cabinet. It was a first-person driver in which you had to dodge cars and– well– drive.

In 1984 – The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in Monterey, California. It not only provided a world-class place to learn about sea life, but inspired millions of screensavers and wallpaper images.

In 2004 – Mark Shuttleworth sent out an email to Ubuntu developers announcing the first official release of the Linux-based operating system, Warty Warthog. Every six months since, a new version of Ubuntu comes out with a new alliterative animal-inspired name.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 19, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1832 – Samuel Morse first conceived of the electric telegraph system. At least he said later this was the day he first thought of it.

In 1941 – The Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine first fed AC power to the electric grid on Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton, Vermont, becoming the first wind machine to do so. The 1.25 MW turbine operated for 1100 hours before a blade failed.

In 1973 – The Atanasoff-Berry Computer finally got its due. US Federal Judge Earl R. Larson signed his decision that the ENIAC patent was invalid and named Atanasoff the inventor of the electronic digital computer. But ENIAC still incorrectly gets the credit from many to this day.

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Subscribe to the podcast. Like Tech History? Get Tom Merritt’s Chronology of Tech History at Merritt’s Books site.

Today in Tech History – Oct. 18, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1922 – Six telecom companies joined to found the British Broadcasting Company in order to provide radio broadcasts in Britain. The private company was later replaced by the non-commercial British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927.

In 1954 – Texas Instruments announced the Regency TR-1, the first transistor radio, produced jointly with the Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates in Indianapolis. TI executive Vice President Pat Haggerty hoped the product would show what transistors could do and spur demand.

In 1985 – Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System aka the NES at FAO Schwarz in New York. A little game called Super Mario Brothers was introduced on the same day. The NES was the North American version of the Famicom sold in Japan. It was test-marketed in New York and eventually conquered the continent, becoming an 8-bit classic.

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Subscribe to the podcast. Like Tech History? Get Tom Merritt’s Chronology of Tech History at Merritt’s Books site.

Today in Tech History – Oct. 17, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1888 – Thomas Edison filed a patent for something called an optical phonograph. Despite the conflicting name, it was a film camera with images 1/32nd of an inch wide. He said it would “do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.”

In 1907 – Guglielmo Marconi’s company began the first wireless commercial radio service, and Canada got some tech first. Glace Bay, Nova Scotia was able to transmit to Clifden, Ireland. The service was used for trans-atlantic telegraph service.

In 1990 – Col Needham posted a software package to rec.arts.movies which he called at the time “rec.arts.movies movie database.” It made the lists of movies on the newsgroup searchable. It would move to the web in 1992 and became known as IMDB, the Internet Movie Database.

In 2013 – Microsoft released Windows 8.1, a free update to the Windows 8 operating system, that among other improvements, brought back the much beloved ‘Start’ button.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 16, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1843 – Sir William Rowan Hamilton finally hit on the idea of Quaternions, and needing a bit more space than his hand to jot it down, he carved it into the stone of Brougham Bridge in Dublin. Why do you care about quaternions? Because calculations involving three-dimensional rotations are essential for 3D computer graphics and computer vision. Video games people.

In 1923 – Distributor M. J. Winkler, contracted to distribute the “Alice Comedies” marking the founding of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio which eventually changed its name to the Walt Disney Company, at Roy’s suggestion. So don’t expect anything after this date to ever go out of copyright.

In 1959 – Control Data Corp. released its model 1604 computer, the first from William Norris’s group that left Sperry Rand Corp.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 15, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1878 – The Edison Electric Light Company began operation. They would go on to become more general. As in making up a significant part of General Electric.

In 1956 – Fortran, the first modern computer language was shared with the public for the first time. The IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System made John Backus a legend, kicked off modern programming, and is still developed by the Fortran Standards Technical Committee.

In 2003 – China launched the Shenzhou 5, its first manned space mission, becoming the third country in the world to have independent human spaceflight capability. Yang Liwei piloted the capsule showing the flags of the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 14, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1884 – US inventor George Eastman received a patent on his new paper-strip photographic film. It would reign for over 100 years until digital stole its thunder.

In 1977 – The Atari 2600 was released in North America, though it may have been available in Macy’s and Sears on September 11.

In 1985 – The first official reference guide for the C++ programming language was published. It was written by the language’s creator, Bjarne Stroustrup.

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Today in Tech History – Oct. 13, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1884 – Geographers and astronomers adopted Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, making it the International standard for zero degrees longitude. Today the Greenwich observatory shoots a laser northwards at night to indicate the meridian. It is not a dangerous laser.

In 1983 – Bob Barnett, president of Ameritech Mobile communications, called Alexander Graham Bell’s nephew from Chicago’s Soldier Field using a Motorola DynaTAC handset. It marked the launch of the first cellular telephone network in the US.

In 1985 – The first observation of a proton-antiproton collision was made by the Collider Detector at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

In 2000 – Tristan Louis suggested sound and video tags be added to the 0.92 spec for RSS feeds. This led to enclosures which allowed media files to be delivered through RSS and paved the way for podcasting.

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Subscribe to the podcast. Like Tech History? Get Tom Merritt’s Chronology of Tech History at Merritt’s Books site.

Today in Tech History – Oct. 12, 2014

20140404-073853.jpgIn 1979 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first published unleashing in book form the world of Vogon Poetry, essential towel behaviour, and the BabelFish.

In 2001 – An era ended as the Polaroid Corporation filed for federal bankruptcy protection, killed off by 1-hour developing and the rise of digital cameras. Bank One bought most of the company and re-launched a company that went on to stop making cameras and film.

In 2003 – Adam Curry posted an AppleScript called RSS2iPod that took MP3s downloaded by RSS to a folder and automatically transferred them to a connected iPod. Christopher Lydon’s Radio UserLand was used as the example.

In 2005 – After previously assuring us nobody wanted to watch videos on an iPod, Steve Jobs reversed course and Apple started making videos available on iTunes. ABC/Disney was the only TV network available at the time but you could get episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives the day after they aired.

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Subscribe to the podcast. Like Tech History? Get Tom Merritt’s Chronology of Tech History at Merritt’s Books site.