Home » the great geek manual » This Day in Geek History: January 1

This Day in Geek History: January 1

Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovers an asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Believing it to be a dwarf planet, he names it Ceres.

The novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is first published. The first edition is published anonymously. Many will come to be considered the first fully-realized science fiction novel. Download a copy of the book at Project Gutenberg.

After having poisoned his mistress, Sarah Hart, with prussic acid in Slough, England, John Tawell escapes by train to London, where he is arrested police on arrival at Paddington Station because of an electric telegram that arrived before him. The event will generate an enormous amount of publicity for the new technology.

Samuel Morse opens a fifty-mile electric telegraph line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, using his Morse code for messages.

The first radio broadcast demonstration in the U.S. is given by Nathan B. Stubblefieldat Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. His voice is the first to be carried on the air-waves during a public exhibition during which he transmits his voice to a receiver a full mile distant. He will keep the details of the invention secret until he receives a patent, but he will ultimately be unable to find a suitable buyer for his invention. (US No. 887,357)

In the “Discussions” section of the January issue of Amazing Stories magazine, editor T. O’Conor Sloane uses the term “science fiction” in the modern sense for the first time. In the column, he writes, “Remember that Jules Verne was a sort of Shakespeare of science fiction, and we would feel derelict if we did not give his stories in our columns.”

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is founded to standardize and regulate international telecommunications. Visit the organization’s official website.

The Associated Press launches its Wirephoto service for transmitting photographs by wire to its member newspapers. To transmit an image, a photo is wrapped around a drum, which is rotated around a light-sensitive photocell capable of translating differences in brightness. The device then transmits signals via telephone lines to subscribing newspapers. At the receiving end, a piece of photographic paper is rotated on a drum around a cylinder lit by a pinpoint of light which is focused onto the paper in varying strength according to the signal received. The photographic paper can then be processed in a darkroom.

The New York Herald Tribune becomes the first newspaper to begin archiving current issues of its newspaper on microfilm. The previous year, the New York Times archived back-issues of its paper for the years 1914-27, but it has not yet done the same for its current issues.

Hewlett and PackardDave and Lucile Packard move into a rented home located at 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, California. William R. Hewlett rents a cottage located behind the house. David and William, ex-fellow Stanford classmates, establish the Hewlett-Packard (HP) company in the house’s garage, which will later be designated as California registered historical landmark #976, the birthplace of “Silicon Valley.” A coin toss decides the order in which their names appear in the corporate name. The US$538 investment used to start the business is borrowed from Fred Terman, a renowned radio engineering professor at Stanford. Terman will later come to be considered Hewlett and Packards’ mentor. By 1982, Hewlett-Packard will become the world’s largest manufacturer of electronic measuring and testing devices. In the meantime, their first successful product will be an audio oscillator (model 200A, US$55) for testing sound equipment. Walt Disney will buy eight of the second model (200B) for use in the production of the animated feature film FantasiaRead more at Hewlett-Packard.

The first Chinese animated feature film, Princess Iron Fan, directed by Wan Guchanand Wan Laiming is released in China. It is adapted from the Chinese fairy tale Journey to the WestIMDB listing Running-time: 1 hr 13 mins

African Journey becomes the first feature-length foreign film shown on American television.

EDVACJohn Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert sign a contract to build the first general-purpose electronic digitally-stored program computer ever designed, the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Computer.) Even before the ENIAC is unveiled in 1946, Eckert and Mauchly will already be designing their next machine. The EDVAC won’t be completed until 1952, long after Eckert and Mauchly will have left the University of Pennsylvania.

EDVACThe construction of ENIAC(Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first purely electronic computer, is completed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. It was built at the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and it’s design is based on ideas developed by John Atanasoff of Iowa State College. Though it isn’t the first computer ever built, the ENIAC is regarded as the first successful, general-use digital computer. It weighs over 27,000kg (60,000lb) and contains more than eighteen thousand vacuum tubes. A staff of six technicians will replace about two thousand of the tubes each month to maintain the system. Many of the computer’s early uses will be for military purposes, such as calculating ballistic firing tables and designing atomic weapons. Since ENIAC isn’t originally built with the ability to store programs, it will have to be manually reprogrammed for each new task.

The first U.S. motion picture color newsreel is shot at the Tournament of Roses and the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, CaliforniaWarner Brothers-Pathé will begin showing the footage as part of a newsreel to theater audiences on January 5.

International Business Machines (IBM) transfers all foreign assets to IBM United Kingdom, Ltd.

The first pay television service in the U.S. is launched by the Zenith Radio Corporationas a ninety-day trial in Chicago, Illinois. The service is provided to three hundred households selected from fifty-one thousand applicants. The broadcast signal is scrambled and can only be viewed with the “key signal” transmitted via telephone. The first day’s full-length features, priced at one dollar each, begin in the afternoon with April Showers with Jack Carson, followed by the Bing Crosby movie Welcome Stranger and then Homecoming starring Clark Gable and Lana Turner. The service will sell over two thousand programs in the first month, but the service will never be financially sustainable.

The Tournament of Roses parade broadcast by the National Broadcasting Corporation(NBC) from Pasadena, California and hosted by Don Ameche becomes the west coast’s first color telecast. It is seen in full color in twenty-one cities. NBC made its first live color coast-to-coast live telecast from the east coast two months earlier, on November 3, 1953, from its WNBT-TV station (now WNBC) in New York City.

Power PlantThe first U.S. electric power plant to use hyperbolic-shaped cooling towers goes into service in Ashland, Kentucky under the management of the Kentucky Power Company. It’s designed to cool one hundred twenty thousand gallons of water a minute.

International Business Machines (IBM) begins unbundling its software, effectively ending the long-running expectation of its customers that the company will always provide all of the software they need for their systems.

Robert Kahn and a team of researchers at BBN Technologies lead by Frank Heart begin developing the first Interface Message Processor (IMP), a packet-switching node (later termed “router”) for connecting computers to the world’s first operational packet switching network, the future ARPANET. By Labor Day weekend, the first IMP was built and on its way to UCLA, the first of the four nodes that will compose ARPANET.

Unix time begins at 00:00:00 UTC.

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a high-precision atomic time standard, is adopted globally. UTC is determined by six primary atomic clocks that are coordinated by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, located in France.

Bill Gates signs a document formalizing the existence of the Traf-O-Data company. The company is a partnership between Bill Gates, who holds 43% of the company, Paul Allen, who holds 36% of the company, and Paul Gilbert, who holds 21% of the company. The agreement allows Gates and Allen to use Traf-O-Data’s 8008 simulatorto develop BASIC for the Altair.

Popular Electronics magazine features the MITS Altair 8800 on its cover. The article will inspire Bill Gates and Paul Allen to later develop a version of Basic for the Altair.

Microsoft moves its offices to Bellevue, Washington, from Albuquerque. Visit the Microsoft’s official website.

The Kermit Project, a program to develop a transparent and flexible file transfer protocol, begins at Columbia UniversityKermit is a cross-platform protocol for transferring and managing files. The purpose of the project is to develop a method for students to transfer files between campus mainframes and a variety of microcomputers, most of which used different floppy disk formats. However, by the mid-eighties, Kermit will be the de facto standard for data communications between two dissimilar computers. The protocol is named after Kermit the Frog from the Muppets.

The entire ARPANET is required to have switched from the Network Control Protocol(NCP) to Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocols (TCP/IP) by this date, officially establishing the underpinnings of what will later be called the Internet. The switch is the result of a military directive issued by Richard DeLauer, the United State Under Secretary of Defense. The transition will later be reported to have gone smoothly, although buttons reading “I survived the TCP/IP transition” are distributed afterwards. Jon Postel documented the plan in RFC 801, Dan Lynch of USC ISI handled most of the logistics of the transition, and UCLA student David Smallberg documented the transition in fifteen RFC documents, RFC 842 – RFC 876. Some historians will later mark this date as the birth of the internet, as, prior to this transition, different computer networks did not have a standard method of communicating with each other.

American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) is divested of its twenty-two Bell System companies as a result of the settlement of the 1974 United States Department of Justice antitrust suit. (United States v. AT&T) Seven new regional companies will be formed, while AT&T retains US$34 billion of its original US$149.5 billion in assets, including long distance telephone service, manufacturing facilities, and the research and development department, as well as approximately 373,000 of its 1,009,000 employees. Read more about the history of the divestiture.

Coleco Industries, Inc. announces that it will sell off its entire inventory of Adam home computer systems to an unnamed United States retail chain at prices below cost. Barbara Wruck, a company official, states that the company will continue to manufacture Adam computers throughout 1985 to fulfill contractual commitments.

The first UK mobile callComedian Ernie Wise places the first mobile phone call in the U.K. from St Katherine’s Dockin London to the headquarters of Vodafone in Newbury, Berkshire shortly after midnight. The first mobile phones are roughly the size of a briefcase, have a battery life of about twenty minutes, and cost £2,000.

The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is created.

The resignation of Ernest Gary Gygax, the father of Dungeons & Dragons, from his position as the head of TSR takes effect at midnight. Lorraine Williams officially assumes his position, but she will shortly come to be widely hated by fans of the game.Read more about the history of Dungeons & Dragons at Magic & Memories: The Dungeons & Dragons Index.

Wayne Bell releases version 3.0 if the WWIV Bulletin Board System. WWIV is one of the most popular dial-up computer bulletin board software. Among the software’s most notable features is the ability to link tens of thousands of bulletin boards together, to form a global network, in a manner similar to FidoNet.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode first airs “The Defector” first airs. (No. 310) In it, a Romulan Commander defects to the Federal in order to warn Picard of his Empire’s invasion plans in a desperate attempt to avert a war. It is notable for being the first episode of Star Trek to air in the nineties. Memory Alpha entry

Steve Bonine, Chair of the International Fidonet Association (IFNA) Elections and Nominations Committee announces that the results of the referendum on the passage of control of FidoNet to the International FidoNet Association (IFNA). The referendum was the result of network-wide rumblings that the IFNA, which was founded at the urging of Ken Kaplan to deal with the day to day operation of running the network, was “stealing FidoNet.” The results of the referendum are that the motion fails, 480 (Yes) to 1417 (No). The IFNA begins proceedings to dissolve.

Atari officially discontinues support of the company’s 8-bit computer line, the Atari XEand the Atari 7800 video game consoles.

Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) and National Science Foundation (NSF) sign a cooperative agreement granting NSI the authority to manage the Domain Name system (DNS) and database. Visit the official Network Solutions website.

The Hacker CrackdownBruce Sterling posts his book, The Hacker Crackdown in electronic form on the Internet in it’s entirety, fourteen months after its publication by Bantam Books on November 1, 1993. The book chronicles a series of law enforcement operations and profiles notable hackers, such as Emmanuel GoldsteinRead or download The Hacker Crackdown at Project Gutenberg.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, age 38, marries Melinda French, age 29.

The last The Far Side comic is published. The popular one-panel comic, created by Gary Larson, ran for fourteen years. At the height of its popularity, it was published in 1,900 newspapers daily. Visit the official The Far Side website

The History Channel is first broadcast as an international satellite and cable TV channel. Visit the official History Channel website.

AOL begins offering its seven million customers unlimited internet access at a flat rate of US$19.95 a month. Previously, the company offered limited access, and the new pricing structure will draw over a million new customers within just weeks. As a result, the company’s total daily online usage will climb from 1.6 million hours in October 1996 to 4.3 million hours in January 1997. AOL’s infrastructure will ultimately prove incapable of facilitating the additional traffic, and AOL’s system will lead to a number of crashes, which will lead five subscribers to file a class-action suit against the company in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Data Processing Management Association (DPMA) officially becomes the Association of Information Technology ProfessionalsVisit the organization’s official website.

The TV Parental Guidelines go into effect.

The rights to WWIV Bulletin Board System (BBS) are purchased by WWIV Software Services from its creator Wayne Bell. WWIV has been among the most popular dial-up computer bulletin board systems of the eighties and nineties. Bell wrote the first version of the software in BASIC as a high school programming project in 1984.

The Quake website is hacked by “porno”.

Three hundred domains are hacked by “Ashtray Lumberjacks”.

Greenwich Electronic Time (GeT) is initiated in Britain to act as an international standard time system for the internet.

The much publicized Y2K bug passes with only the most minor of complications following years and billions of dollars of preparation. The largest technology firms, however, have taken measures to meet any difficulties that might arise. Hewlett-PackardIntel, and Microsoft, among others, field large overnight staffs to handle any customer service issues.

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO), the official timekeeper for the United States, is one of several national time services around the world that returns “19100? as the current year. The error is the result of the Y2K computer bug.

Windows 98 supersedes Windows 95. As of this date, Microsoft considers Windows 95 to be legacy software under the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy. It will no longer be supported or sold.

Palm Source becomes a subsidiary of Palm, Inc. Visit the official Palm website.

Public Interest Registry (PIR) assumes responsibility as the registry operator for the .org top level domain (TLD) from VeriSign. The transition will be completed by January 27. Verisign relinquishes control of the domain in order to retain control over the more significant .com domains. Visit the official PIR website.

China launches the world’s first commercially operated maglev train in Shanghai. The German-built system covers a distance of eighteen miles.

Retro Gamer Magazine, Issue 1The first issue of the British magazine Retro Gamer is published. It is the first commercial magazine to be wholly devoted to the subject of retro video games. Due to the high price of importing it, the magazine will never gain popularity in the U.S. Visit the magazine’s official website.

The first anti-spam law passed in the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, goes into effect. It makes it illegal for advertisers to falsify their identity, and it mandates that all commercial e-mail communications include an way for recipients to get unsubscribe from the advertiser’s mailing list. The law requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions. On February 16, 2004, Anthony Greco, age 18, will become the first person to be arrested under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

Version 5.8.3 of the Perl programming language is released. Visit the official Perl website.

Effective this day all United States Department of Defense and Wal-Mart store suppliers are required to implement RFID tags.

Microsoft files notice with the Pima County Arizona Superior Court that is has won a US$7.4 million civil judgment in King County, Washington, against Glenn Hannifin. Microsoft alleges that Hannifin sent millions of spam emails. The lawsuit claims that Hannifin violated both federal and Washington state anti-spam laws.

In Sweden, the Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) is founded as a political party. The party is founded with the purpose of reforming copyright and patent laws within the country. Within three years, it will be the third largest political party in Sweden, by membership.Visit the official Pirate Party website.

The one billionth torrent is downloaded from Mininova, one of the most popular bittorrent directories on the internet. Visit the official Mininova website.

Version 2.4.36 of the Linux operating system is released. Visit the official Linux website.

Virgin Galactic and the state of New Mexico sign a US$150-250 million agreement to launch sub-orbital commercial space flights from Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

[ ripped from the Great Geek Manual archive ]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.