This Day in Geek History: April 19
In Springfield, Massachusetts, Charles E. Duryea and his brother J.Frank Duryea complete the prototype of what will become the first commercially successful American automobile.
The final volume of the Oxford English Dictionary is published. Read more about the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Visit the official Oxford English Dictionary website.
Herbert Bright, the manager of the data processing center at the Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania receives a stack of computer punch cards in the mail from the FORTRAN development team at International Business Machines (IBM). Guessing the unlabeled cards are a compiler for FORTRAN, the world’s first computer programming language, he writes a small missing comma diagnostic in FORTRAN and runs it on his IBM 704 mainframe. The event marks the first time that FORTRAN has been used outside IBM, “in the wild.” It also marks the discovery of the first bug in a compiler. The 704 requires its operating system to be loaded from a tape before each use, and from beginning to end, creating and executing the program requires between two and four hours. The name for the language is an amalgam of the words “FORmula TRANslator.” It will go on to be the first successful high-level programming language.
Electronics magazine publishes a four-page article by Gordon Moore, head of research and development for Fairchild Semiconductor, on the future of semiconductor components. In the article, Moore predicts that transistor density on integrated circuits will double every eighteen months for the next ten years. This theory will eventually come to be known as Moore’s law, dubbed so by the media. Read the article online at Intel.
Salyut 1 is launched on a Proton rocket by the Soviet Union. Although it consists of only a single module, it becomes the first space station to orbit Earth. Salyut 1 will reenter Earth’s atmosphere on October 11, 1971, to be followed by six more future Salyut stations.
Atari’s Consumer Electronics Division Engineering Technical Staff submits a petition to its department head, Dave Remson, protesting that the Atari 5200 (PAM) game system analog controller suffers from several performance and “human engineering” (ergonomic) issues. The staff recommends conducting formal focus groups in order to solicit solutions. However, Atari won’t heed the petition, and upon release, the controller is widely criticized for its poor usability.
Commodore International announces the B(700) and P(500) series of microcomputers, featuring a 6509 CPU, 64KB RAM expandable to 256KB, 28KB ROM, BASIC, a 80×25 green phosphor monitor, a built-in 94-key keyboard, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, and several I/O ports. Price: US$1,700-3,000
The Soviet Union launches the Salyut 7 space station put into orbit.