This Day in Geek History: April 24
Halley’s Comet appears over England, heralding an invasion. A monk sights it and predicts the destruction of the country.
The first regular newspaper in the United States, the News-Letter, is first published in Boston.
The United States Library of Congress is established when President John Adams signs legislation to appropriate US$5,000 to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.” Visit the official Library of Congress website.
Charles F. Brush is issued a patent for his first dynamo, which he had first assembled in the summer of 1876. (US No. 189,997) The patent is titled “Improvement in Magneto-Electric Machines.”
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in Dayton, Tennessee by John Scopes, who uses the high school textbook, “A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems” by George William Hunter. Scopes, age 24, will be prosecuted under the Butler Act, a state law enacted March 21 1925. The law prohibits the teaching of evolution in public schools. The trial, which will be held July 10-21, 1925, will be used to challenge the legality of the statute on a national stage. Scopes will ultimately be convicted and fined US$100. On appeal, the Tennessee supreme court will uphold the constitutionality of the law, but it will acquit Scopes on the technicality that he had been fined excessively. On May 17 1967, the law will be repealed.
The Electronic Control Company (later renamed the “Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation”) publishes “A tentative instruction code for a statistical EDVAC,” the first document on programming an electronic digital computer for commercial use.
The half-hour science fiction radio series “X-Minus One” premieres on NBC radio this day. The series is revival of the popular Dimension X radio program, which ran from April 8, 1950 to September 29, 1951. It will garner wide critical acclaim as it continue to feature stories from some of the best-known authors in science fiction, including: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, and Theodore Sturgeon. It will run until January 9, 1958 in various timeslots. Listen to X Minus One episodes.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) achieves the first transcontinental satellite relay of a television signal with a transmission between Camp Parks, California and Westford, Massachusetts. The picture quality is poor, but the images remain recognizable. The signal is reflected from Echo I, which was launched two years earlier. With the broadcast, the era of satellite television begins.
Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1, when the capsule’s parachute fails to open, becoming the first human to die during a space mission. Read a detailed biography of Komarov at Astronautix.
The first Chinese satellite, Dong Fang Hong I, is launched aboard a Long March rocket. Upon reaching orbit, the satellite transmits the popular Communist Chinese song, “The East is Red.” With the launch China becomes the fifth country with a satellite in space.
International Business Machines (IBM) introduces its first personal computer, the IBM PC (model 5150). The system features a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor, an optional 8087 math coprocessor, 16KB RAM, one or two 160 KB 5¼ inch disk-drives, five expansion slots, IBM Basic, PC-DOS 1.0 (from Microsoft), and either CP/M-86 or UCSD p-System. It will be released on August 12th and discontinued on April 2, 1987. Read more at the Old Computers online museum. Visit the official IBM website.
According to Twin Galaxies, Ben Gold scores a record-setting 40,001,150 points playing the Williams Electronics arcade game Stargate at the Pro Video Game Center in Dallas, Texas. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.