This Day in Geek History: August 11
Spartan hoplites under the command of Leonidas I, along with Thespians under the command of Demophilus, fight to the last man in the Battle of Thermopylae, losing to a large Persian invasion force led by Xerxes I.
American astronomer Asaph Hall discovers the moons of Mars, which he names Phobos and Deimos. In Greek mythology, these are the names of the sons of Ares (Mars) and Aphrodite (Venus). Deimos is Greek for “panic” and phobos is Greek for “fear.” These moons are composed of carbon-rich rock like C-type asteroids and ice. But their densities are so low that they cannot be pure rock. They are more likely composed of a mixture of rock and ice. Both are heavily cratered. They were probably asteroids forced by Jupiter into orbits in Mars’ gravity.
The first electric light bulb socket featuring a pull chain is patented by Harvey Hubbell of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (US No. 565,541)
The first SOS distress signal sent by an American ship is sent by the Arapahoe off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil receive a patent for a frequency hopping, spread spectrum communication system that will later became the basis for the technology behind Wi-Fi and wireless telephones.
Television service is launched in Belgium.
Eighteen months after Yury Gagarin became the first man in space, the Soviet Union launches cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev aboard Vostok III, setting an endurance record after circling the Earth sixty-four times over a distance of 1,650,000 miles in ninety-six hours. Nikolayev is Russia’s third cosmonaut to travel into space.
King Kong vs. Godzilla, directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara, Yu Fujiki, and Ichiro Arishima, is released in Japan as Kingu Kongu tai Gojira. It is the third installment in the Japanese series of kaiju films featuring Godzilla. IMDB listing
Former Michigan State University student James Dallas Egbert III shoots himself in the head in the living room of his apartment. He will die at Grandview Hospital on the August 16th, just over a year after his notorious disappearance from campus on August 14, 1979. The sixteen year old child prodigy’s disappearance, which William C. Dear will document in the book Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, lead to widespread urban myth in which roleplayers die in the steam tunnels beneath their campus. Read more about the incident at Hoboes: Part One Part Two
Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Ernõ Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s cube, patents the Rubik’s Magic puzzle in the U.S., more than two years after patenting it in in Hungary. (HU No. 1211/85 / US No. 4,685,680)
At the Macworld Expo show, Apple Computer introduces HyperCard with the HyperTalk script language, MultiFinder 5.0 co-operative multitasking, and AppleFax Modem for the Macintosh. Hypercard software allows users to create database applications with “cards” containing text, graphics, sound, and animation, linked to each other via hypertext links. The software will ship for free with new Macintosh computers, and costs US$49 for existing Macintosh owners.
20th Century Fox releases the sci-fi horror film The Abyss, directed by James Cameron and starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, and J.C. Quinn, to 1,533 U.S. theaters. In the film, an American nuclear submarine is attacked (during the cold war) and crashes underwater. The navy asks the workers of a nearby underwater oil rig who are joined by a number of navy SEALS to locate and investigate the cause of the crash. As the crew embark on their mission, they encounter a number of difficulties and discover that they may not be alone. There is something else down there. The movie features a historic breakthrough in cinematic effects in which Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) creates the first computer-generated 3-D character using a computer software-based morphing process. The process enables fluid on-screen transformations between independent objects. Produced on a budget of US$41 million, the film will gross domestically US$9,319,797 in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG-13) Running Time: 2 hrs 26 mins
Square Soft releases the role-playing game Chrono Trigger for the Super NES in the U.S. The game’s story follows a group of young adventurers who are accidentally transported through time and learn that the world will be destroyed in the distant future. Vowing to prevent this disaster, they travel throughout history to discover the means to save the planet. ESRB: K-A (Kids to Adults)
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