This Day in Geek History: August 12
A planetary conjunction is visible from the Earth with the naked eye. Many astronomers will later speculate that this may have been the Star of Bethlehem mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible.
After studying Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease which suggests that infections are caused by bacteria, Dr. Joseph Lister becomes the first surgeon to use disinfectant during an operation. Lister introduces phenol (carbolic acid) as a form of disinfectant into his surgery. His heightened standards of hygiene will reduce his surgical death rate from 45% to 15%.
This date is often falsely marked as the date on which Thomas Edison completed the first sketch from which the first phonograph will be built. However, the sketch won’t actually be created until November 29, 1877. The mistake will arise in 1917, when Edison mislabels that first sketch, but because construction of the first phonograph will begin just two days later on December 1, 1877, the error will easily be caught by historians.
Thomas Edison creates the first sound recording on a foil-wrapped cylinder with a device called the Edisonphone. The recording is of Edison reciting Mary had a Little Lamb.
The construction of the first Model T is completed by Henry Ford.
Echo I, the first communications satellite, is launched by the United States from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It bounces phone calls from Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California to the Bell Labs in New Jersey.
The prototype for the Space Shuttle named the Enterprise after the fictional Star Trek vessel makes its first free flight within Earth’s atmosphere. It is launched from a Boeing 747, and it touches down in California’s Mojave Desert. It’s very first flight was February 18th, but it remained attached to a shuttle carrier throughout that flight.
Charles LaFara of Texas Instruments sends letters to dealers and registered owners of the Texas Instruments TI-99/a home computer inviting them to join the 99/4 Home Computer Users Group that he will incorporate in September.
At the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and in Boca Raton, Florida, International Business Machines (IBM) announces the IBM Personal Computer, model 5150. The PC features a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 CPU containing 29,000 transistors, 16KB RAM (64KB standard, expandable to 256KB), 40KB ROM, one or two Tandon brand 5.25-inch floppy drives (160KB capacity), a mono display, and an optional cassette drive. The machine’s base price is US$1,565 and with the model with all of the standard features retails for US$2,880, but a fully loaded version with color graphics retails for US$6,000. IBM will sell the new computer to consumers through Sears, Roebuck & Co. and ComputerLand. The system will becomes an instant success. Over sixty-five thousand units will be sold in the first four months, and one hundred thousand orders will be taken by Christmas. Software options for the machine include: Microsoft BASIC, VisiCalc, UCSD Pascal, CP/M-86 for US$240, Easywriter 1.0, and Microsoft Adventure. Adventure is Microsoft’s first game. The system can run several different operating systems, but Microsoft’s PC-DOS 1.0 is far an away the least expensive at US$39.95 and will therefore become the most popular. It’s popularity will eliminate most other machines suitable for home or small business from the market, established the dominance of the Microsoft operating system, and set the industry standard for PC compatibles with the ISA bus.
After negotiations with Digital Research fail, IBM contracted Microsoft to provide a version of the CP/M operating system for the upcoming IBM Personal Computer (PC). For the deal, Microsoft purchased a CP/M clone called 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products, which IBM renamed to PC-DOS. Later, the market will see a flood of IBM PC clones after Columbia Data Products successfully cloned the IBM BIOS, and by aggressively marketing MS-DOS to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones, Microsoft will rise from a small player to one of the major software vendors in the home computer industry.
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