This Day in Geek History: August 17
The first steam ship to cross the Atlantic entirely under its own power, the Canadian ship SS Royal William, embarks from Nova Scotia en route to The Isle of Wight.
The automobile electric self-starter is patented.
Bridget Driscoll of Croydon, Surrey becomes the first pedestrian killed by a motor vehicle in Britain. While on a terrace in the grounds of Crystal Palace, London, she was knocked down by a car traveling at four miles per hour, and she subsequently dies minutes later of head injuries. The car, owned by the Anglo-French Motor Car (Roger-Benz) Company, was being demonstrated to the public by employee Arthur Edsell. According to accounts, he was talking to a young female passenger beside him. He had had only been driving for three weeks, and had tampered with an engine belt to make the car travel faster. After a six-hour inquest, a jury will return a verdict of “accidental death.” and no prosecution resulted against the driver or the company.
Fantasmagorie, the first fully animated film in history, is exhibited for the first time ever at the Théâtre du Gymnase in Paris. Created by Émile Cohl, the two minute film consists of a stick figures who encounter a variety of line drawings that transform from one figure into another, such as a wine bottle that transforms into a flower. Watch the film at YouTube.
An Italian production of Dante’s Inferno becomes the first feature film with a run time of more than an hour is released in the U.S.
The U.S. National Bureau of Standards dedicates its Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC) at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles. Rather than testing components like its companion, the Standards Electronic/Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC), the SWAC uses a Williams Tube, a modified CRT capable of electrostatic bit storage, and a magnetic drum for storage. The SWAC will be used to search for Mersenne prime numbers, X-ray crystallography, as well as linear and differential equation solving. It will operate until December 1967.
At 08:35 GMT, NASA launches the Telstar I communications satellite, built by AT&T Bell Laboratories, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Telstar, the first orbiting international communications satellite, marks the beginning of a new age of trans-Atlantic communication in which telephone and television signals can be transmitted from Europe to America and back.
A song commemorating the launch of the Telstar I, the first satellite capable of relaying transatlantic video signals, “Telstar,” is released by the English surf-rock group The Tornados. It will go on to top sales charts for three weeks in November.
A British patent for “A Computer Arranged for the Automatic Solution of Linear Programming Problems,” originally filed on May 21, 1962 is granted. The invention is concerned with efficient memory management for the simplex algorithm, and is implemented purely through software. It is among the very first software patents granted anywhere.
Dr. An Wang is granted a patent for a “Calculating Apparatus” for using logarithms for mathematical calculation. (US Patent 3,402,285) The component will later become fundamental to computer technology.