This Day in Geek History: August 20
A message originating from the offices of The New York Times in New York City becomes the first cable message to complete a circuit of the globe, being passed through sixteen separate relays in the Azores, Gibraltar, India, Phillipines, Midway, Guam, Hawaii, and, finally, San Francisco. Transmitted as seven o’clock in the evening local time, the message, which reads simply, “This message sent around the world,” is returned to its original transmission point just sixteen minutes later, having traveled nearly twenty-nine thousand miles.
Thomas Edison receives a patent for a “Phonographic Apparatus” and another for a “Storage Battery.” (US No. 1,036,470 and 1,036,471)
The first commercial radio station, 8MK (WWJ) in Detroit, Michigan, goes into operation.
Japan’s public broadcasting company, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) is established.
Allan DuMont makes his first experimental television transmissions. The first demonstration telecast of home television in the U.S. is received in New York City. A half-hour program is hosted by the cartoonist Harry Hirschfeld, and demonstrated on screens placed in a store in the Hotel Ansonia, the Hearst building, and a home at 98 Riverside Drive. The signal traveled about six miles, the greatest distance for a television transmission to date. The performers were in the studios Jenkins W2XCR (Jersey City, NJ) and deForest W2XCD (Passaic, NJ).
Philo Farnsworth is issued a patent for the first working all-electronic system. (US No. 1,773,980) This is his first patent, with a description of his image dissector tube, which will be his most important contribution to the development of television. Farnsworth famously conceived of the idea of electrons forming an image while plowing a potato field when he was fourteen years old. He began working on the concept at an early age, gained some financial support for his research, and worked in a small laboratory with limited assistance.
Bell Laboratories announces the development of a self-contained electronic artificial larynx for people who have lost their voices through surgical intervention or paralysis of the vocal cords.
The Soviet Union recovers a number of animals, including two dogs, Belka (“Squirrel”) and Strelka (“Little Arrow”), the first living organisms to return from space. After a day in orbit, Sputnik 5, launched on August 19, 1960, fires its retrorockets and the landing capsule returns to Earth.
Television service begins in Norway for the first time.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced plans to develop a Titan III launch vehicle powered by both solid and liquid fuel rocket motors with a total thrust of over eleven million newtons. Scheduled to become operational in 1965, the Titan III will be used to launch the Air Force’s X-20 Dyna Soar manned spacecraft, as well as heavy unmanned military satellites. The Martin Marietta Corporation has been selected as prime contractor for the project, at an estimated cost of between US$500 million and US$1 billion. At a news conference the following day, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara will cite the Titan III as a major step toward overtaking the Soviet Union in military space development.
NASA launches the Voyager 2 space probe, on a Titan III-E Centaur rocket. Its mission is to explore the outer planets, including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, where it will also discover and photograph many previously unknown moons, rings, and other planetary features. A twelve inch copper phonograph record carried on board contains greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music, and sounds of nature.
The original Xerox 914 copier, which was originally introduced in March 1960 by patent lawyer Chester Carlson, is inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
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