This Day in Geek History: August 21
William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri is granted four patents for the first successful “Calculating-Machine,” sometimes referred to as an “adding and listing machine.” (US No. 388,116-388,119) One year after making his first patent application on January 10, 1885, he incorporated his business as the American Arithmometer Corporation, with a capitalization of US$100,000. Within a year, he will produce fifty machines. The machines will ultimately prove impractically difficult to use, but Burroughs will continue to improve on his design, eventually becoming a pioneer of the calculator industry.
A twelve horsepower single-cylinder Model F Packard driven by “Tommy” Fetch from the Packard Motor Car works automobile arrives in New York City, completing a cross-country trip from San Francisco, California. Fetch, along with journalist Marius Krarup left San Fransisco on June 21, after dipping the car’s rear wheels in the Pacific Ocean. The pair traveled for fifty-one days at an average of almost eighty miles a day. They crossed the Utah desert and the Colorado mountains, and, according to the New York Times, replaced only three tires and a broken front spring during the course of the journey. Vermont doctor Horatio Nelson and mechanic Crocker Sewell had completed a similar but longer trip in a Winton car in July.
NASA launches the Gemini 5 spacecraft into orbit atop a Titan V rocket. With the launch, Command Pilot L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. becomes the first person to fly a second orbital spaceflight. During the course of the mission, Cooper and Pete Conrad become the first astronauts to spend a week in space.
Atari introduces the racing game Gran Trak 10. It is the first use of ROM in an arcade game, and therefore, it is the first game to feature characters more elaborate than a simple box (as with Pong) or a collection of dots, as with Computer Space. The diode-based ROM is used to store sprites for the car, the score, the game timer, and the race track. The game’s controls, which consist of a steering wheel, a four-position gear shifter, an accelerator pedal, and a brake pedals, are also all firsts for arcade games.
International Business Machines (IBM) representatives meet with Microsoft to discuss their upcoming IBM PC. Specifically, IBM wishes Microsoft to develop a programming language for the system. Bill Gates agrees to license the company Microsoft BASIC. IBM expresses its interest in licensing the popular CP/M operating system, which will later lead to talks that will, in turn, lead to Microsoft licensing MS-DOS to IBM.