This Day in Geek History: August 26
A cannon is first used during a battle in France, using a round ball carved from rock. Edward III of England reportedly uses twenty-two cannons during to defeat of Philip VI of France at Crécy. These cannons, with no more power than a trebuchet, were incapable of bring down the walls by themselves. Their primary purpose is psychological. The flash and noise of them make it impossible for the French to forget that their lives are in danger. Their effect will be recorded in a well known manuscript, Froissart’s Chroniques of the battle of Crécy. “The English fired of some cannons which they had brought to the battle to frighten the Genoese.” However, despite the extensive use of cannons, the battle’s victory will be attributed to the longbowmen.
The first U.S. typewriter design is patented by Charles Thurber of Norwich, Connecticut. (US No. 3,228) The patent is described as a “machine for printing by hand by pressing upon keys which contain the type, called ‘Thurber’s Patent Printer.’” Thurber is the first to design a mechanism which places the paper on a roller and move it longitudinally with accurate letter and word spacing.
News is dispatched via telegraph for the first time in history. The news is a story concerning China’s agreement to the peace demands of Europe, and it is sent to The New York Sun, which will print the story the next day.
The first U.S. patent for the Linotype typesetting machine is issued to Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore, Maryland. (US No. 304,272) The patent is for a “matrix making machine.” It will first be used commercially on July 3, 1886.
Conrad Hubert receives a patent for the first flashlight with an on/off switch in a cylindrical case. (US No. 737,107)
An nearly perfectly preserved Cro-Magnon skeleton is discovered by Swiss paleontologist Otto Hauser. Estimated to be thirty-four thousand years old, the remains provide an excellent example of man’s development.
Eugene Augustin Lauste gives a public demonstration of his Photocinematophone sound-on-film system in London, England.
Warner Bros. premieres Don Juan, directed by Alan Crosland and starring John Barrymore. It uses the Vitaphone sound system for synchronous music and sound effects. The film’s music track, made by British-born George Groves with the 107-member New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Manhattan Opera House in New York, pioneered a six-microphone technique which represents a significant improvement in the film’s sound balance.
Philo Farnsworth is finally granted a patent for his electronic television system, which he applied for in 1927 after being repeatedly delayed by RCA legal action.
John Logie Baird’s 240-line mechanical and EMI’s 405-line electronic systems are used on alternate days for two one-hour periods to transmit experimental high definition television transmissions for the Radiolympia Exhibition in London through September 5th.
A tape recorder is used to broadcast a radio program for the first time in the United States. The recorder is a sapphire stylus engraved Millertape, invented by James Arthur Miller of the Miller Broadcasting Company. A one thousand foot section of the device’s tape carries a fifteen minute program, which can be edited only by physically cutting the tape. This first program using this sound tape is transmitted by WQXR, the Interstate Broadcasting Company, in New York City from 6:30pm to 7pm.
Judith Martin, who writes a syndicated column about personal etiquette under the pen name Miss Manners responds to a question concerning the use of a computer for the first time. In the column, a reader writes in to ask whether its appropriate to use a word processor to type out personal correspondence. Miss Manners replies that it’s inappropriate, that envelops addressed using dot-matrix printers may be mistaken for sweepstakes entries, and that, if friends find out that portions of personal correspondence have been copied-and-pasted, it would cause further difficulties.