This Day in Geek History: August 7
The mother of astronomer Johannes Kepler, Katharina Guldenmann, is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Guldenmann is a healer and herbalist, but it was rumored that she had consulted with a demon to learn of space travel after a manuscript of Kepler’s allegorical tale, Somnium was misinterpreted. Following her eventual acquittal, Kepler will add 223 footnotes to his story, many of which are several times longer than the text they annotate, explaining the story’s allegorical aspects and scientific content.
Station WNBT, Channel 4 in New York City, broadcasts the first television program to feature audience participation when the studio audience participates in charades.
Thomas J. Watson Sr., president of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), presents the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) to Harvard University in a formal dedication ceremony, after which the system becomes known as the Harvard Mark I. It is only the second program-controlled machine, being preceded only by Konrad Zuse’s Z3. The system is the result of Professor Howard Aiken’s research into computation, and it was financed and built by IBM. The whole machine is fifty-one feet in length, eight feet in height, weighs five tons, and incorporates 750,000 parts, including 3,304 electromechanical relays and 72 accumulators. Unlike in Zuse’s earlier binary machine, the arithmetic is still fixed-point and decimal, with a plug-board setting determining the number of decimal places. Input-output facilities include card readers, a card punch, paper tape readers, and typewriters. There are 60 sets of rotary switches, each of which can be used as a constant register, like a mechanical read-only memory. It would perform at a rate of six seconds per multiplication. The system will most famously be used to create ballistics tables for the U.S. Navy.
The first computer chess tournament is held.
Scientists in Pasadena, California, announce the the Viking I space probe discovered the strongest indications to date of possible life on Mars. The announcement marks the entry of the probe’s successor, Viking 2, into Mars’ orbit.
The first Bulgarian satellite, Intercosmos Bulgaria 1300, is launched.
The fantasy film Masters of the Universe, directed by Gary Goddard and starring Dolph Lundgren, is released to 1,185 U.S. theaters. The film is based on the same line of Mattel toys as the animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Despite including numerous cannon characters, the film doesn’t follow the storyline of the animated series or its subsequent spin-offs or make use of the series’ typical plot devices. Produced on a budget of US$17 million, the film will gross US$4,883,168 domestically in its opening weekend. During the course of its theatrical run, it will only gross US$17,336,370, and the trade magazine Variety will declare the film a flop. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 1 hr 46 mins
America Online (AOL) crashes. All of its services remain completely inaccessible for 18 hours and 45 minutes, leaving 6.3 million subscribers without an Internet connection. The problem is caused by a glitch while installing new network software, which will finally be corrected at 10:45 EDT. AOL promises to provide one full free day of service to members’ accounts.
The Gen Con Game Fair is held at the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Version 1.08 of HydraBBS is released.
Palm introduces the Palm m100 handheld computer, featuring a 16MHz Intel StrongARM processor, 2MB RAM, 2MB ROM, a 2×2-inch monochrome LCD display, and the Palm OS 3.5 operating system. Price: US$149
Palm unveils the Palm Vx Limited Edition handheld computer, a special version of the Palm V, with 8 MB RAM, available in Millenium Blue or Champagne color, only through the Palm website. Price: US$399
The website of Indian NIC is hacked by “mOs”. View an archived version of the defaced website.
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