This Day in Geek History: December 15
Simon Marius becomes the first person to observe the Andromeda galaxy through a telescope. He will describe his discovery in the preface to his Mundus Jovialis as, “like the flame of a candle seen through horn.”
The United States Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, takes effect following its ratification by the state of Virginia. The First Amendment guarantees citizens’ freedom of speech.
Arthur L. Schawlow and Charles H. Townes publish the paper “Infrared and Optical Masers” in the journal Physics Review describing what will later be known as the laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) while employed at Bell Labs. Read the original document here.
The first Italian satellite, San Marco 1, is launched.
Gemini 6A, crewed by Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford, is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. Four orbits later, it achieves the first space rendezvous with Gemini 7. The two crafts orbit the Earth together for over five hours.
The Star Trek episode “Balance of Terror” first airs. (No. 14) In it, the crew of the Enterprise confronts a hostile, space-faring race, whose appearance raises suspicions about Spock. Memory Alpha entry
The Soviet spacecraft Venera 7 becomes the first spacecraft to land on another planet when it sets down on the surface Venus. It is equipped with an external cooling device which allows it transmit twenty-three minutes worth of data.
Warner Bros. releases Superman, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and Margot Kidder to 508 U.S. theaters in a limited release. It is the first major motion picture to feature the popular DC Comics character Superman. Produced on a budget of US$55 million, it will gross U.S. domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 2 hrs 23 mins
The Chiat/Day advertising agency first airs “1984,” a television commercial for Apple Computer in the 1:00am sign-off slot of KMVT Channel 11, in Twin Falls, Idaho. The ad features a heroine running through a drab Orwellian world to hurl a sledgehammer into an image of Big Brother. The imagery is followed by an on-screen message and accompanying voice-over announcing, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” The advertisement won’t officially premiere until January 22, 1984, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, however, the company customarily runs commercials slated for release early in the following year once “under the radar” in order to be eligible for advertising awards the following year. The commercial will go on to be nominated “Commercial of the Decade” by Advertising Age, and it will widely be considered on of the most influential marketing campaigns of all time. Watch the commercial.
Business Week features an article written by Katherine M. Hafner in the People/Rejuvenators section. The headline is “Father knows best — Just ask the Tramiel boys; Jack Tramiel has turned a half-dead Atari into a $240 million family business.” Sigmund Hartmann, a friend of the Tramiel’s is quoted as saying, “Jack really wants to go down in history as the guy who offered computers at affordable prices to the masses.”
Universal Pictures releases the film The Wizard, directed by Todd Holland and starring Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Beau Bridges, Jenny Lewis, Will Seltzer, and Frank McRae, to 1,155 U.S. theaters. In it, a boy and his two friends run away from home and hitchhike to compete in the Nintendo World Video Game Championships. While the film is poorly received by audiences and critics alike, it will become notorious for its campiness its astounding number of incongruities, it will eventually gain a cult status among gamers. It will gross US$2,142,525 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
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