This Day in Geek History: December 18
Joseph Swan demonstrates his incandescent light bulb to the Newcastle Chemical Society in northern England. Though Thomas Edison will be the one to gain widespread credit for the invention of the light bulb, this demonstration marks the first time a practical version of the device has been shown to the public. Due to the poor electrical resistance of the bulb’s filament, it only lasts thirteen hours before burning out. By February 1879, Swan will have extended that lifespan to forty hours, at which point, Edison will become involved in the invention’s development.
In a letter published in the journal Nature, American chemist Gilbert Newton Lewis coins the term “photon.” In the letter, he writes that it “would seem inappropriate to speak of one of these hypothetical entities as a particle of light, a corpuscle of light, a light quantum, or a light quant, if we are to assume that it spends only a minute fraction of its existence as a carrier of radiant energy, while the rest of the time it remains as an important structural element within the atom. It would also cause confusion to call it merely a quantum, for later it will be necessary to distinguish between the number of these entities present in an atom and the so-called quantum number. I therefore [propose for this] which is not light but plays an essential part in every process of radiation, the name photon.”
The world’s first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment), is launched aboard an Atlas B missile, and it will shortly thereafter record a Christmas message to the world from President Eisenhower to be transmitted the next day.
Gemini VII splashes down in the western Atlantic Ocean with command pilot Frank Borman and pilot Jim Lovell Jr. on board. The mission was launched on December 4 for the purpose of physiological testing and spacecraft performance evaluations.
The Spanish western film El Topo (The Mole), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, and Mara Lorenzio. The film was produced on a budget of US$400,000.
IMDB listing Running Time: 2 hrs 5 mins
Paramount Pictures releases the film King Kong, directed by John Guillermin and starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and Jessica Lange to 974 U.S. theaters. It is a remake of the 1933 classic King Kong. In it, a petroleum exploration expedition comes to an isolated island and encounters a colossal giant gorilla. The film features a 40-foot robot developed specifically for close-ups in the film. Produced on a budget of US$24 million, it will gross US$7,023,921 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 2 hrs 14 mins
Larry Wall, a linguist working as a systems administrator at NASA, releases the first version of his Practical Extraction And Reporting Language, Perl 1.000. Perl was designed to serve as a general purpose Unix scripting language, and it will become well known for its extraordinary general adaptability and extensive text-processing capabilities. It will come to be dubbed “the Swiss Army chainsaw of programming languages.” Visit the language’s official website.
International Business Machines (IBM) and Siemens AG announce the development of a prototype 64MB DRAM chip. The break-through continues the standard of Moore’s Law, which predicts a doubling of the number of transistors etched into silicon every eighteen months.
The first Thai satellite, Thaicom 1A, is launched.
In the Monday, December 18 issue of People Weekly magazine, singer Whitney Houston is quoted as saying, “He played me like I was Atari.” She was admiringly referring to how masterfully her latest romantic interest swept her off her feet.
The World Wide Web Consortium releases version 4.0 of the HTML standard. HTML 4.0 adopts many browser-specific element types and attributes, but at the same time sought to phase out Netscape’s visual markup features by marking them as deprecated in favor of style sheets. Code-name: Cougar
Warner Brothers releases the romantic film You’ve Got Mail, directed by Nora Ephron and starring Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Jean Stapleton, and Dabney Coleman, to 2,691 U.S. theaters. In it, two New York City business rivals who regard each other with mutual animosity fall in love over the internet. It’s a remake of the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner. The film title is the phrase used by America Online (AOL) software, which is used by the film’s characters. Produced on a budget of US$65 million, it will gross US$18,426,749 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 1 hr 59 mins
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