This Day in Geek History: December 22
The first voice synthesizer, later known as P.T. Barnum’s Euphonium, is demonstrated to the public.
The first string of Christmas tree lights is created by Edward H. Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, to decorate his home Christmas tree. Traditionally, trees are traditionally decorated with wax candles. The first commercially produced Christmas tree lamps will be manufactured in strings of nine sockets by the Edison General Electric Co. of Harrison, New Jersey, and they will be advertised in the December 1901 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Each socket will take a miniature two candlepower carbon-filament lamp operating on thirty-two volts. Electric Christmas tree lights will quickly become popular among wealthy Americans, but the average citizen won’t use them until the twenties or later. Character light bulbs will become popular in the twenties, bubble lights will become popular in the forties, twinkle bulbs will become popular in the fifties, and plastic bulbs will become popular by 1955.
Universal Pictures releases the horror film The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, and Edward van Sloan, to U.S. theaters. In it, a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. The Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life, is also found in the tomb. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll out loud, bring Im-Ho-Tep back to life. Ten years later, disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy attempts to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who has been reincarnated into a beautiful young woman. IMDB listing Running time: 1 hr 13 mins
Universal Pictures releases the horror film The Mummy’s Curse, directed by Leslie Goodwins and starring Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Coe, and Virginia Christine, to U.S. theaters. In it, an irrigation project in the rural bayous of Louisiana unearths Kharis the living mummy (Lon Chaney Jr.), who was buried in quicksand 25 years earlier. IMDB listing Running time: 1 hr 2 mins
The FINAC, the Italian Mark I, is inaugurated in Rome. The Mark I is a commercial prototype of the Manchester Mark I, which was built by Ferranti Ltd., for UNESCO’s International Computational Center in Rome.
United Artists releases the spy thriller Goldfinger, directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Sean Connery as James Bond, to U.S. theaters. In it, the films eponymous antagonist straps Bond to a metal table and makes to execute him with a laser. The scenes is the first in film history to feature a laser. Lasers hadn’t existed in 1959 when the Ian Fleming novel that the film is based on was first written. Instead, the book’s villain uses a large buzzsaw. However, the filmmakers used a laser to freshen the story. The laser’s beam was added in post-production, with the close-up effect being created by heating the table with a blow torch from below. The effect captures the imagination of audiences and marks the beginning of a long trend of incorporating lasers into films. IMDB entry Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins
The first live telecast from a manned spacecraft in outer space is transmitted at 3:01pm from Apollo 8, 139,000 miles from Earth, thirty-one hours and twenty minutes after its launch. A total of six live television transmissions will be broadcast by the crew during the course of the mission, including the famous Christmas Eve broadcast in which the astronauts read from the Book of Genesis.
The Soviet Union’s Statsionar I geostationary satellite is launched.
Konami releases the stealth action game Metal Gear for the Famicom in Japan. Though the game is not the first in the stealth action genre, it is the first commercial success of the genre, and it will be widely credited with popularizing the genre.
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