This Day in Geek History: December 23
Today is the traditional date for the celebration of Festivus, a fictional holiday introduced by the sitcom Seinfeld. It is also HumanLight, the winter holiday celebrated by American secular humanists.
Benjamin Franklin is severely shocked while electrocuting a turkey.
Reginald Aubrey Fessenden successively transmits speech over a distance of approximately 1.6 kilometers, marking the very first radio transmission of an audio signal.
Geophysical Service, Inc. (GSI) is created as the Delaware division of Geophysical Service. GSI will become later become Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI) in 1951.
The Point Contact Transistor Amplifier or just transistor (short for “transfer resistance”) is first demonstrated by William Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardeen to their superiors at Bell Laboratories. A microphone and headphones are connected to the transistor, and the device is actually spoken over “with no noticeable change in quality” according to Brattain’s notes. Later, realizing that another major breakthrough in electronics had occurred in Bell’s lab, Shockley will write that hearing speech amplified by the transistor was in the tradition of Alexander Graham Bell’s famous “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” The demonstration model is about half an inch tall; however, at one hundredth of the size of a vacuum tube, the transistor can control much higher volumes of electricity and heat than its predecessor. The messy collection of wires, insulators and germanium referred to as the point-contact version, will later be improved upon by William Shockley with the creation of a junction transistor. The three inventors will share the 1956 Nobel prize in physics for their work, and the transistor will go on to supplant the much bulkier vacuum tube. Read more about how the Point Contact Transistor works at PBS Online.
Walt Disney Pictures releases the science fiction film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre, to US theaters. It’ is based on the novel of the same name by Jules Verne. This film was produced on a budget of US$4.2 million. IMDB listing Running time: 2 hr 7 mins
Aboard the Apollo 8, American astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William Anders become the first men to orbit the Moon. During the course of the mission’s ten lunar orbits, the astronauts validate many of the technical procedures which will be used in upcoming lunar missions, take star sightings to pinpoint landmarks, survey landing sites, take pictures, and transmit two television broadcasts to Earth. Frank Borman suffers the first space motion sickness in history due to the large space afforded by the craft’s Command Module. Launched on December 21, 1968, the mission will end on December 27, 1968.
According to Twin Galaxies, Victor Ali scores scores a record-setting 80,364,995 points playing the Atari arcade game Missile Command after playing for forty-eight hours at the Cinedome 7 Theater in Fremont, California. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
The experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, becoming the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without refueling. The Voyager set out December 14 and traveled 24,986 miles over 216 hours, at an average speed of 115.8 mph. The flight nearly doubles the previous distance record set in 1962 by a United States Air Force Boeing B-52H.
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