This Day in Geek History: December 25
The Roman Church declares December 25th to be the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ in an attempt to supplant the pagan holiday established by Emperor Aurelian as part of broader efforts to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations in the early days of the new religion. The first recorded celebration of the Christian holiday is held in Rome, possibly at the Basilica of St. Anastasia, which itself was built in proximity to the underground grotto where ancient Romans believed a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder Romulus and Remus.
The first confirmed celebration of Christmas takes place.
The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the Church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria. It was written the day prior.
The half hour radio play The Plot to Overthrow Christmas debuts on the Columbia Radio Workshop on CBS Radio Network. It is the first of over 100 programs that will be written and produced by Norman Corwin over the course of what will later be considered the golden age of radio. The program, which was originally intended to be an experiment in radio storytelling and something of a prank, drew the notice of network star Edward R. Murrow and earned Corwin a regular series of his own, “Worlds without Music.” Corwin is among the first producers to pioneer the use of entertainment as a means of examining serious social issues of the day. His work will inspire generations of writers to come to do the same, including Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Norman Lear, and J. Michael Straczynski. Listen to The Plot to Overthrow Christmas online at The Internet Archive.
Warner Bros. Pictures premieres the “Florida Western” film Distant Drums in New York City. On December 29, the film will open nation-wide. The film will go down in film history for introducing the world to the Wilhelm scream, a sound effect that will one day become infamous for its frequent, often obsequious use in films. The film stars Gary Cooper as Captain Quincy Wyatt, who leads a group of soldiers on a mission to stop a band of Seminole Indians from threatening settlers in early 19th Century Florida. In one scene set in a swamp, one of the soldiers is snapped up and dragged underwater by an alligator. Six short screams were recorded to be dubbed into the scene, which was slated by the foley crew as “man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” The fifth scream was used in the scene, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth were later dubbed into an earlier scene in which three Indians are shot during a raid on a fort. The recordings were archived into the studio’s sound effects library, and they were often re-used in Warner Bros. productions over the coming years. When Ben Burtt is hired to create sound effects for Star Wars (1977), he will have an opportunity to do research at the sound departments of several movie studios. While at Warner Bros. searching for sound elements, he will discover the original source of the sound, which he will dub “Wilhelm” after the character who uses the scream in “Charge at Feather River.” After its use in the original Star Wars trilogy, the sounds gained cult status, and would later be noticed by several notable directors, including Joe Dante, Quentin Tarantino, and Peter Jackson. By 2009, the screams will be used in 150 studio films, including such notable blockbusters as “The Wild Bunch” (1969), “Hollywood Boulevard” (1976), “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), “Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition” (2001), “Spider-Man” (2002), “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003), “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” (2003), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008). View a list of movies with the Wilhelm Scream. Watch a compilation of clips from films the incorporate the Wilhelm Scream. IMDB listing Running Time: 1 hr 41 mins
Sony launches its first transistor-based television set, model TV-301, in Japan.
The Christmas virus (Christmas Tree EXEC), the world’s first WAN virus as well as the first widely disruptive computer worm, begins to effect IBM computers around the globe. The virus draws a crude Christmas tree text graphic on the victim’s monitor and searches out other network users. The worm was written by a Clausthal University of Technology student in the REXX scripting language. The actual file name of the virus is CHRISTMA.EXEC because IBM systems only support eight-character filenames.
Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau use the earlier rudimentary browser Berners-Lee developed over the course of a month earlier in the year to access the world’s first web server at info.cern.ch from their respective computers. Thus, the World Wide Web undergoes its first trial run.
A hacker, initially believed to be Kevin Mitnick, allegedly hacks into the computer of security expert Tsutomu Shimomura and steals the Oki cell phone disassembler written by Shimomura. Later, a different, Israeli hacker will be believed to have been responsible. Shimomura responds by tracking Mitnick with New York Times reporter John Markoff to Raleigh, North Carolina. The events following the intrusion, including the eventual arrest of Kevin Mitnick will be recorded in the book Takedown.
Pages: 1 2