This Day in Geek History: December 8
The Boston-based National Bell Telephone Company is dissolved by court decree.
The first commercial ship-to-shore mobile telephone service is launched.
Lloyd Espenschied and Herman A. Affel receive the first U.S. patent for coaxial cable. (US No. 1,835,031) The patent, described as a “concentric conducting system,” is assigned to American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) of New York City.
Colossus, the first programmable electronic computer, is delivered to Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret cryptanalysis headquarters during World War II. It was designed by engineer Tommy Flowers at the Post Office Research Station in Dollis Hill, north London with input from mathematician Max Newman. It incorporates 1,500 thermionic valves (vacuum tubes), and it is capable of optically reading a paper tape and applying a functions to each character, at a rate of five thousand characters a second.
J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly incorporate the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation to design and build computers for commercial and military applications following a dispute with the administration of the University of Pennsylvania over ENIAC patent rights.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) demonstrates split-screen television for the first time, displaying two images side-by-side on a kinescope tube at a Television Broadcasters Association meeting in New York.
United States President Dwight Eisenhower gives what will come to be known as the “Atoms for Peace” speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations. In the speech, he proposes the establishment of an International Atomic Energy Agency to develop “methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind … to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.” Following the speech, the U.S. Congress will pass the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 which institutes widespread use of atomic energy for commercial applications.
Republic Pictures releases the science fiction film The Atomic Kid, directed by Leslie H. Martinson and starring Mickey Rooney and Robert Strauss, to U.S. theaters. In it, a uranium prospector eating a peanut butter sandwich in the desert when an atom bomb test takes place becomes radioactive. Afterword, he works with the FBI to break up an enemy spy ring. IMDB listing
The Star Trek episode “The Conscience of the King” first airs. (No. 13) In it, Captain Kirk crosses paths with an actor suspected of having been a planetary governor who ordered a mass-murder twenty years earlier. Memory Alpha entry
The United States and the USSR sign a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in outer space.
In Mountain View, California, Paul Jay Terrell opens the ByteShop, the first retail computer store chain in the United States. The ByteShop will place an order for the first fifty Apple I computers from Apple Computer. Terrell’s twenty-five thousand dollar order will not only get Apple off the ground, it will also convince Jobs and his co-founders to manufacture complete computers, rather than the circuit boards that they been planning on marketing to hobbyists.
Atari files a lawsuit against Coleco Industries for US$350 million, alleging that Coleco’s Expansion Module No. 1, which allows Atari 2600 cartridges to be played on the ColecoVision video game system, infringes on Atari patents. Coleco countersues for US$500 million, claiming that Atari has violated antitrust laws.
Warner Communications announces that, due to a slump in sales in its Atari game division, fourth quarter earnings will only be up ten to fifteen percent, falling short of industry analysts’ expectations of a fifty percent increase. Following the announcement, the company’s stock will plummet by 16¾ points.
Martin Pollard, author of the Telegard Bulletin Board System, announces that development of the software will be discontinued. He cites multiple reasons, including a mistreatment by the community and an inability to shake the image of being a “Pirate BBS.” Telegard also stops using Fidonet and joins the USTGNet network, which will later become the ITCnet.
The United States Secretary of Defense announces that the Global Positioning System (GPS), which consists of twenty-four satellites operating in their assigned orbits and provides coordinates accurate to within one hundred meters, has reached “Initial Operational Capability” and will be made available for civilian use at Standard Positioning Service (SPS) levels.
Common Lisp ANSI is released.
A team of German scientists led by Peter Armbruster at the Gesellschaft für schwerionenforschung (GSI) facility at Darmstadt, Germany, announce the creation of element 111 which will initially be named Unununium, symbol Uuu.
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