This Day in Geek History: December 9
American lexicographer Noah Webster establishes New York City’s first daily newspaper, The American Minerva, named after the Roman goddess of poetry and wisdom.
Comet 3D/1805 V1 also known as Comet Biela, passes within 0.0366 astronomical units (AU) of Earth.
A patent for the first automatic telephone switching system is issued to M.D. Connolly of Philadelphia, T.A. Connolly of Washington, D.C., and T. J. McTighe of Pittsburgh. (US No. 222,458)
Herman Hollerith installs his computing device at the United States War Department.
George Albert Smith demonstrates the Kinemacolor motion picture process for the first time to the Royal Society of Arts in London, England. Kinemacolor is a two-color additive color process for photographing and projecting a black-and-white film behind alternating red and green filters.
The first monoplane flown in the U.S. is piloted by Henry W. Walden in Long Island, New York.
The Longines Watch Company signs the first FM radio advertising contract, with experimental station W2XOR in New York City. The advertisements will run for twenty-six weeks, promoting the Longines time signals.
The Sperry Rand Corporation of St. Paul, Minnesota unveils the Univac 1107, the first electronic computer to employ thin-film memory. Thin film magnetic memory technology, developed by Sperry Rand through government funded research, is a four millionths of an inch thick layer of iron-nickel alloy (called permalloy) on glass plates. The memory provides very fast access to the Univac’s 128-word general register stack. While the 1107 is intended for commercial applications, other models intended for military purposes will later feature great amounts of thin film memory.
Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of seventeen researchers working with him at the Augmentation Research Center of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) demonstrate the NLS (“oNLine System”) to about one thousand technology specialists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference held by the American Federation of Information Processing Society during the San Francisco convention center. The ninety-minute public demonstration will later be dubbed “The mother of all demos” by Steven Levy, in his 1994 book, “Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything.” The demonstration introduces the world to (among other things) the very first computer mouse, dynamic linking, e-mail, graphical user interfaces, hypertext, object addressing, and video teleconferencing, as well as the concept of the “paper paradigm.” The demonstration is conducted via teleconference, and can be seen in its entirety via streaming video at a site hosted by Stanford.
Mattel announces that it expects a fourth-quarter loss due to increased competition in the video game market and a general slump in the retail industry.
The Christmas Virus finds its way onto BITNET, causing many mail servers to crash under the overload. Eventually much of the network will be shutdown to stop its spread. The Christmas Virus will later be recognized as the first widely disruptive replicating network program.
The High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, drafted and introduced by Senator Al Gore, is enacted, becoming Public Law 102-194. The Act will make widespread internet access a possibility through the creation of the High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, a national high-speed fiber optic network, the National Information Infrastructure (NII), which Al Gore calls the “information superhighway,” and the National Research and Education Network (NREN). The Act will also fund the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, where a team of programmers, including Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, will create the Mosaic Web browser, which will later be credited by most scholars as being responsible for starting the Internet boom of the nineties. In the Fall of 1990, there were an estimated 313,000 computers with online access across the United States, but thanks to the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, that number will reach ten million by the end of 1996. Controversy will arise when Gore is later misquoted as having said that he “invented the Internet” in an interview on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on March 9, 1999, alluding to this bill by saying that, “During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”
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