This Day in Geek History: February 5
The first U.S. patent for a push-key operated adding machine is issued to Dubois D. Parmelee of New Paltz, New York. (US No. 7,074) His “Calculating Machine” diagram shows nine keys. Each key causes a ratchet to raise a graduated indicator rod at the rear of the device by a corresponding number of notches. The calculator will ultimately be unsuccessful. The first commercially successful calculator will be invented forty years later by William Burroughs.
A patent is issued to Coleman Sellers of Philadelphia for the Kinematoscope, which he describes as an “improvement in exhibiting stereoscopic pictures of moving objects.” (US No. 31,357) The Kinematoscope projects a series of still pictures with successive stages of action mounted on paddle blades through slits passed under the lens of a stereoscope.
In Philadelphia, the first motion picture is presented to a theater audience by Henry R. Heyl using a Phasmatrope. A Phasmatrope is a converted projecting lantern with a rotating disc mounted to its front and sixteen openings near the edge, each of which carries a photographic plate. The plates hold a series of animation cells depicting dancers, who appear to move as the rotating disc spins. The demonstration marks the Ninth Annual Entertainment of the Young Men’s Society of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Philadelphia, an event held at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Joseph Swan demonstrates a light bulb using carbon glow for the first time.
The Indiana State House legislature passes Bill Number 246 which, in effect, assigns Pi the value of exactly 3.2. The bill states, in part, that “the ratio of the diameter and circumference [pi] is as five-fourths to four.” The bill was introduced by Representative Taylor I. Record, a farmer and lumber merchant, on behalf of a mathematical hobbyist, Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin, M.D. The politicians don’t understand that the bill is mathematically incorrect. Clarence A. Waldo, a mathematics professor at Purdue University, will eventually realize the error and notify the Indiana Senators. The bill will be indefinitely postponed on February 12, 1897.
Thomas Edison is issued a patent for a “Phonograph Recorder and Reproducer.”
The Soviet Union launches Sputnik V, the heaviest satellite yet put into space at 7.1 tons.
The NASA manned lunar lander Antares of Apollo 14 lands near the Fra Mauro region of the Moon, where the crew will collect 42.9 kilograms of lunar samples using a hand cart, completing the aborted mission of the Apollo 13. The crew of the lunar lander consists of Commander Alan Shepard and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell who walk on the Moon for four hours.
The NASA space probe Mariner 10 returns the first close-up photos of the cloud structure and circulation of Venus. It flies past the planet for a “gravity assist” to the planet Mercury. Mariner 10 is the first probe sent to explore two planets in a single mission, as well as the first spacecraft to be equipped an imaging system.
The board of commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes a vote on whether or not to charge Microsoft with allegedly colluding with International Business Machines (IBM) in unfair trade practices. The vote results in a 2-2 split that results in no action being taken. Visit the official FTC website.
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