This Day in Geek History: February 8
Isaac Newton presents his first paper on the science of optics to the Royal Society in London, England. He was elected a member only the previous month, in recognition of his original design for the first reflecting telescope. The paper is a report regarding his study of the colors produced by prisms entitled “New Theory about Light and Colors.”
The silent film The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith, is released. The film will go on to become the highest-grossing film of the silent film era, but it will be remembered for introducing many innovations to the film industry that will later be considered fundamental film devices, including the close-up, night photography, parallel editing, and telling a story from multiple points of view. However, the film will be one of the most controversial in history due to its crass use of black face, its portrayal of racial violence, and its outright glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. Anticipating the controversy, Griffin screened the film for President Woodrow Wilson, who praised the film, calling it “history written in lightening,” but the film’s release will spark riots in Boston and Philadephia and eventually be banned in eight states, largely thanks to the efforts of the newly founded NAACP.
Charles Kettering receives a patent for a self-starting automobile engine.
First coast-to-coast radio broadcast in the United States is made from Chicago by General John Joseph Carthy of Bell Telephone to an audience of fifty million listeners.
The first transatlantic television image is received in Hartsdale, New York. The image, which shows the face of Mrs. Mia Howe, is transmitted by John Logie Baird from station 2KZ in Purley, England over short wave radio. The picture is crudely formed from a scan of thirty lines and transmitted at twelve frames per second. The signal’s successful reception caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, receiving a great deal of media attention.
H.H. Aiken, B.M. Durfee, C.D Lake, and F.E. Hamilton file an application for a patent on the Automatic Sequence Control Calculator, more commonly known as the Harvard Mark I, the world’s first automatic digital computer. It is capable of performing the four basic arithmetic functions and handling numbers of up to twenty-three decimal places.
The NASDAQ stock market, the world’s first electronic stock market, opens for the first time. Initially, the NASDAQ is a simple computer bulletin board system designed to supplant over-the-counter trading systems. Visit the official NASDAQ website.
The third and final astronaut crew of the Skylab Space Station returns to Earth, completing the mission that began on November 16, 1973. Skylab orbited Earth a total of 2,476 times during over the course of the one hundred seventy-one days of its occupation during the three manned Skylab missions. The vacant Skylab station will eventually be steered towards Earth, where it will disintegrate in the atmosphere on July 11, 1979. Visit the official website The Skylab Space Station.
The proceedings of the United States Senate are broadcast over the radio for the first time.
The Council of Bradley, Illinois, bars children under sixteen years of age from playing arcade games. The ban comes shortly after the national Parent Teacher Association publicly denounced game arcades in a statement, reading, in part, “The PTA is concerned over the increasing number ofvideo game sites which may have an adverse effect on many of the young people who frequent such establishments… Initial studies have shown that game sites are often in close proximity to schools. In many cases there is not adequate control of access by school-age children during school hours, which compounds the problem of school absenteeism and truancy. Where little orno supervision exists, drug-selling, drug use, drinking, gambling, increased gang activities and other such behaviors may be seen.” However, in the case of Aladdin’s Castle arcade versus the city of Mesquite, Texas, the Supreme Court will later overturn a similar ban, ruling that playing arcade video games is an activity protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Too Short a Season” first airs. (No. 116) In it, the Enterprise is dispatched on a mission to transport an extremely old admiral to negotiations. Memory Alpha entry
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