This Day in Geek History: January 10
Thomas Edison is issued a patent for a storage-battery electrode and its production. (US No. 1402751)
The first science fiction film in history, Metropolis directed Fritz Lang, premieres in theaters. The film took two years to shoot, and it cost more to produce that any other prior silent film. It’s spectacular special effects, many of which were achieved using the groundbreaking “Schufftan Process,” will earn it a place in history. The Schufftan Process involves shooting an actor through a hole in the silvered back of a mirror which is reflecting a matte painting. The effect makes the actor appear to be standing on a much grander set. Metropolis will go on to become the first block buster of all time, and it will subsequently influence scores of films in the decades to come.
The first with the Moon is made when the United States Army Signal Corps successfully bounces radar waves off the surface of the Moon for the first time from Belmar, New Jersey in an operation code-named “Project Diana.” A 180-cycle wave pulse with a 1/4 second duration is beamed from the Evans Signal Laboratories in Belmar, New Jersey. The echo of the beam was received 2.4 seconds later. The event proves that radio waves can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. The experiment is supervised by Lieutenant Colonel John H. De Witt, a broadcasting pioneer and amateur astronomer who first conceived the idea in 1940. His own earlier, amateur attempts were unsuccessful.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) introduces a new music format dubbed the “single,” a 45 RPM record seven inches in diameter, in the U.S. A single plays up to eight minutes of sound per side. The format, along with the long-playing (LP) records introduced just a year earlier, will soon replace the popular 78 rpm records as the national standard.
The U.S. Navy establishes its first nuclear power school at Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.
The Soviet Venera 6 atmospheric probe is launched. It will arrive at Venus on May 17, 1969, where it will record atmospheric data indicating that the planet has an atmosphere composed of 93-97% carbon dioxide, 2-5% nitrogen, and less than 4% oxygen. The probe will returned data to within eleven kilometers of surface before it is crushed by the planet’s atmospheric pressure.
The Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” first airs. (No. 70) In it, the Enterprise picks up a passenger and his pursuer who are both members of a race locked in a planetary racial war, but when they hijack the ship to return to the planet, they receive a shock. This is the only episode in the original series to feature close-up shots of the exterior of the Enterprise. Memory Alpha entry
The 39th annual Amusement Trades Exhibition is held January 10 – 13, at the National Hall of the Olympia Convention Centre in London, England. Atari establishes a significant presence at the event, with a 1,500 square foot booth, five times the size of its booth in the previous year. Among the coin-operated games Atari demonstrates are Millipede, Pole Position, and Time Pilot.
Sir Clive Sinclair, a pioneer of handheld computer technology, demonstrates his latest invention, the Sinclair C5 electric car. Despite it’s marketable price, it will fail so badly that it will soon become the object of industry ridicule, selling only about seventeen thousand units.
Apple Computer releases the Macintosh Plus, featuring an 8MHz Motorola 68000, 1MB of RAM (expandable to 4MB), a 3.5-inch 800KB floppy drive, and a SCSI parallel interface for up to seven peripherals. The Mac Plus was the first Macintosh to feature the ground-breaking SCSI port, which gives rise to the popular use of external SCSI device. It is also the first Macintosh to use single in-line memory modules (SIMMs) for memory.
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