This Day in Geek History: January 13
The English Parliament passes the Act of Multipliers, forbidding alchemists from using transmutation to create or multiply precious metals, specifically gold and silver. The Act comes in response to widespread fear that alchemists would succeed in their projects and ruin the nation or install a despot. In 1689, Robert Boyle lobbied for repeal of the Act.
Galileo Galilei discovers what will later be named Callisto, the fourth satellite of Jupiter. Galileo names the Moon along with the three he discovered earlier the “Medicean planets,” after the Medici family, and numerically as I, II, III and IV. Galileo’s naming system will be used until the mid-1800′s, when they will come to be referred to as Galilean moons, Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io.
C.G. Spalding receives a patent for the Spalding Adding Machine. (US No. 29.3,809) The machine is the precursor of later calculators and computers.
This date is sometimes noted for the first release of an advertisement for a radio receiver in the US. However, the very earliest one-inch advertisement for the Telimco appeared in the November 25, 1905 issue of the Scientific American. Both of these ads, along with several similar weekly advertisements run between the two dates, were placed by Hugo Gernsback of The Electro Importing Company of New York. Gernsback will later forget the exact date on which the first Telimco advertisements appeared and mis-cite it in a later interview for a special issue of Radio Craft published in March 1938. (Thus the confusion.)
Henry Farman, an English-born Frenchman, flies the first one-kilometer circuit, winning the Grand Prix de Aviation and its 50,000 franc purse. He crosses the starting poles about thirteen feet (4m) in the air, then flies straight out for about 500 meters. Slowly climbing to 12m (40ft), he then makese a wide, flat turn, using the rudder alone to slide around the marker. He comes back and makes another turn, crossing his starting point, before landing gently. The entire flight lasts 28 seconds but covers the prescribed kilometer. Although the Wrights may have accomplished the same distance at an earlier date, this is historically the first such flight in front of official witnesses.
American inventor Ernst F.W. Alexanderson demonstrates his television receiver publicly for the first time. It delivers a poor and unsteady picture only 1.5 inches square. The picture, with a forty-eight line resolution transmitted at sixteen frames per second, is broadcast over 2XAF at a 37.8 meters frequency while the sound is broadcast over radio station WGY. Three television sets are installed by General Electric (GE) and Radio Corporation of America (RCA), one in the Alexanderson home and two in the homes of board members, all in Schenectady, New York. On May 28, 1928, WGY, the first television station, will begin broadcasting a regular schedule of programs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons between 1:30 and 3:30pm, at twenty-four frames a second.
Linus Pauling presents a petition of signed by prominent scientists to the United Nations, asking for a halt to the testing of nuclear weapons. Pauling, along with his wife, was instrumental in collecting the nine thousand signatures from scientists across the globe, which the present to Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations. Within months, the Soviet Union will call for an immediate halt to nuclear testing, and by October, following a number of tests conducted by both the Soviet Union and the United States, talks began in Geneva to discuss details of a possible test ban.
Hammer Studios releases the horror film The Satanic Rites of Dracula, directed by Alan Gibson and starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, to US theaters. In it, two years after the events of Dracula, strange things begin to happen, and Scotland Yard calls upon Professor Van Helsing to assist them. He soon discovers that Dracula plots to unleash a plague on the world. IMDB listing
Inventor Raymond Kurzweil demonstrates the first machine for reading printed material aloud. Using a camera, a computer can scan printed pages, analyze them, and speak them aloud with in synthesized English speech at one hundred fifty words a minute. The machine will be manufactured by Kurzwell Computer Products, Inc., and it will be tested by the National Federation for the Blind.
Viewdata, later renamed Prestel, is first publicly demonstrated. Viewdata is a Videotex information retrieval service which subscribers can use to remotely access a database to request data on one channel and receive requested data over a separate channel. The system uses a modem running at CCITT V.23 speeds of 1200bps down and 75bps up. The service will be popular in the travel industry through the nineties.
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