This Day in Geek History: January 17
Leroy B. Firman receives the first patent for a telephone switchboard. (U.S. No. 252,576) The invention will play a fundamental role in the success of the telephone industry.
Thomas Edison is issued a patent for the carbon microphone for the telephone. (US No. 252,442) The microphone consists of a conducting material, such as carbon, held between metal cups or rings attached to the telephone mouthpiece’s diaphragm. Sound waves cause the diaphragm to change the pressure on the carbon button, which, in turn, causes variation in the electric current passing through the carbon button. The variations correspond to the amplitude and pitch of whatever sound is passing through the mouthpiece.
Howard Aiken submits a formal proposal for the construction of an automatic calculating machine, later known as the Harvard Mark I, to Havard University President J.B. Conant. The proposal includes a history of the computers built by Charles Babbage and Herman Hollerith and a discussion of the features that would be required in a machine intended for scientific calculations.
The Goldbergs, the first sitcom on American television, premieres.
United States attorney general Ramsey Clark charges International Business Machines (IBM) with violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act in the attempted monopolization of the electronic digital computer industry, on his last day in office. The suit will be withdrawn in 1982.
According to Twin Galaxies, Chip Davis scores a record-setting 367,720 points playing the Namco arcade game Galaxian at the John Brown U. arcade in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
The thirty second version of the groundbreaking Apple commercial “1984” is included among theatrical previews in movie theaters across the country. The commercial becomes so popular, it will often be replayed for audience at no cost to Apple. It was directed by Ridley Scott. Watch the commercial and read a transcript of the audio.
In the case of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., the so-called “Betamax case,” the Supreme Court of the United States rules 5-to-4 that using a videocassette recorder to tape television programming for personal use is not an infringement of copyright law.
SRI.com becomes the eighth .com domain to be registered.
International Business Machines (IBM) announces a loss of nearly US$5 billion for 1991.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Homeward” first airs. (No. 713) In it, Worf’s step-brother violates the Prime Directive by bringing a village from a doomed planet aboard the Enterprise. Memory Alpha entry
Apple Computer reveals a sixty-nine million dollar first quarter loss and lays off thirteen hundred employees.
Geoffrey Marcy and R. Paul Butler announce the discovery of two new planets through the use of computer analysis to the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The unconventional method analyzes the movement of stars using spectrographic images taken over the course of eight years to find shifts in light that indicate the presence of planet’s gravity.
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