This Day in Geek History: January 2
A special Commission is convened in York, England to try sixty-six people for Luddite offenses. Seventeen of them will later be sentence to execution. The Luddites, who vowed to destroy the factory automation mechanisms which they blamed for their unemployment, rioted in 1812, destroying a thousand looms in Nottingham, where half of the population had been left no alternative but to rely on parish relief.
French chemist and photographer Louis Daguerre takes the first photograph of the Moon.
At a meeting of the Académie des Sciences in Paris, France, the possible existence of a small planet in orbit between Mercury and the Sun, dubbed “Vulcan” is announced by French mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier. The announcement is based on the observations of French physician and amateur astronomer Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, who wrote to Le Verrier in December, claiming to have seen the planet in transit. Over the course of his life, Le Verrier will continue to collect anecdotal evidence of the planet’s existence from amateur astronomers, and he will die convinced that he had discovered a new planet. However, in 1915 Einstein’s theory of relativity will conclusively debunk the planet’s existence, proving that anomalies in Mercury’s orbit are merely a byproduct of the Sun’s gravitational field.
The first artificial satellite to orbit the Sun, Luna 1, is launched by the U.S.S.R. Luna 1 will have the distinction of being the first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravity and to fly past the Moon. The satellite’s mission will lead to the discovery of solar winds.
In the United States, an advertising ban on television commercials for tobacco products goes into effect after being deferred for a day so that broadcasters could keep their commitments to advertisers during the Super Bowl the previous day. Both the ABC and CBS networks will later report that the ban resulted in a fifty per cent drop in advertising revenue, for an estimated loss of US$220 million. Under the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC also bans anti-smoking advertisements from broadcast.
The number of Bell System telephones in service reaches one hundred million. Independent telephone companies serve only twenty-five million subscribers.
The day after Popular Electronics magazine publishes an issue featuring the MITS Altair 8800 on its cover, Bill Gates and Paul Allen write to Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the manufacturer of the Altair computer, saying they have a BASIC language for the Intel 8080 processor. Gates and Allen propose licensing the language for use on the Altair in exchange for royalty payments. This letter and the contract which results from it, are the first time Gates and Allen refer to themselves by the company name Microsoft, spelled “Micro-Soft.”
The “U.S. Patent Office” was renamed “U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”
The science fiction television series Blake’s 7 premieres on BBC1 with the episode “The Way Back.” (No. A1) The series will be popular right from the first episode within the UK, and it will eventually gain a global cult following. Creator Terry Nation drew on a wide array of classic British literature to write the series, including Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and When the Sleeper Wakes. The series itself will in turn be enormously influential on generations of science fiction television series to come. It will run for four series and a total of fifty-two episodes in all. TV.com entry Visit the official Blake’s 7 website.
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