This Day in Geek History: January 20
La Marcus Thompson of Coney Island, New York is issued the first US patent for a roller coaster, the “Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway,” which he had built at Coney Island in New York City in 1884. (US No. 332,762) For five cents a ride, passengers sit sideways in cars that travel a six hundred foot wooden railway, at a top speed of six miles per hour. Thompson, who will later be dubbed “the father of gravity,” will earn back his original US$1,600 investment within just three weeks.
The Fox Film Corporation releases the western film “In Old Arizona,” directed by Irving Cummings and starring Warner Baxter, Edmund Lowe, and Dorothy Burgess, to US theaters. It is the first full-length talking motion picture to be shot outdoors on location in the US. IMDB listing Running time: 1 hr 35 mins
The inauguration speech of US President Ronald Reagan is broadcast. It is the world’s first broadcast to feature live teletext subtitles for the hearing impaired.
At the CP/M show, NCR introduces the Decision Mate V computer, featuring a Zilog Z80 processor or an optional Intel 8088 processor. Price: US$2650 – US$3440.
The Handwell Corporation agrees to cease its copyright infringement of the IBM BIOS system.
Apple Computer first airs the “Lemmings” commercial for the Macintosh Office during Super Bowl XIX. The commercial features blind folded businessmen marching off the edge of a cliff. It will widely be regarded as an immense failure, insulting the customer that it is meant to be targeting. Watch the Lemmings commercial online.
The home of Robert and Carleen Thomas, the operators of the Amateur Action BBS, is raided at 7:30am by five armed San Jose police officers executing a warrant investigating the possible of possession or control of pictures of minors. The officers seize a great deal of material, including computers, electronics, photographs, video tapes, and number of Carleen’s personal effects, such as purses, shoes, and underwear. The affidavit supporting the warrant is sealed, so the exact justification behind the search will remain unknown. No charges will ever be brought against the Thomas’, however, a year later, they will be prosecuted in the “Amateur Action BBS Case”. Amateur Action BBS is a bulletin board service specializing in the distribution of amateur pornographic photos and video. As a result of the raid, the Thomas’ will later claim to have lost fifteen thousand dollars in business revenue and legal fees, as all of the equipment Robert used to run his home electronics business were seized.
The market value of Microsoft peaks at US$26.78 billion, surpassing International Business Machines (IBM), which was valued at US$26.76 billion, for the first time. Microsoft will go on to become the highest valued company in the computer industry, as well as the fourteenth highest valued company on the US market.
The third and final court hearing on the Microsoft consent decree is held.
Olivetti S.p.A., the first Italian typewriter manufacturer, announces that it will sell its personal computer company to Piedmont International for about US$159-190 million.
Dr. James Robl of the University of Massachusetts and Dr. Steven Stice of Advanced Cell Technology announce that they have become the first to successfully clone cows from fetal cells in which human genes were spliced to produce medicinal milk. Their goal is to use cows to manufacture milk containing human proteins for medical treatment.
The China News Service announces new government restrictions on Internet use at Internet cafes.
United States District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan issues a temporary injunction forbidding websites from providing access to DeCSS, a program that decrypts the contents of DVD-video discs.
Per Lidén releases version 0.5 of the CRUX operating system. CRUX is a lightweight Linux distribution optimized for i686 systems, specifically designed for experienced Linux users. Visit the system’s official website.
Andrey Budko, of the Ukraine, sets the world record for a tool-assisted speedrun of Doom 2, in a record 14 minutes, 41 seconds.
The Nyxem worm is first discovered. Beginning on February 3, the worm disables filesharing and security software, then destroys all files of certain types, including Microsoft Office files, on the third of every month.
Screen Gems releases the fantasy action film Underworld: Evolution, directed by Len Wiseman and starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Michael Sheen, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Bill Nighy, to 3,207 US theaters. It’s the sequel to the 2003 action film UnderWorld. Produced on a budget of US$50 million, it will gross US$26,857,181 domestically in its opening weekend. Visit the film’s official website. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: R) Running Time: 1 hr 46 mins