This Day in Geek History: January 25
Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates the first transcontinental telephone service in the United States with a phone call placed from New York City to his colleague Dr. Thomas Watson in San Francisco, California. Bell, age 68, makes the ceremonial first call and speaks the first complete sentence transmitted by telephone across a continent, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!” The circuit consists of 2,500 tons of copper wire, 130,000 poles, and three vacuum tube repeaters.
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek premieres at the National Theater in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The play marks the first use of the term “robot,” which Capek coined from the Czech word “robota,” which is the word for the labor serfs were required to perform on their masters’ land. In the play, the robots, molded from a chemical batter, are created to replace human labor, so that men can be freed of their cares, but the robots go on a rampage, killing all the humans but one. The word “Robot” will come into use in the English language in 1923. The first human death caused by a robot in real life will occur on the fifty-eighth anniversary of the play’s premiere, in 1979.
The University of Iowa launches low definition television station W9XK, the first educational television service in the United States.
Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann file a patent application for the first video game, which they describe as the “Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device.” The game was a missile simulator inspired by radar displays from World War II. It uses eight vacuum tubes to simulate a missile firing at a target. Knobs are used to adjust the curve and speed of the missile. The patent will be granted on December 14, 1948.
“Hong Kong” becomes the first television program to be aired at different times on the same evening by a network.
President John F. Kennedy holds the first presidential news conference to be broadcast live on radio and television.
In Flint, Michigan, Robert Williams, age 25, becomes the first human ever killed by a robot. The accident occurs at the Ford Motor Company. The robot’s purpose was to retrieve parts from storage. When the robot proved to be too slow, Williams went to retrieve a part from the bin himself, and the mechanical arm hit him in the head, killing him instantly. Williams family will later file a US$10 million lawsuit against Unit Handling Systems, the manufacturer of the robot, and it will be granted a victory after the jury deliberates for two and a half hours. Ironically, Williams’ death falls on the anniversary of the premiere of the play that introduced the term “robot,” R.U.R.
NASA launches the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), which will become the first space-based observatory to perform a survey of the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. Visit the official IRAS website.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Angel One” first airs. (No. 114) In it, the Enterprise’s mission takes it to a world dominated by women in a search for a shipwrecked crew. Memory Alpha entry
Version 1.11 of RemoteAccess BBS is released.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Ship in a Bottle” first airs. (No. 612) In it, Barclay accidentally reactivates the Professor Moriarty holodeck character, who seizes control of the Enterprise from the holodeck. Memory Alpha entry
A federal grand jury for the Western District of Tennessee returns a twelve-count indictment against Robert and Carleen Thomas, the operators of the Amateur Action BBS for conspiracy to violate federal obscenity laws, shipping obscene materials, and one count of causing the transportation of materials depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Amateur Action BBS is a bulletin board service specializing in the distribution of amateur pornographic photos and video. On December 2, 1994, Robert and Carleen will be sentenced to 37 and 30 months in prison, respectively. This is the first case of a BBS owner being prosecuted for the content of their BBS based on the standards of a community in a different state.
The U.S. Deep Space Probe Science Experiment (DSPSE), also known as the Clementine Lunar Orbiter is launched on a mission to test an array of sensors and experimental probe components. It will map the surface of the Moon from lunar orbit from February 6 and May 5, 1994, using a laser to generate the first topographic lunar map before it is lost.
Servers at the University of Seville servers are hacked by “Zyklon”.
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