This Day in Geek History: January 26
Isaac Newton receives and solves Jean Bernoulli’s brachistochrone problem. The swiss mathematician Bernouilli had challenged his colleagues to solve it within six months. Newton not only solved the problem before going to bed the night after the challenge had been issued, but in doing so, he invented the new branch of mathematics called “calculus of variations.” Newton will publish the solution anonymously, but the brilliant work makes his identity obvious, and when Bernoulli saw the solution he is famously quoted as saying, “We recognize the lion by his claw.”
Karl Benz patents the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. The first public test-drive of the actual vehicle will be on July 3, 1886 in Mannheim, Germany. The one-cylinder engine has a top speed of 10 mph (16km/h).
Glenn H. Curtiss pilots the first American seaplane (or “hydroplane”) on its maiden voyage in San Diego, California.
The Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gives the first public demonstration of a modern television system in London, England. Baird’s invention, called a “televisor,” uses mechanically rotating disks to scan moving images into electronic impulses. The impulses are then transmitted by cable to a screen where images appear low-resolution patterns of light and shadow. Baird’s first televised demonstration depicted the heads of two ventriloquist dummies, which were operated in front of the camera, while the operator remained out of sight.
The Star Trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday” first airs. (No. 19) In it, the crew of the Enterprise is flung back in time to the sixties, where they must correct the damage they have caused to the timeline. Memory Alpha entry
The International Business Machines (IBM) Data Processing Division (DPD) introduces the IBM 2721 portable audio terminal which allows users to interface with an IBM System/360 over a phone line.
Relaunch of local Atlanta television station WTCG, bought by Ted Turner, as WTBS. It will form the basis of the first satellite-delivered superstation.
A day before the lawsuit brought by Greyhound against International Business Machines (IBM) alleging antitrust violations begins, the two companies announce a settlement. IBM agrees to pay Greyhound US$17.7 million with no admissions of guilt in exchange for Greyhound dropping their lawsuit. The settlement brings the long line of lawsuits against IBM, which began in 1972, to an end.
Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet program for IBM computers, is released by The Lotus Development Corporation, which was founded by Mitchell Kapor, a friend of the developers of VisiCalc, the first “killer ap.” 1-2-3 isn’t the first spreadsheet application, but it will begin outselling the popular VisiCalc by the end of the year, grossing US$53 million in sales. For several years after its release, it will continued to be the leading spreadsheet software for the DOS operating system. It’s popularity is a major factor in the success of the the IBM PC in business. Unlike Microsoft Multiplan, its design is extremely similar to VisiCalc. It is free of notable bugs, and its performance is extremely efficient because it is written entirely in assembly language, bypassing the slower DOS screen input/output functions in favor of writing directly to memory-mapped video display hardware.
AT&T reports a fiscal loss of US$1.67 billion dollars in 1988. It is the first fiscal loss in one hundred three years.
The science fiction television series Babylon 5 premieres with the episode “Midnight on the Firing Line.” (No. 101) In it, the Narn attack a Centauri colony, and ambassadors Londo and G’Kar nearly come to blows over the issue. Meanwhile, the station crew receive news that raiders are attacking transport ships en route to the station. The series is notable for having been planned from its conception to center around a single great story arc, defying the normal episodic conventions of the sci-fi genre. It will run for five seasons and a total of 110 episodes. Lurker’s Guide entry TV.com Entry
At the Macworld Conference & Expo, Steven Jobs announces Allegro, Mac OS 8, Rhapsody, and Sonata, as well as discussing NeXT and the general business outlook of Apple Computer. Jobs has officially returned to Apple as an “advisor” as part of a deal with Job’s company NeXT. Visit the official website of the Macworld Conference.
Intel releases the 333MHz Pentium II processor, featuring MMX instructions, a 66MHz bus, and a 512KB Level-2 cache operating at 167MHz. It is the first Pentium II processor manufactured with Intel’s advanced 0.25 micron CMOS process. The line is expected to reach 450Mhz speed by the end of the year. Code-name: Deschutes Price: US$722 in 1,000-unit quantities
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