This Day in Geek History: January 7
Astronomer Galileo Galilei records the discovery the four largest moons of Jupiter, which will be named Callisto, Europa, Io, and Ganymede. These four moons will be collectively named the Galilean moons in his honor. He discovers mountains and valleys on the Moon, that Jupiter has a moon of its own, and that the sun has spots which change. Galileo also observes Mars.
English engineer Henry Mill receives a patent for the first typewriter, which is describes as a “Machine for Transcribing Letters.” (No. 395) Though little is known about the device, many such early inventions were developed in order to enable the blind to write.
French artist and chemist Louis Daguerre publicly demonstrates his photographic system for the first time at the Académie des Sciences in Paris, France.
Jean Bernard Léon Foucault first uses a pendulum to demonstrate that the Earth rotates. This initial experiment, which is conducted in the cellar of his home using a five kilogram pendulum suspended from a two meter cable, represents the first time the Earth’s rotation has been proven experimentally, rather than through observation. Foucault will give a public demonstration for scientists using an eleven meter wire at the Paris observatory on February 3 and again at the Pantheon in Paris on March 31.
The Marconi International Marine Communication Company, Limited, of London announces that the Morse code call sign “CQD” will serve as a maritime distress call. The letters are chosen, not as an acronym, but because “CQ” had already been adopted as the general call sign for maritime use. Two years later, at the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention in Berlin, “SOS” will be adopted as the international standard distress signal.
Philo T. Farnsworth, files his first patent application for a television system. It is based on an image dissector tube, though neither the practicality nor the marketability of the system has yet been proven.
Buck Rogers 2429 A.D. and Tarzan, two of the first adventure comic strips, debut through Dille’s syndication company, leading the way for the popularization of the science fiction genre, first in print, then in serialized films.
The Flash Gordon comic strip by artist Alex Raymond debuts. The strip was created to compete with the popular Buck Rogers series, but it will quickly came into its own, eventually surpassing the popularity of Buck Rogers. Flash Gordon will eventually be spun off into a live-action serial, a radio show, novels, comic books, and animated cartoons. View a high resolution scan of an early Flash Gordon comic strip at Wikipedia.
Scientists at the University of Southern California announce that they have successfully photographed genes for the first time.
DuMont Laboratories demonstrates its Duoscopic television receiver, a display which allows viewer to simultaneously watch two broadcasts simultaneously.
The Georgetown-IBM experiment, the first public demonstration of a machine translation system, is held at the head office of International Business Machines (IBM) in New York. In the experiment, more than sixty Russian sentences are translated automatically into English using a IBM 701 mainframe computer programmed with a simple vocabulary of 250 words and just six grammatical rules. The purpose of the demonstration is to attract government interest to the project, and the event receives heavy coverage from the media, which portrays the experiment as a success. The authors of the software claim that in three to five years, machine translation will become a solved problem.
The Polaris missile is test launched from the Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Ivan Sutherland introduces the Sketchpad, one of the earliest applications for the TX-0, as a part of his Ph.D. thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sketchpad allows the direct manipulation of objects on a computer screen to create and manipulate graphics with a light pen. Sutherland’s thesis will become the basis of many future graphical user interfaces (GUI).
The International Business Machines (IBM) Data Processing Division (DPD) announces the IBM Tariff Publishing System and IBM Traffic Profile Analysis System, two logistical programs for shipment coordination.
At Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Commodore International introduces the Commodore 64 (C-64) computer. The features a 6510 processor, 64KB RAM, 20KB ROM, Microsoft BASIC, and 16 color graphics. The company also introduces the Ultimax, which features up to 2KB RAM for US$149. Price: US$600 (US$200 in 1983)
At Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Texas Instruments (TI) releases the Peripheral Expansion Box for the TI-99/4a home computer. While the “P-box” represents a significant improvement over other TI-99/4 peripherals, its price is absurdly high. In addition, there is a very limited supply of the device, leaving the few consumers who are willing to pay the price scrabbling to find one. Price: US$1,474
At Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Commodore International introduces the Commodore 264. The system features a 7501 microprocessor and 64KB RAM. Code-name: “TED” (named for its Text Editing Chip)
At Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Commodore International demonstrates a prototype of the Commodore 364 computer. The 364 is a model of the Commodore 264 featuring a separate numeric keypad, 48KB ROM, and a built-in voice synthesizer.
Commodore International announces that during 1983, the company sold a record-breaking US$1 billion of computers.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launches Sakigake, Japan’s first interplanetary spacecraft and the first deep space probe to be launched by any country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. It will fly past Halley’s Comet on March 1, 1986. Read the Sakigake Mission Profile.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Data’s Day” first airs. (No. 411) In it, Data keeps a journal of a day in his life for Commander Bruce Maddox, in which he discusses the impending marriage of Chief O’Brien and Keiko, his dance lessons with Dr. Crusher, the birth of a new baby, and the arrival of a Vulcan ambassador. Memory Alpha entry
AT&T releases its first video-telephone. Price: US$1,499
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