This Day in Geek History: January 8
United States President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union Address in New York City. In his address, George Washington urges the second session of the 1st United States Congress to support the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad and to recognize the skill and genius of U.S. inventors. Within days, the House of Representatives will set up a committee to draft a patent statute, which George Washington will sign into law on April 10, 1790. The first patent will be granted on July 31, 1790.
The first telegraph message in the U.S. in which letters are represented by dots and dashes is transmitted. The message reads, “A patient waiter is no loser.” The message is transmitted over the system invented by Alfred Vail of Morristown, New Jersey, in September 1837.
Dr. Herman Hollerith, statistician for the United States Census Bureau, is issued the first three patents for his punch card tabulating machine, which are also the first patents ever issued for a computer. (US No. 395,781, -2, -3) His device is designed to record statistical data on punch cards. It resembles Charles Babagge’s Analytical Engine, but it uses electromagnetic relays rather then metal gears. The information on these punch cards can be tallied by running the cards through electromagnetically-operated counters. The patents described the system’s potential use in the compilation of census statistics, for which it will be used in 1890.
At Bell Labs, Dr. George Stibitz completes construction of Complex Number Calculator, a full-scale relay calculator capable of performing the complex arithmetic calculations (involving complex numbers) necessary for circuit design. On September 11, 1940, it will become the first computing machine to be used remotely over a phone line during a demonstration before the American Mathematical Society conference at Dartmouth College. In 1937, Stibitz used flashlight bulbs, surplus relays, tin-can strips, and other bric-a-brack items to construct the K-machine, a digital calculator built on a breadboard capable of adding two bits and displaying the result. By late 1938, Bell Labs had authorized the development of a full-scale relay calculator based on the K-machine to assist in the development of wide-area telephone networks, and, by April 1939, Stibitz’s had begun the construction on the Bell Labs Complex Computer.
Bobby Fisher wins the United States Championships for the first time at only 14 years of age. At the time of game, Fisher has already come to be considered one of the greatest chess players of all time due to the “brilliancy” he had won in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City at age 13, which had been dubbed the “Game of the Century” by Hans Kmoch.
Cable & Wireless opens a co-axial telephone cable between Bermuda and the United States, which will remain in operational until 1990.
Jacques Cousteau’s first undersea special debuts on network television in the U.S.
Atari files for a patent for a the Atari 400/800 computer system, described as a “Data processing system with programmable graphics generator.” The inventors of the system are listed as: Steven T. Mayer (Auburn, CA), Jay G. Miner (Sunnyvale, CA), Douglas G. Neubauer (Santa Clara, CA), and Joseph C. Decuir (Mountain View, CA).
Assistant Attorney General William F. Baxter, head of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust division, withdraws the government’s thirteen year-old antitrust suit against International Business Machines (IBM). The Justice Department originally brought a civil antitrust suit against IBM on January 17, 1969, alleging that by bundling software with its hardware, the company was engaging in anti-competitive behavior in an attempting to monopolize the market for general-purpose computers.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announces that a consent decree has been issued in the antitrust case that it brought against AT&T. The company agrees to divest itself of its wholly-owned Bell telephone companies that provide local telephone service across the United States. In return for the concession, the DOJ agrees to lift the constraints of its 1956 decree.
Hacker and Legion of Doom member Loyd Blankenship, known by the web handle “The Mentor”, publishes the short essay “The Conscience of a Hacker,” sometimes referred to as “Hacker Manifesto,” in the hacker e-zine Phrack (Volume One, Issue 7, Phile 3 of 10) following his arrest by the FBI. The manifesto will widely come to be regarded as a cornerstone of hacker culture. Read The Hacker’s Manifesto.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Atari introduces its line of IBM-PC clones. The US$699 model supports EGA, CGA, Hercules, and IBM monochrome graphics and includes the monochrome monitor. The US$499 model features similar specifications without EGA capabilities or a monitor. Both systems feature 512KB RAM (expandable to 640KB), a Centronics parallel port, a RS232 serial port, and the Intel 8088 CPU. The products are expected to be delivered in the spring.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Hunted” first airs. (No. 311) In it, a genetically modified soldier who escapes the custody of the Enterprise reveals his planet’s mistreatment of all of his kind on his home planet. Memory Alpha entry
American Video Entertainment files a US$105 million dollar lawsuit against Nintendo, accusing the company of violation of antitrust laws by barring compatible game cartridges from the marketplace. The suit comes after American Video Entertainment developed a technology that allows their own game cartridge format to be played on Nintendo machines.
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