This Day in Geek History: January 9
Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard undertakes the first manned balloon flight in the U.S., traveling between Philadelphia and Woodbury, New Jersey. He remains aloft for 46 minutes, traveling nearly fifteen miles before setting down in Deptford, New Jersey.
Scottish astronomer Thomas Henderson measures the distance to a star (Alpha Centauri) other than the Sun for the first time.
New England Telephone and Telegraph installs the first battery-operated telephone switchboard in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Astronomer Dominique Francois-Argo announces the development of the Daguerreotype photography process at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. The photographic process uses iodine fumes to sensitize a silver plate, mercury vapors to bring out the image, and common salt to fix the image.
The Edison Manufacturing Company releases the short, black-and-white, silent documentary film “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze,” shot by William K.L. Dickson, to movie theaters. In the five-second film, one of Thomas Edison’s assistants, Fred Ott, takes a pinch of snuff and sneezes.
The Silver Dart makes the first manned flight in Canada. The flight was funded by the Aerial Experiment Association, founded by Alexander and Mabel Bell.
The CBS television network gives a demonstration of color television.
In his State of the-Union address, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that, “In recognition of the need for single control in some of our most advanced development projects, the Secretary of Defense has already decided to concentrate into one organization all antimissile and satellite technology undertaken within the Department of Defense.” The announcement assigns the National Security Agency (NSA) the responsibility of directing and managing the electronics intelligence activities of the United States military. Visit the official NSA website.
The supersonic Concorde passenger jetliner embarks on its first test flight from Bristol, England.
The International Business Machines (IBM) Data Processing Division (DPD) introduces the IBM 3680 programmable store system.
The Burroughs B6800 mainframe computer is released, replacing the previous B6700 model.
The world’s first video game championship is held January 8 – 9 in Ottumwa, Iowa by Twin Galaxies, an organization founded by Walter Day to record video game world records. The championship is preceded by the world’s first video game themed parade. The parade consists of four horses, several Shriner motorcycles, a “kid wearing a cardboard Pac-Man cutout over his head”, a few flag-bearing contestants in the upcoming game championship, and a torch bearer. The competition will be won by Ben Gold, age 16, who scores 40,001,150 points on Star gate over the course of 35 hours, 50 minutes. Read more at the official Twin Galaxies website.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Loud as a Whisper” first airs. (No. 205) In it, an ambassador who is deaf but empathic comes aboard to mediate peace talks, but the mission is complicated by an assassination attempt. Memory Alpha entry
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