This Day in Geek History: July 16
Lee De Forest files a patent application for his sound-on-film system.
National Geographic magazine publishes the first natural-color underwater photographs in history. The photos were taken off the Florida Keys.
The U.S. government successfully detonates a plutonium-based nuclear weapon in the first atomic test at Jornada del Muerto (“Dead Man’s Trail”), in a northern section of the Alamogordo Bombing Range (later called the White Sands Missile Range), between Carrizozo and Socorro, New Mexico. The detonation is roughly equivalent to 18,600 tons of TNT and creates a mushroom cloud 40,000 feet high. The bomb itself was dubbed the Gadget and the experiment is code-named “Trinity” after a poem by John Donne (“Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you“). The weapon is the result of twenty-eight months of research conducted by a team lead by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer under the code-name “Manhattan Project.” The project’s original budget had been six thousand dollars, but the final cost of developing the weapon will be estimated at two billion dollars. The successful atomic test is witnessed by only one journalist, William L. Laurence, a New York Times reporter who described the explosion, saying, “One felt as though he had been privileged to…be present at the moment of the Creation when the Lord said: Let There be Light.” Within a month, similar devices will be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. Germany had been the intended target of the bomb, but the country had already surrendered by the time the weapons were ready.
Frank Whittle is granted a patent for a “Aircraft Propulsion System and Power Unit,” the first jet engine. (U.S. No 2,404,334)
RCA unveils the first all-electronic color camera in history at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing in Princeton, New Jersey. The new three-image orthicon color camera was invented by Richard Webb as part of RCA’s simultaneous color television system.
The F-86D Sabre sets a new air speed record of 715.7mph (1152kph), beating out its own previous record. Various models of the Sabre held the world speed records five consecutive years, beginning in September 1948, when an F-86A set the Sabre’s first official world speed record of 570mph, and would continue to hold the record for another year. The model “D,” however, was the first in the line to improve on its own record.
Apollo 11 is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida on a mission to become the first manned space mission to land on the Moon. The Apollo 11 is crewed by Mission Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. The mission is the fulfillment of President John F. Kennedy’s call to reach the Moon by the end of the sixties, which he gave during a speech before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961.
The Pakistan launches its first satellite, Badr A.
The CircleMUD (Multi-User Dungeon) game codebase written by Jeremy Elson is first released. A derivative of DikuMUD, the game is written entirely in the C programming language. Read more about the history of CircleMUD. Visit the game’s official website.
The planet Jupiter is hit by the first of 21 asteroids that are the remaining fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet which had broken up two years earlier. When the first fragment strikes Jupiter’s surface, it creates a 1,200 mile wide, 600 miles high fireball visible to astronomers from Earth. The fragments were created when the comet passed within Jupiter’s Roche limit and the planet’s tidal forces pulled it apart. The impacts will continue through July 22nd.
The e-commerce site Amazon.com is publicly launched. The website is run from a converted garage in Bellevue, Washington on three SPARC workstations rigged to ring a bell each time Amazon recorded a sale. The first books sold by the company will be Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter.
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