This Day in Geek History: July 22
The first automobile race, organized by Le Petit Journal of Paris, is held on the seventy-eight mile route between Paris and Rouen, France.
Wiley Post lands at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, completing the first round-the-world solo flight. The flight, made in his single-engine Lockheed Vega 5B aircraft “Winnie Mae,” covered 15,596 miles over the course of 7 days, 18 hours, and 49 minutes. Post made his first solo flight in 1926, the year he received his flying license, signed by Orville Wright, despite having lost an eye in an oilfield accident earlier in his life. He had made an accompanied flight
around the world in 1931.
The NASA Mariner 1 spacecraft, which had been intended to become the first U.S. probe to explore the planet Venus, begins flying erratically roughly four minutes after launch, goes off course, and is destroyed to prevent it from impacting a populated area. Later investigations will reveal that the guidance instructions transmitted from the ground failed to reach the rocket due to an antenna malfunction, leaving the onboard computer in control. However, there turned out to be a bug in the guidance software, and the rocket promptly goes off course, forcing the Range Safety Officer to destroy it. Although the bug will sometimes be noted as having been an incorrect FORTRAN DO statement, it is actually a transcription error in which the bar, or hyphen, which would have indicated smoothing, was omitted from the expression “R-dot-bar sub n” (nth smoothed value of derivative of radius). The error leads the software to treat normal minor variations of velocity as if they were serious, leading to incorrect compensations.
King Kong Escapes, directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Akira Takarada, Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, and Eisei Amamoto, is released to Japanese theaters. In the film, an evil genius named Dr. Who creates a robotic Kong in order to dig for the highly radioactive “Element X.” When the Mechani-Kong fails, he kidnaps the real King Kong from his island and hypnotizes so that he will dig for Element X, but Kong soon snaps out of his trance and swims off to Tokyo. IMDB listing
The Soviet space probe Venera 8 makes a soft landing on Venus shortly after entering the atmosphere at 08:37 UT. Its onboard instrumentation includes temperature, pressure, and light sensors as well as an altimeter, gamma ray spectrometer, gas analyzer, and radio transmitters. The spacecraft took one hundred seventeen days to reach Venus with only one mid-course correction on April 6th 1972.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen sign a licensing agreement with Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) to implement the BASIC programming language. Gates and Allen receive US$3,000 immediately, with royalties of US$30 per copy of 4K BASIC, and US$35 for 8K BASIC.
Dick Smith makes the first solo helicopter flight around the world, over the course of eleven months. The previous year, Ross Perot, Jr. with Jay Colburn had, flying together, established the first around-the-world helicopter flight record. To make these flights possible both Smith and Perot had to hire an ocean-going vessel and position it between Japan and the Aleutian Islands for refueling. Smith’s route was made difficult by the fact that Russia’s airspace is closed to foreign traffic.
Wizzard’s Palace, an arcade owned by Dick and Sherry Kinnaman of Sterling, Colorado acquires a stand-up version of the Star Wars coin-operated arcade game by Atari. Inc. After experiencing unprecedented collections during that first weekend, the twenty-five cent per play charge was doubled, becoming the first upright machine to cost fifty cents per play at that location. The cost is unusually high for an arcade game, but it will increasingly become the norm in arcades across the country.