This Day in Geek History: July 28
A total solar eclipse is first captured on a daguerreotype photograph by Busch and Berkowski, at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia. It shows a slight but distinct impression of the corona during the total eclipse. Berkowski, a local daguerrotypist whose first name is never published, observed the eclipse at the Royal Observatory using a small 6cm refracting telescope attached to a 15.8cm Fraunhofer heliometer camera. The daguerreotype uses an 84 second exposure and is taken shortly after the beginning of totality.
Fingerprints are used for the first time as a means of identification.
Using an Edison Vitascope projector, a film is exhibited commercially for the first time anywhere in Canada at the West End Park, in Ottawa.
John Logie Baird gives the first public demonstration of his large screen television in the UK at the London Coliseum Variety Theatre. The television’s screen displays an image thirty by seventy inches, created by 2,100 lamps which are operated by a mechanical commutator switch. The entire device is built into a small, wheeled trailer that can be moved on and off stage. The exhibition will continue for three weeks.
A bug in the flight software of the Mariner I space probe causes the rocket to divert from its intended path on launch. Mission control is forced to destroy the rocket over the Atlantic Ocean. A later investigation into the accident reveals that a formula written on paper in pencil was improperly transcribed into computer code, causing the computer to miscalculate the rocket’s trajectory.
NASA launches the Ranger 7 space probe on a mission to the Moon. The probe will be the first to successfully transmit close-up images of the lunar surface back to Earth. In all, it will send 4,308 TV pictures.
In a successful attempt to throw the media off of a much bigger project, The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) announces its first desktop computer, the System/23 Datamaster, just one month before the IBM PC. Developed by Bill Sydnes and others who are no longer working on the project in the General Systems Division, it is based on Intel’s 8086 16-bit processor and is dedicated to data processing applications. The system features a 16-bit 8086 processor, a viewing screen, up to 4.4MB of diskette storage, and Business Management Accounting and Word Processing programs. At US$9,830, the Datamaster is IBM’s lowest-priced small business system.
NASA releases a transcript of transmissions from the Space Shuttle Challenger in the seconds before it broke up, killing all seven crew members. (STS-51-L) The last words of the crew were pilot Michael Smith saying, “Uh-oh!” as the shuttle began disintegrating.