This Day in Geek History: July 4
A supernova is observed by the Chinese and the Arabs. Rock paintings later discovered in North America suggest that Indians in Arizona and New Mexico observed it as well. It remains bright enough to be seen during the day for twenty-three days and at night for almost two years. Scientists will later speculate that the Crab Nebula in the constellation Taurus is the remnant of this supernova.
The world’s first long-distance railway, Grand Junction Railway, opens to run the eighty-two miles between Birmingham and Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, writing under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, is published. Read the complete text at Project Gutenberg.
The first three-wire central-station incandescent-lighting plant in the U.S. begins operations in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Built by the Edison Electric Illuminating Co., the plant is a simple wooden structure. An Armington & Sims steam engine drives two 110-volt direct-current generators. The electricity is delivered by overhead wires. Edison patented his three-wire system on November 20, 1882 to supersede the distribution system used at his first commercial central generating station in New York because it requires sixty percent less copper in its conductors. That means a smaller investment, which makes it economically possible to build generating plants in smaller communities.
Elwood Haynes successfully tests his one-horsepower, one-cylinder vehicle at 6 or 7 mph in Kokomo, Indiana. He is an American pioneer whose vehicle is one of the first automobiles ever built. He is a trained engineer and chemist who will discover several alloys, including a stainless steel. He is the first person to use aluminum in the construction of an automobile engine.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sends the first official message over the newly completed Pacific cable running between Honolulu, Midway, Guam and Manila.
German occupation forces forbid Dutch citizens from listening to foreign broadcasts such as the BBC.
The BBC begins broadcasting regular programming in Japan.
The first educational television series for children, Science Circus, premieres on the ABC network.
Radio Free Europe, a radio and communications organization funded by the United States Congress to combat Soviet domination in Eastern Europe, transmits its first broadcast.
The Whirlwind at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology becomes the first computer to use a keyboard to allow direct user input. Other computers accepted instructions issued using dial, punch cards, and switches. Completed in 1949, the Whirlwind was the first computer to operate in real time.
The Explorer 38, an unmanned U.S. spacecraft, is launched to measure galactic radio sources and study low frequencies in space. It is one of a series of fifty-five scientific satellites launched between 1958 and 1975.
Michael Hart, a student at the University of Illinois who will later found Project Gutenberg, uses some of the computer time he had been granted at the university’s Materials Research Lab to type in the text of The United States Declaration of Independence into the university’s mainframe. Because sending the 5KB file to the hundred registered users of the early internet would have crashed the fragile network, Hart instead listed the text’s location for others to find. In time, the document will be downloaded by six users. This is the first document of what will become Project Gutenberg, though it will later be dated December 1, 1971. Hart will continue to use his computer time to search out public domain books and to digitize them in the simplest way, using the plain text format called Plain Vanilla ASCII, so that they could be accessed by any machine, running any operating system. Read more about the history of Project Gutenberg.
According to Twin Galaxies, Brian Cox scores a record-setting 2,807,010 points playing the Tokyo Denshi Sekkei arcade game Black Hole at the Starb Castle arcade in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
HoTMaiL, the first webmail service, is commercially launched on Independence Day in the United States, symbolically representing freedom from Internet service providers. It’s name is a reference to HTML. The company was started the year before by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith“>Jack Smith. In January 1998, the company will be acquired by Microsoft for US$400 million. Prior to Hotmail, Bhatia was a systems integrator at Apple Computer, where he coordinated the design and manufacturing of Apple Powerbook. He also worked for Fire Power Systems – a Silicon Valley start up. Read more about the history of Hotmail at Wired.
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