This Day in Geek History: June 11
Thomas Edison is issued a patent for an “Electrical Distribution System.” (U.S. No. 404,902)
Limelight Department, one of the first film studios, is established in Melbourne, Australia.
The first U.S. patent for a gasoline-driven automobile by a U.S. inventor is issued to bicycle manufacturer Charles E. Duryea. (US No. 540,648)
Thomas Edison is granted a patent for a “Phonographic Recording Apparatus.” (US No. 676,225)
A rocket is attached to an aircraft for the first time. The aircraft is a glider, and the experiment is directed by German aircraft designer Alexander Lippisch. The glider launches under the power of one rocket and an elastic launching rope that acts as a slingshot. Once it is in flight a second rocket is fired. The glider manages to fly a mile before falling apart in the air and crashing. Although the pilot survives, the experiment marks an inauspicious start to the era of rocket-powered flight.
A patent for the Mercury space capsule is granted to Blanchard, Chilton, Faget, Hammack, Johnson, Kehlet, and Meyer and and assigned to NASA. (US No. 3,093,346) The invention is described as a “manned capsule configuration capable of being launched into orbital flight and returned to the earth’s surface.” The invention is intended to provide “protection for its occupant from the deleterious effects of large pressure differentials, high temperatures, micrometerorite collisions, high level acoustical noise, and severe inertial and impact loads.” The patent application was filed on October 6, 1959. Mercury 1 was already flown, on 5 May 1961, in a fifteen sub-orbital flight carrying Alan B. Shepard before the patent was issued.
Harvard professor Michael McElroy and other scientists concerned about atmospheric ozone depletion proclaim their support for banning chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a propellant in spray cans. The U.S. government will implement a prohibition on chlorofluorocarbons three years later.
Texas Instruments Inc. introduces the Speak & Spell, an educational device for elementary children, at the summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The US$50 Speak & Spell helped children learn to spell more than two hundred common words and featured a popular hangman game. The device features the first synthesis of the human vocal tract performed by a single silicon chip. The Speak & Spell utilized linear predictive coding to formulate a mathematical model of the human vocal tract and predict a speech sample based on previous input. It transformed digital information processed through a filter into synthetic speech, and it could store over one hundred seconds of linguistic sound. The first model will feature individual plastic buttons, while later models will have a depressible plastic matte. The toy will later be featured in the blockbuster film E.T. Browse a visual history of the Speak & Spell at 99ner.net.
Steve Ballmer joins Microsoft as the company’s twenty-fourth employee and first business manager after dropping out of Stanford University. He is initially offered a salary of US$50,000 as well as a percentage of the company. When Microsoft is incorporated in 1981, Ballmer will own eight percent of the company.