This Day in Geek History: March 17
The Christian missionary Patrick, a bishop and apostle of Ireland, dies in Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland. Though Patrick will never be officially canonized, legend has it that he was responsible for driving all of the “snakes” (pagans) out of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day will first be celebrated in 1756 at the Crown & Thistle Tavern in New York City. The first St Patrick’s Day parade will be held in 1762 in the same city.
Étienne Gaspard Robertson is granted a patent for his Phantascope magic lantern. The device incorporates a mechanism to maintain focus while the image is tracked forward and backward to change an image’s size.
Stephen Perry of the rubber manufacturing company Messers Perry and Co. in London first patents the rubber band. He conceived of the device after experimentally slicing up rubber bottles that had been manufactured by South and Central America natives and brought to England by sailors.
John Philip Holland demonstrates the first practical submarine off Staten Island, New York. The ship remains submerged for one hundred minutes.
Astronomer William Henry Pickering of Harvard discovers Phoebe, a moon of Saturn, from an examination of photographic plates made by the Boyden Observatory in Peru on August 16, 1898. It is the first satellite to be discovered using photography, rather than manual observation.
The United States Navy launches the Vanguard I satellite from Cape Canaveral, following the Soviet Union’s success with their satellites Sputnik I and Sputnik II spacecraft. Vanguard is the fourth artificial satellite to be put into space, and the first launch in the United States. The three pound satellite was developed in just two years, six months, and eight days from scratch.
The USS Skate (SSN-578) becomes the first submarine to surface at the North Pole. The crew uses the occasion to hold a funeral service and scattered the ashes of explorer Hubert Wilkins, an Australian explorer who had attempted the feat in 1931.
The United States Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty concerning whether or not genetically-engineered micro-organisms can be patented. On June 16, the court will rule that the patent office can grant patents on any new and useful composition of matter, irregardless of whether or not the matter is alive. The patent will be issued on March 31, 1981.
According to Twin Galaxies, Mark Schreader scores a record-setting 987,620 points playing the Centuri arcade game Phoenix at the Cloverleaf Miniature Golf arcade in North Miami Beach, Florida. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
Apple Computer files an eleven page suit against Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard in San Francisco federal district court. Specifically, Apple Computer accuses Microsoft of using visual display features of the highly successful Macintosh operating system graphical user interface (GUI) in the Windows 2.0 operating system. Apple claims that Windows violates thirteen separate copyrights in order to duplicate the “look and feel” of the Macintosh. Hewlett-Packard is also named as a defendant, for copyright violations in its New Wave desktop environment. The suit will be lost in 1995.
An Iraq attack on two Israeli cities with Scud missiles leaves Internet Relay Chat (IRC) the soul channel of news of Israel for several hours, despite extensive news coverage of the events. The event is one of the earliest examples of the internet being relied upon for communications following a widespread catastrophic disaster.
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