This Day in Geek History: March 19
The Republic of Venice passes the Venetian Patent Statute, the first patent law of its kind in the world. It declares that “each person who will make in this city any new and ingenious contrivance, not made heretofore in our dominion, as soon as it is reduced to perfection… It being forbidden to any other in any territory and place of ours to make any other contrivance in the form and resemblance thereof, without the consent and licence of the author up to ten years.” The law is intended to stimulate the economy by attracting inventors to Venice.
Alexander von Humoldt and Aimé Bonpland capture the first specimen of Electric eels (Electrophorus electricus) during a five-year expedition through the jungles of South America. Humboldt will later write about his discovery in an article entitled, “Observation on the Electric Eel of the New World” in 1808.
The City Bank of New York becomes the site of the first bank robbery in United States history. Approximately US$245,000 is stolen and only a small portion of the money will ever be recovered.
Jan Matzeliger patents the first machine for manufacturing entire shoes.
Percival Lowell captures the first photograph of the planet Pluto from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, but it isn’t initially recognized as a planet.
The silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene, is released to U.S. theaters. It will become the most influential film of the German Expressionist movement, and it will strongly influence many future directors, most notably Tim Burton. The film tells the story of the mysterious Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist, his faithful sleepwalking Cesare, and their connection to a string of murders in the German mountain village of Holstenwall. Read more about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. IMDB listing Running Time: 1 hr 12 min
The first museum devoted exclusively to atomic energy in the U.S., the American Museum of Atomic Energy, opens to the public in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the town in which Uranium-235 for the bombs dropped in Japan during World War II was produced.
The first rocket-driven sled on rails is tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Britain’s first planetarium, the London Planetarium, opens in the west wing of the Madame Tussauds wax museum. It is one of the world’s largest, built on the former site of a combination Cinema and Restaurant that had been destroyed by a German bomb in 1940.
John Vincent Atanasoff emerges as the victor of the protracted legal battle over the title of inventor of the electronic digital computer. A judge determines that his work had preceded and contributed to development of the ENIAC machine, whose inventors had previously been credited.
Konami Company, Ltd., a leading developer and publisher of many popular anime series, slot machines, tokusatsu, toys, trading cards, and video games, is established. The company will achieve fame in the early eighties with such classics as Frogger, Scramble, and Super Cobra. Visit the official Konami website.
Two workers die of asphyxiation and three others are injured during a nitrogen purge amidst preparations for a ground test of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
International Business Machines (IBM) announces that it will discontinue the PCjr, after the computer has repeatedly failed to meet sales expectations. In the sixteen months that the PCjr has been on the market, only 240,000 units have been sold, largely due to competition from Apple Computer’s Apple IIc. Read more about the battle between the AppleIIc and the PCjr.
IBM.com becomes the eleventh dot-com domain to be registered
Sun.com becomes the twelfth dot-com domain to be registered.
Apple Computer releases the Macintosh IIfx, featuring a 40MHz Motorola 68030, 4MB (expandable to 128MB) RAM, 32KB of Level-2 Cache, and the System 6.0.5 operating system. Code-name: Blackbird / Stealth Price: US$9,000 – US$12,000
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