This Day in Geek History: March 29
Vesta 4, the brightest asteroid on record and the only asteroid visible to the naked eye, is discovered by amateur astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers from Bremen, Germany. Vesta is a main belt asteroid with a diameter of 525km and a rotation period of 5.34 hours. Pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 show Vesta’s complex surface, with a surprisingly diverse geology similar to that of terrestrial worlds, an exposed mantle, ancient lava flows, and impact basins. Though no bigger than the state of Arizona, it once had a molten interior. This contradicts conventional notions that asteroids are essentially cold, rocky fragments left behind from the early days of planetary formation.
The first batch of Coca-Cola is brewed over a fire in a backyard in Atlanta, Georgia by Dr. John Pemberton as a cure for hangovers, stomach aches, and headaches. He markets the drink as a “brain tonic and intellectual beverage,” and first sells it to the public a few weeks later on May 8th. Coke contains cocaine as an ingredient until 1904, when the drug will be banned by Congress.
The first transatlantic news service between New York and London begins, making use of Marconi’s wireless. On March 30 1903, The Times in London becomes the first newspaper to establish an ongoing arrangement with the Marconi Telegraph Company for the regular transmission of news between the United States and the UK. Shortly thereafter, the The New York Times requests that it be part of the arrangement. Despite extensive teething problems, the importance of wireless as a cheap form of communication will quickly become obvious.
In Monaco, the world’s largest oceanographic museum is opened as part of the Oceanographic Institute, which was founded in 1906. The grandiose facade of the museum overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. It is founded with donations from Prince Albert I of Monaco.
At 3am EST, eighty percent of American AM radio stations change frequencies on what is dubbed “Moving Day.” The move is made under the terms of the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement treaty (NARBA), which seeks to standardize radio throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Soviet scientists in the U.K. announce the development of a new form of electron microscope that enables atoms to be seen by the human eye for the first time.
The NASA spaceprobe Mariner 10 takes the first close-up pictures of the planet Mercury. It was launched November 3, 1973. On its way to Mercury, Mariner 10 made its first flyby of Venus on February 5, 1974 and discovered evidence of rotating clouds. The mission requires more course corrections than any previous mission and is the first spacecraft to use the gravitational pull of one planet to help it reach another planet. In three flybys over Mercury, it maps about half of the planet’s surface, finding a thin atmosphere and a magnetic field. This craft is also the first to use the solar wind as a means of locomotion. When the probe’s thruster fuel runs low, scientists use the solar panels as sails to make course corrections. Read NASA’s Mariner 10 Mission Profile.
According to Twin Galaxies, Allen Toney, age 23, scores a record-setting 583,750 points playing the Atari arcade game Warlords after playing the game for one hour at Scratch & Tilt in Huntington, West Virginia. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 Model 100, the industry’s first portable computer. The system features a 2.4MHz Intel 80C85 Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) microprocessor, 8 – 24KB RAM, a full-sized 56-key keyboard, an 8 line, 40 column Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), a built-in 300 baud modem, a parallel and serial interface, and a cassette tape interface to load and save programs at 1500 baud. The system also comes equipped with five built-in applications with 32K of ROM, including an address book, Microsoft BASIC, a schedule book, a telecommunications package, and a text editor. The system is based on the same platform as the NEC PC-8201 and the Olivetti M-10 portable computers, all three being manufactured by Kyoto Ceramics (Kyocera). The TRS-80 be highly successful, especially among businessmen and journalists, due to the unrivaled convenience of its light weight and bundled software package. Visit the official RadioShack website. Price: US$799 (8K RAM) – US$1,134 (24K RAM) Weight: 3.9lb