This Day in Geek History: March 31
Wabash, Indiana becomes the first town anywhere to be completely illuminated by electrical lighting, less than two months after connecting the world’s first electric streetlight on February 2nd.
Richard Pearse of New Zealand reputedly flies a powered, heavier-than-air machine, nine months before the Wright Brothers make their famous and well-documented flight at Kitty Hawk. Accounts vary, but his flight may have traveled as far as 350 yards through the air before striking a large hedge. If true, the aircraft is the first to use modern ailerons, rather than inferior wing warping system that the Wrights’ early designs will use. Pearse’s machine also has a modern tricycle undercarriage permitting it to takeoff without ramps. Some sources will mark this as the anniversary of his flight, others will claim the event occurred some months later.
The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) institutes the Motion Pictures Production Code. Also known as the Hays Code or simply the Production Code, the code a set of censorship guidelines concerning crime, religion, sex, and violence in films.
John Logie Baird achieves the synchronization of sound with television pictures.
The Ford Motor Company publicly unveils its V-8 engine.
Harvard and International Business Machines (IBM) sign an agreement for the construction of the Mark I, also known as the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC). The computer will weigh nearly five tons and contain more than 750,000 separate components. The system will read instructions from paper tape and data from punch cards.
The United States Census Bureau officially accepts delivery of the UNIVersal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC I), the first commercial computer, the day after its unveiling by John William Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert of the Sperry Rand Corporation. Though it will be put into immediate use, it won’t actually be moved to the Census Bureau for months to come. The system is capable of performing 1,905 operations per second and storing data on magnetic tapes. It weighs sixteen thousand pounds and contains 5,000 vacuum tubes. It will remain in operation through 1963.
The first test of the first space cabin simulator in the United States is successfully completed when Airman D. F. Smith emerges from a twenty-four hour stay in the cabin. Smith passed the time performing psychological evaluations while he was physically monitored with instruments which tracked his heartbeat, respiration, and temperature. The cabin itself is about one hundred cubic feet in size and contains only a standard aircraft seat and a mock-control panel with displays, lights, and switches. It is equipped with air conditioning, a carbon dioxide absorption system, an oxygen supply, and a urine distillation and recycling system. This test receives national publicity which comes to a climax when, on February 16, 1958, Smith emerges from a seven day stay in the simulator to be greeted by Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and the press. The tests are held at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) in San Antonio, Texas.