This Day in Geek History: May 10
The discovery of the element Caesium is announced by German chemists Robert Bunsen and Gustav Robert Kirchoff to the Berlin Academy of Scientists.
“Wireless” is born when Guglielmo Marconi sends a radio wave three-quarters of a mile. Three years later the Marconi Company will successfully communicate “ship to shore” over a distance of twelve miles.
John Thomas Scopes is given a preliminary hearing before three judges. He had been arrested and charged under a new Tennessee’s state law, the Butler Act, which prohibits the teaching of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in public schools. Scopes had agreed to participate in a challenge to the law, with the support of the local town leaders in Dayton, Tennessee and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A few weeks later, at what became known as the Scope’s Monkey Trial, he will be found guilty and fined US$100. Upon appeal, the fine will be ruled excessive and over-ruled, but the state law itself will not be found unconstitutional. Thereafter, the law will not be enforced, but it will not repealed until 1967.
The first planetarium in the U.S. owned by a university opens at the University of Chapel Hill, in North Carolina. The Morehead Planetarium, one of the largest planetariums in the U.S., is the gift of John Motley Morehead III, class of 1891. The Morehead Building, erected at the north end of the campus, features a 68 foot dome, the 300 seat Star Theater, and the Zeiss Model II Star Projector. Morehead is an industrialist and chemist who commercially developed the production of calcium carbide, basic to manufacturing acetylene gas, which led to the founding of the Union Carbide Corporation. As the U.S. space program began, the planetarium will provide important celestial navigation training for U.S. astronauts in the Mercury program.
Gordon Kidd Teal of Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI) announces to the National Conference on Airborne Electronics in Dayton, Ohio, that TI has produced the first commercial mass-produced high frequency germanium transistor. Teal, who is the second to last speaker of the day, stuns a sleepy crowd who have been hearing from previous speakers that the procedure is still impossible. On word of the announcement, the room met with a TI executive handing out literature and disbanded, effectively leaving the last speaker without an audience.
The classic monster movie Mothra is released to U.S. theaters. In the movie, an expedition to an irradiated island brings civilization in contact with a primitive native culture. When one sensationalist entrepreneur tries to exploit the islanders, their ancient deity arises in retaliation.
Apollo 10 transmits the first color photographs of Earth from space.
UC Berkeley releases the Second Berkeley Software Distribution (2BSD) operating system. The system includes two new programs by Bill Joy that will continue to be distributed with Unix systems for decades to comes: the vi text editor (a visual version of ex) and the C shell.
Hewlett-Packard introduces the HP 110 laptop computer, featuring a 5.33MHz 8086, 272KB RAM, a 384KB ROM, a flip-up LCD display a 80×16 text or 480×120 graphics display, the MS-DOS 2.11 operating system, and a 300bps modem. The ROM chip contains Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, MemoMaker word processor, Infocom’s Zork game, and a communications package. Price: US$2,995 Weight: 8.5lb
Journalist G. Pascal Zachary publishes an article in Knight-Ridder newspaper affiliates, entitled “Atari picks up momentum”. Referencing the Sunday Advocate in Stamford, Connecticut, an analyst at D.H. Brown, Barbara Isgur states that she expects that Atari will “more than double its computer sales here in 1987.”
An advanced access preview release of the Be File System (BFS) is released. BFS is the native file system for the BeOS operating system developed by Dominic Giampaolo and Cyril Meurillon over a ten month period, beginning in September 1996, to provide BeOS with a modern 64-bit capable journaling file system.
Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD) officials issue a statement denying an earlier Associated Press story that FTD experienced a critical computer outage on Thursday that may affect thousands of Mother’s Day orders. Although FTD acknowledges that there was a serious computer outage, they claim that all orders had been backed up and were being reprocessed properly. The false story, however, makes front page headlines while the correction is largely ignored.
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