This Day in Geek History: May 11
The earliest explicitly dated printed text is printed. The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist scripture, is published. The Sutra is a sixteen foot scroll with six sheets of text printed from wood blocks and one sheet with a woodcut showing the Buddha with disciples and a pair of cats. The sheets measure twelve inches by thirty inches and are pasted together. The book will be dated by a colophon at the end stating that the book was “made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 13th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong.” The scroll will be one of about 1,130 bundles of manuscripts that will be found a thousand years later, walled up in one of the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in Turkestan.
Radio station WGY 810 AM, in Schenectady, New York, begins broadcasting America’s first regularly scheduled television broadcasts. The programs run from 1:30pm to 2:00pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays with twenty-four line resolution. Most of the viewers are members of the technical staff at the nearby General Electric, which had designed the system and will use the broadcasts to refine its equipment. A handful of hobbyists who had built their own television sets will also receive the broadcasts. Those who tune in have to make constant adjustments, turning two knobs at once to keep the blurry picture discernible on their three-inch square screens. By the end of the year, seventeen other stations around the country will begin scheduling broadcasts, intended to test the apparatus rather than to attract viewers.
William “Willy” A. Higinbotham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is issued a patent for the Electronic Squaring Circuit, originally built for a radar bombsight. (US No. 2,441,387)
The first Polaroid camera is sold in New York City. Price: US$89.95
Jay Forrester files a patent application for the matrix core memory.
Twentieth Century Fox reduces the aspect ratio of CinemaScope from 2.66:1 to 2.55:1 and reduced the sprocket holes (or “Fox holes”) to a size slightly smaller than the conventional Bell & Howell perforations in order to allow for four magnetic-stripe sound tracks (left, right, center, and surround). Exhibitors will accept the need for new lenses, even at a cost of US$2,875 a pair but not the costs of re-equipping their theaters for multi-track audio.
The film Revenge of the Creature, the first sequel to the classic monster movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, is released to U.S. theaters. The film is notable as being the only sequel to a 3-D film also shot in 3-D. It is also first screen role for Clint Eastwood, who appeared as an uncredited lab technician early in the film.
Harvard MBA candidate Daniel “Dan” Bricklin and programmer Robert “Bob” Frankston give the first demonstration of their VisiCalc spreadsheet application at the West Coast Computer Faire. The application was conceived in 1977 by Brickman. The original protypes were written by the pair on a borrowed Apple II computer. VisiCalc will become the original “killer app” for early personal computers. A huge success, more than one hundred thousand copies will be sold in the first year.
A transit of Earth from Mars occurs.
The first heart-lung transplant takes place in Baltimore, Maryland.
Rusty n’ Edie’s BBS goes into operation in Youngstown, Ohio. Operators Russell and Edwina Hardenburgh will grow the system from a single phone line to over a hundred lines. In 1993, the system will be seized by the FBI for piracy, and Rusty will later be pulled into a landmark lawsuit for distributing scanned Playboy photos.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “I, Borg” first airs. (No. 523) In the episode, The crew of the Enterprise captures a member of the cybernetic race known as the Borg. During the course of the interactions which follow, the crew begins to rethink their attitude towards the Borg. Memory Alpha entry
In New York City, more than 170 countries decide to extend the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.
Sega of America begins shipping the Saturn video game system in the U.S. Thirty thousand units are shipped to 1,800 Babbage’s and Software, Etc. and Toys ‘R Us stores for the initial launch, with ten game titles available in all. Sega begins a US$50 million marketing campaign to promote the system. The system is designed around a pair of 28.8MHz 32-bit microprocessors and a parallel processing architecture. Price: US$349, or US$399 with VirtuaFighter
The trade magazine Video Game Advisor, which will later be re-titled GameWeek, debuts.
Thursday, May 11 through Saturday, May 13, the first Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is held in Los Angeles, California as a first-of-its-kind industry show. The show takes its name from Electronic Entertainment magazine. At the expo, 350 game companies show 1,300 games for video game systems and personal computers. Total attendance is 28,000. Atari announces a price cut to US$149 for the Jaguar system, and makes a splash demonstrating its Virtual Reality product for the Jaguar. Nintendo announces delays the release of its Ultra 64 system to April 1996 or possibly later. SNK demonstrates the US$500 NeoGeo CD system.
At the E3 show in Los Angeles, California, Sony Computer Entertainment America unveils a four million dollar booth to promote the new PlayStation gaming system and hosts a surprise appearance from Michael Jackson. Sony’s president, Steve Race, announces the launch date of the PlayStation as September 9, with a retail price of US$299. Threatened by Atari’s claim that Sony may be dumping product in the United States, SCEA’s decision was to alter the U.S. version so that it did not have an S-Video adaptor built-in. The technical change differentiated the machine from the one selling in Japan for US$320.
Pages: 1 2