This Day in Geek History: May 24
Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrates a magnetic telegraph using his Morse Code to transmit the message, “What hath God wrought!” from the chambers of the Old Supreme Court courthouse in Washington D.C. to his partner, Alfred Vail, at the Mount Clare Depot of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Vail responds by retransmitting the same message back to Morse. Thus, Morse formally opens America’s first telegraph line, launching America’s telegraph industry. The telegraph is first form of instant communication in history. The biblical text, from Numbers 23:23, was selected by Annie Ellsworth, the teenage daughter of the U.S. Commissioner of Patents. The first public demonstration was held in 1838, but it wasn’t until Congress appropriated US$30,000 in 1843 for a telegraph wire to be strung over the eighty miles between Washington and Baltimore that Morse had sufficient financial backing to build his first line.
Leiden University Library becomes the first institutional library to publish a printed catalog. The publication is entitled “The Nomenclator.”
An article in the journal Moving Picture World coins the term “natural history film,” a full year before the word “documentary” is first used to describe a film.
Thomas Edison invents the telescribe to record telephone conversations.
The EDVAC, one of the first electronic computers, is renamed the UNIVAC.
International Business Machines (IBM) unveils a vacuum tube “electronic” brain that can perform ten million operations an hour.
MIDAS II (Missile Detection Alarm System), the first American surveillance satellite to successfully reach orbit, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Although it is intended to be part of an early missile warning system, circling the earth every ninety-four minutes, its telemetry system will fail two days later, and it will never go into service. On February 26, 1960, the first MIDAS satellite launch failed when its Atlas Agena-A booster malfunctioned, never reaching orbit.
Wes Clark begins constructing the Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC), a computer designed for biomedical research, at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Advancing his previous work on the Whirlwind and the TX-0, Clark’s LINC system will widely be considered to be the first mini-computer, as well as the first “user friendly” system designs. It will be easily programed and maintained; user will be able to interact with the system as it operates; and it will be capable of processing biotechnical signals directly. Some sources will later credit the LINC with inspiring the creation of the first personal computer.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter becomes the second American to orbit the Earth when he is launched into space aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule. He makes three revolutions of the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 164 miles before the spacecraft lands in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,000 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral 4 hours 54 minutes later.
The PAL color television system is launched in the UK.
Walt Disney is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the distinguished public service and the outstanding contributions of Walt Disney to the United States and to the world. Read the official Congressional Resolution.