This Day in Geek History: May 26
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek uses his own homemade microscopes from his own handmade lenses to observe water running off a roof during a heavy rainstorm. He discovers that it contains, “very little animalcules” that were not present in pure rainwater. The fundamental discovery demonstrates that the bacteria doesn’t fall from the sky. Leeuwenhoek will continue to use his crude lenses to describe an amazing world of microscopic life.
Thomas Edison is issued a patent for a device concerning “Automatic Telegraphy and in Perforators Therefor.” (US No. 151,209) This is just one of many patents on telegraphy he obtains early in his career, beginning in 1868. The device produces a message directly onto a strip of paper that could be folded and sent to its destination using a 5 x 5 square of punch wires.
A microfilm camera is patented by New York City banker George L. McCarthy. (US No. 1,806,763) He developed the first practical commercial microfilm use in the twenties and was issued a patent in 1925 for his Checkograph machine, which was designed to make permanent film copies of bank records as a fraud deterrent.
Canadian Broadcasting Act is passed, creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC) to administer a national service with a monopoly on network broadcasting, although some private stations not required to form the national service are to continue operations.
Live news coverage of the General Election in the United Kingdoms becomes the largest television production in the history of the UK. It involves 37 cameras, including 18 exterior locations, and a crew of over five hundred. The program makes headlines both because it is broadcast and because an electronic computer is used to analyze the results of the vote. The program runs until 4AM and runs through most of the next day.
The Apollo 10 astronauts returns to Earth after a successful eight-day dress rehearsal for the first manned Moon landing. Apollo 10 mission, launched 18 May, was a complete staging of the Apollo 11 mission without actually landing on the Moon. The mission is only the second to orbit the Moon, and it is the first to travel to the Moon with the entire Apollo spacecraft configuration. Astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan descended inside the Lunar Module to within 47,400 feet (14.4km) of the lunar surface (achieving the closest approach to the Moon before Apollo 11 landed two months later). Apollo 10 splashed down at 12:52 pm, less than 4 miles (6.4km) from the target point and the recovery ship.
After a seven year wait, Satya Pal Asija becomes the first person in the U.S. to receive a patent on computer software when he is awarded a patent on his program SWIFT-ANSWER (“Special Word Indexed Full Text Alpha Numeric Storage With Easy Retrieval”), which allows users to retrieve narrative information from computers in a human-like manner. (US No. 4,270,182) The program responds to users’ questions with the most likely answer, regardless of errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, or syntax without the need for programing skills. In 1986, Asija will publish a book about his struggle to patent the program entitled, “How to Protect Computer Programs – a Case History Of The First Pure Software Patent.”
In Houston, Texas, fourteen top scorers from fourteen regions of the U.S. compete in the Grand National Finals of Konami’s Track & Field arcade game. The top three will play in Japan in June against Japan’s top three players.
Charles Geschke, the co-founder of Adobe Systems is kidnapped at gunpoint by two men from the parking lot of Adobe’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California. They will hold him hostage for a ransom of US$650,000 in Hollister, California for four days until the FBI recover him. The kidnappers will later be sentenced to life in prison. Read more at the Los Altos Town Crier: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
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