This Day in Geek History: May 27
Two U.S. patents for the first jukebox are issued to Louis Glass and his business associate, William S. Arnold, describing a “coin actuated attachment for phonographs.” (US No. 428,750, -1) Their first jukebox is a coin-operated Edison Class M Electric Phonograph with an oak cabinet, and it will first be placed in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco, California. For a nickel a play, a patron could listen using one of four listening tubes. (Because vacuum tubes haven’t been invented, the device doesn’t feature any amplification.) Dubbed the “Nickel-in-the-Slot,” the machine is an instant success, earning over US$1,000 in less than half a year.
The Ford Motor Company stops manufacturing the Ford Model T and begins retooling its plant to begin manufacturing the Ford Model A.
In New York City, the Chrysler Building, the tallest man-made structure in the world, opens to the public.
Auguste Piccard and Charles Knipfer become the first men to enter into the stratosphere when they ride their balloon to an altitude of 51,800 feet, nearly ten miles above the Earth. The feat requires the use of a pressurized cabin, which Piccard designed. On-board experiments include the use of an electroscope to investigate cosmic rays.
The first full scale U.S. wind tunnel for testing airplanes is opened at the Langley Field Research Center in Virginia. In the thirty foot high sixty foot wide tunnel, the aerodynamics of full-size airplanes can be tested in air speeds up to 115mph. The air is driven by two propellers downstream, each over 35 feet in diameter, powered by 4,000hp electric motors. Over the next sixty-five years, tests will be run on helicopters, the Mercury space capsule, parachutes, parafoils, the occasional dirigible, and the fastest submarine in the world. Generations of aircraft will passed through the full-scale tunnel. NASA will close the tunnel in October 1995.
DC Comics debuts its second superhero in Detective Comics No. 27. The superhero is Batman, who will go on to be one of the greatest commercial successes in the comic industry. This issue also marks Commissioner Gordon’s first appearance. According to creator Bob Kane, his inspirations for Batman were Superman, Leonardo da Vinci’s design of a bat-like glider, and two films: “The Mark of the Zorro” and ”The Bat Whispers”.
Universal-International releases their first 3-D feature film, It Came from Outer Space, with stereophonic sound, directed by Jack Arnold and starring Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, and Charles Drake to U.S. theaters. The film is based on a story written by Ray Bradbury. In it, John Putnam and Ellen watch a fireball from the sky fall near a mine. They quickly come to believe that the it is no a meteor but an alien ship that has landed. In the days to follow, people begin mysteriously disappearing only to return under some unknown influence. The local Sheriff and his men enter the mine in the hope of putting an end to the advance of the alien force’s purpose, but Putnam enter the alien ship in an attempt to reach a peaceful solution. IMDB listing Running Time: 1 hr 21 mins
After nearly a decade of use, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finally deactivates the Whirlwind computer. The system, which was the first computer to operate in real time and use video displays for output, was unveiled in 1951 on Edward R. Murrow’s national news show “See It Now.” Read more about the Whirlwind at Bitsavers.
A Unix Colloquium in Glasgow marks the beginning of UKUUG, the UK’s Unix and Open Systems User Group. The UKUUG is a non-profit organization that advocates open systems, particularly Unix and similar operating systems, promotes Free and Open Source Software, and facilitates collaboration towards the advancement of open programming standards. Visit the official UKUUG website.
The Walt Disney Company dedicates the Space Mountain ride in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. The total cost of constructing the ride was US$20 million. Visit the official website of Space Mountain at Disneyland.
Wang Laboratories introduces the Wang Professional Computer, featuring an Intel 16-bit processor. Prices: US$2,700 – US$9,000
Apple Computer stops selling computers directly to corporations.
Microsoft releases two versions of Windows 2.1 graphical user interface-based operating system for personal computers less than a year after the release of Windows 2.0. This version, specifically takes advantage of advanced features of the Intel 80286 and Intel 80386 processors. The first version, Windows/286 2.1 introduces the himem.sys DOS driver to take advantage of the High Memory Area (HMA) in order to increase the memory available to Windows programs. The second version, Windows/386 2.1 is much more advanced. It introduces a protected mode kernel, above which the GUI and applications run as a virtual 8086 mode task. It allows several MS-DOS programs to run in parallel in “virtual 86″ CPU mode, rather than always suspending background applications. Each DOS application can use as much low memory as is available before Windows is started, minus a few kilobytes of overhead. Windows/386 also provides EMS emulation, using the memory management features of the 80386 to make RAM beyond 640K behave like the banked memory previously only supplied by add-in cards and used by popular DOS applications.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Mind’s Eye” first airs. (No. 424) In it, Romulans kidnap Geordi from a shuttle as he travels to Risa in an attempt to brainwash him into carrying out an assassination aboard the Enterprise. The episode is based on the classic film The Manchurian Candidate. Memory Alpha entry
Vince Perriello resigns as FidoNews Editor. FidoNews is one of the Internet’s earliest popular newsletters.
The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory breaks the record for the highest temperature produced in a laboratory when it raises the temperature of Plasma to 510 million degrees Celsius (918 million degrees Fahrenheit). The TFTR, which was founded in December 1982, is the largest magnetic fusion laboratory in the United States and the first such device in the world to study the confinement and heating of plasmas using Deuterium and Tritium mixtures. Visit the official Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory website.
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