This Day in Geek History: May 28
A solar eclipse occurs, as predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales, while Alyattes is battling Cyaxares in what will be known as the Battle of Halys or the Battle of the Eclipse outside of Sardis in western Turkey, between the Medes and Lydians. The battle ended in a draw. Because of the eclipse, both armies agree to a truce, out of fear. This is is one of the cardinal dates from which historians will calculate other dates in ancient history.
Jell-O is introduced, fifty-two years after Peter Cooper (inventor of the Tom Thumb engine) received the first U.S. patent for a gelatin dessert. Pearl B. Wait, a carpenter and cough medicine manufacturer from LeRoy, New York, produces varieties in strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon fruit flavors, dubbed Jell-O by his wife, May Davis Wait. When sales turn out to be poor, Wait sells his Jell-O business for US$450 to his neighbor, Orator F.Woodward, who had founded the Genesee Pure Food Co. two years earlier. Success will come slowly, but with Woodward’s creative sales and sampling strategies, Jell-O began will begin to catch on. In 1902, when he launches his first advertising campaign in Ladies’ Home Journal, sales will reach US$250,000.
In the U.S., WGY becomes the first television station to broadcast regularly scheduled programming. It’s schedule is aired on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons from 1:30 to 3:30pm, at a resolution of twenty-four lines. Television sets were being manufactured and distributed by General Electric in Schenectady, New Jersey.
The Warner Brothers’ film On With the Show, the first talking movie that is all in color, debuts at New York City’s Winter Garden theater. The film uses two-colour Technicolor and Vitaphone sound.
The identical Dionne quintuplets are born in Ontario, Canada. The girls are made wards of the government and put on display at a themepark called Quintland.
Alan Mathison Turing, often considered to be the father of modern computer science, submits his seminal paper On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem for publication. The Entscheidungsproblem, which is German for “decision problem” was posed by Hilbert in 1928: Did there exist a definite method by which any mathematical assertion could be classified as true or false? Hilbert himself felt that there were no undecidable assertions. Turing modeled the “definite method” of Hilbert’s problem with an abstract computer. Turing imagined a machine that could do everything a computer could do, read, write and erase symbols, and subject symbols to certain arithmetical and logical operations like addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, ‘anding’ ‘oring’ and so on. A universal Turing machine could theoretically be programmed to perform any computable task.
Walt Disney Studios premieres Melody, the first Technicolor 3-D animated film. It accompanies the world’s first 3-D western, Columbia’s Fort Ti at its Los Angeles opening in Los Angeles, California.
A Department of Defense sponsors meeting at the Pentagon to commission a committee of researchers drawn from several computer manufacturers and the Pentagon which will develop a machine-independent programming language for business applications. The result will be released in 1960 as the COmmon Business Orientated Language (COBOL) programming language. COBOL will become widely used in business, finance, and government systems.
A Rhesus monkey named Abel and a Squirrel monkey named Baker, both female, are launched on a brief suborbital space flight in the nose cone of Jupiter Missile AM-18 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They reach 300 miles altitude, and travel 1,500 miles at speeds over 10,000mph. Heart rate, sounds, body temperature, blood pressure, and radiation levels are monitored, along with muscle performance via electromyogram. Abel is trained to tap a switch when a red light flashes, to collect data on performance. After the mission, their successful recovery is the first for living beings. The monkeys survived the flight. Afterwards Able will die under anesthesia as the doctors remove an electrode from under her skin. Baker will die of kidney failure in 1984 at the age of twenty-seven.
The USSR space probe Mars 3 is launched. It will arrive at Mars on December 2, 1971.
CompuServe releases the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) standard as a new format to save and retrieve computer-based images. The format uses a palette of up to 256 distinct colors from the 24-bit RGB color space. It also supports animations and allows a separate palette of 256 colors for each frame. The color limitation makes the GIF format unsuitable for reproducing color photographs and other images with continuous color, but it is well-suited for more simple images such as graphics or logos with solid areas of color. The standard is intended to replace their earlier Run-length encoding (RLE) format, which was restricted to black and white.
A robotic probe finds the wreckage of the USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
The Summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is held in Chicago, Illinois, over four days. Nintendo has a 76,000 square foot booth, the largest in the history of the trade show. At the event, Nintendo announces that it will sell the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) system with one controller for US$99 in the U.S.
Hollywood Pictures releases the film Super Mario Bros., starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, and Samantha Mathis, to 2,081 U.S. theaters. The film is based on the characters featured in Nintendo video games. It is the first major motion picture to be based on a video game. The film won’t be a huge critical or financial success, despite boasting such high-caliber actors as Hoskins and Hopper. The film is popularly criticized for having a boring plot while still being noted for its stunning visual effects. Produced on a budget of US$48 million, the film will gross US$8,532,623 in its opening weekend. IMDB listing
Apple Computer announces the Macintosh Performa 6320CD computer, featuring a 120 MHz 603e PowerPC processor, 16MB RAM, 1.2GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, sixteen preinstalled titles, and fifteen CD-ROM titles. Price: US$2599
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