This Day in Geek History: May 31
President George Washington signs the first federal Copyright Act in the United States into law. The law provides a term of fourteen years of protection for books, charts, and maps written by U.S. citizens that can be renewed for a second term of fourteen years, but it requires a record of the work to be presented prior to its publication to the local district court where the author or proprietor resides.
The first electric railway is launched during the Berlin Trades Exposition.
The last Ford Model T rolls off the world-renowned assembly line, which will ultimately produce 15,007,003 vehicles over the course of its operation.
W2XBS broadcasts the film The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Leslie Howard. During the film’s broadcast, the station’s projectionist plays the reels out of sequel, bringing the film to its conclusion twenty minutes early. After the debacle, the NBC network won’t be able to secure the first-run rights for a film for years to come.
Construction begins on ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, though the formal contract between the Moore School and the U.S. Army won’t officially go into effect until July 1st. John Mauchly is the project’s chief consultant and J. Presper Eckert is the project’s chief engineer. It will take the school’s team approximately one year to design the ENIAC system another eighteen months and half a million dollars to build. By the time the system is fully operational, the war for which the computer was originally designed to assist with will be over.
Leonard Kleinrock, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student, submits his PhD thesis proposal, “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets,” which will be the first paper on packet-switching theory, otherwise known as data networking theory, in history. Kleinrock will later head the team that establishes the first long-distance host-to-host connection that will be the forerunner of the internet. Read “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets” online.
Apple Computer announces a corporate restructuring plan that will eliminate both its Apple II and Macintosh divisions, combining them into manufacturing and marketing divisions. As part of the move, Steve Jobs is removed from all his duties as as a division manager. He is given the job description of “global thinker,” is left with few responsibilities, and his new, remote office is privately dubbed “Siberia” by Apple insiders. Four months later, Jobs will resign his position to found NeXT. Visit the official website of Apple Computer.
The first (legal) private radio station, Athena 98.4 FM, is launched in Greece.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago, Illinois, Sony announces the upcoming PlayStation video game system, which will be able to play Nintendo’s new 16-bit game cartridges, as well as games on compact disk media. The cost of the system is estimated at about US$400.
Sega releases the scrolling shooter Zero Wing for the Sega Mega Drive in Europe. The game is an adaptation of the popular arcade version. In the Sega Mega Drive version, an introductory scene is added to the game to expand on the game’s plot. The scene was translated to English from the original Japanese very poorly for the European release largely because the European version was rushed to market. The result is dialog such as “All your base are belong to us,” which will go on to become a pop culture catch phrase, especially popular in internet humor.
The United States announces that it is no longer aiming its long range nuclear arsenal at the Soviet Union.
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