This Day in Geek History: November 12
American astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglass makes the first written record of a meteor shower in the U.S., the Leonids meteor shower, from a ship off the Florida Keys. He writes, “In every instant the meteors were as numerous as the stars,” and that the “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break.”
Theodore William Richards of Harvard University becomes the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Hugh Gray captures what he claims to be the first known photo of the Loch Ness Monster.
Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz performs the world’s first modern frontal leukotomy (Greek for “cutting white”) in Lisbon. The procedure involves Moniz drilling holes in the patient’s skull in order to inject pure alcohol into his frontal lobe to destroy the tissue in an effort to alter his behavior. It will later lead to the development of the modern procedure known as a lobotomy.
Alan Turing publishes a paper entitled “On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheidungs-problem.” In it, Turing provides an abstraction that will form the basic theory of computability for several decades. Later renamed the Turing Machine, this abstract engine described in this paper will provide the fundamental concepts of computers that other inventors will later conceive independently.
The Batman trademark is registered.
The first heredity clinic in the U.S. is opened by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The clinic collects data on human heredity and offers family counseling.
The first “autobank,” which allows banking by car, opens in Chicago.
In Japan, the United States Army holds a contest pitting a champion Japanese abacus (soroban) user against a U.S. soldier operating the using the most cutting-edge calculating machine of the day. In four out of five rounds, the abacus user wins.
According to a later application filed with the New Mexico Office of the Secretary of the State, Microsoft begins using its tradename “to identify computer programs for use in automatic data processing systems; pre-programming processing systems; and data processing services including computer programming services.”
The International Business Machines (IBM) Data Processing Division (DPD) announces the IBM 3081 processor complex and the IBM 3033 model group 2, two processors that will extend the power and range of IBM’s largest computer systems. Both processors are developed and manufactured in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The NASA space probe Voyager I makes its closest approach to Saturn, passing within 77,000 miles of the planet’s south pole. It returns images of Saturn’s rings across nearly a billion miles of space to NASA.
NASA launches the Space Shuttle Columbia from Cape Canaveral. (STS-2) With its launch, the Columbia becomes the first spacecraft to be reused on a second mission. The Columbia will successfully complete twenty-seven missions before being destroyed upon retry on February 1, 2003, during the course of mission STS-107.
According to Twin Galaxies, Doug Nelson scores a record-setting 9,980,420 points playing the Midway arcade game Pac-Man at the Fun Factory arcade in Bakersfield, California. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
Lotus Development officially announces the Jazz office suite for the Macintosh 512K, which will include communications functions, database, graphics, spreadsheet, and word processing. The software will go on to be a complete failure, despite the incredible success of the company’s Lotus 1-2-3 for IBM-compatible computers. Later critics will credit the software’s to overpricing and a lack of brand recognition caused by not giving it the Lotus name. Read an archived review of the software at Atari Magazine. Price: US$595
Richard Sandza’s article on the world of the Hacker BBS, “The Night of the Hackers“, appears in Newsweek magazine. The article introduces many would-be hackers to BBS technology and significantly contributed to the popularity of BBS communities in the mid-eighties.
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