This Day in Geek History: November 17
Emile Berliner is issued a patent for a combination telegraph and telephone.
Walter Brattain and John Bardeen observe the fundamental principles of the transistor in a series of experiments conducted between November 17 and December 23. The result will be the first transistor, a solid-state amplifier made of germanium, plastic, and gold.
Customer trials of the world’s first electronic Telephone Central Office begin in Morris, Illinois.
Surveyor 6 becomes the first man-made object to lift off from the lunar surface when it makes a six-second flight on the Moon.
Douglas Engelbart receives a patent for the first computer mouse. (US No. 3541541) The patent, titled “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System,” is a simple hollowed-out wooden block, with a single push button on top.
International Business Machines (IBM) releases the IBM 3250 graphics display system.
The two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special air for the first and only time on CBS network. In it, Chewbacca and Han Solo visit Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s home world, to celebrate Life Day. Along the way, they are pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire who are searching for rebels on the planet. The film will never be re-aired or officially released, but it will be widely boot-legged and eventually become a cult-classic, largely due to the unintentional campiness of the production. Visit The Star Wars Holiday Special fan site for more information.
Craig Neidorf (Knight Lightning) and Taran King and release the first issue of PHRACK Magazine, which will, after twenty years, become the longest running electronic publication on the hacker scene. Initially distributed by bulletin board services, it will eventually moves to the Internet. Visit the publication’s official website.
The Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE) is launched to investigate the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) of the universe. It will provide evidence supporting the theory that a Big Bang spawned the universe ten to twenty billion years ago. Visit the NASA website for COBE.
Veronica, an early search engine system for the Gopher protocol, is released by the University of Nevada. Veronica is an ever-expanding database that includes the names of almost every menu item on thousands of Gopher servers. The name, although officially an acronym for “Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computer Archives”, was chosen to match that of the FTP search service known as Archie. Archie and Veronica being characters in the Archie Comics.
Apple settles a lawsuit brought by Carl Sagan after engineers at Apple code-named a computer for the famed astronomer. Though the code-name remained internal, Sagan took offense and sued Apple for defamation of character.
Sam Tramiel announces that the settlement terms that were made public in September with Sega have been concluded and that Atari has received a cash infusion of approximately US$90 million. Tramiel jokingly warns Atari employees in a company memo that he does not personally carry more than US$20 on his person at any one time.
The COMDEX trade show is held in Las Vegas, Nevada, over five days. The event features 4,718 exhibitors and 519,000 people attend.
Amazon.com announces that they have added videos to their product selection and a virtual gift store to their online book reseller functions.
Yahoo! launches Yahoo! Shopping.
Slashdot reports, “There is a cool new tool out there called Napster that allows anyone to become a publicly accessible FTP site – tapping in to that huge resource of personal MP3 collections that everyone has, but have not been able to share… RIAA should be scared out of their minds because users are not logged on permanently, so it’s hard to track them down to take legal action.” Visit the official Slashdot website.
Britannica.com announces its intention to cut seventeen percent of its employees or about seventy-five jobs. The Chicago-based firm is one of the most popular reference sites on the Internet and employs about 450 people. Visit the official website.
Miramax Films releases the film Bounce, directed by Don Roos and starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow is released to U.S. theaters. It was the first film to have been digitally delivered via a satellite to a theater. Earlier in the week, a digital edition of the film was bounced off a Boeing satellite using military encryption methods. The film took about eight hours to transmit in its entirety and was saved to massive hard drives at the AMC Empire Theater in New York’s Times Square.
Computer security experts warn that the software provided by Sony to uninstall its XCP tools creates additional vulnerabilities.
A British man convicted of what is described as the country’s first “web-rage” attack, is sentenced to two and a half years in prison for assaulting a man he had exchanged insults with over the Internet.
An Israeli newspaper reports that Israel is developing nanotechnology to create a robot roughly the size of a hornet that could be capable of seeking, photographing, and killing a target.
Sony releases the PlayStation 3 game console in North America. The system features a 3.2GHz PowerPC CPU, 256 MBXDR DRAM, built-in Wi-Fi, and a 60GB hard drive. Sony only releases four hundred thousand units of the PlayStation 3, and chaos erupts at several locations in the U.S. due to retailers’ inability to meet the high demand for the system. Across the country, violence breaks out. In one incident, two men are shot in one incident, and in several other incidents, armed robbery was committed by those trying to take one of these first systems. It is the first gaming system to use Blue-ray Discs as its storage medium. Visit the system’s official Canadian website or the U.S. website.