This Day in Geek History: November 22
The first patent issued in the U.S. for a metallic writing pen is issued to Peregrine Williamson, a Baltimore jeweler. The pens are made of steel rolled from wire to for a steel quill that never needs its nib to be sharpened. A few steel pens have already been in use in Britain.
The Marconi Wireless Company of America is incorporated in New Jersey.
The first direct current, electric motor to be patented in the U.S. is issued to Mathias Pfatischer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (US No.775,310) The “Variable Speed Motor” is designed to “effect commutation without sparking, with a variable load as well as at variable speed and which is capable of rotation in either direction.”
The International Radio Telegraphic Convention in Berlin adopts the Morse code representation of the letters S.O.S. as a universal distress signal. The previous distress signal was C.Q.D., which was the usual call sign CQ, plus the letter “D” for Distress.
The first U.S. patent for a computer-controlled gasoline pump is issued to inventors Robert J. Jauch, Ivan R. Farnham and Ross H. Arnold. (US No. 1,888,533) The “Liquid Dispensing Apparatus” meters fluids while displaying the exact amount (in gallons) dispensed.
J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly leave the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, where they had developed ENIAC, the first digital computer, after a dispute arose over their right to their intellectual property rights in regard to ENIAC. Irven Travis, head of research at the Moore School, had requested that they relinquish the patents they developed while at the school. The two will later develop UNIVAC, the first general purpose business computer, while the school eventually looses its position as a national leader in computer science.
The first commercially-sponsored TV series to be broadcast in NTSC color, The Colgate Comedy Hour, premieres.
A USSR chess program begins a correspondence match with the Kotok-McCarthy MIT chess program, the first computer capable of playing chess convincingly. It is the first game of chess ever played between two computers. The match will last nine months and will be won by the Soviet computer, three wins to one.
The Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” first airs. (No. 67/65) In it, the crew of the Enterprise encounters an ageless and mischievous race of psychic humanoids who claim to have organized their society around Ancient Greek ideals. The episode features the first interracial kiss on network television. Memory Alpha entry
International Business Machines (IBM) The Data Processing Division (DPD) releases the IBM 3872 and IBM 3875 modems.
According to Twin Galaxies, Al Hokeness scores a record-setting 5,205,000 points on Atari’s Battlezone after playing the game for four hours and thirty minutes at University Game Room in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
Twentieth Century Fox releases the comedy film Revenge of the Nerds, directed by Jeff Kanew and starring Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Timothy Busfield, Curtis Armstrong, Ted McGinley, Bernie Casey, and John Goodman, to 364 U.S. theaters. In it, a group of nerds tries to put an end to the harassment of a fraternity of jocks, the Alpha Betas. Produced on a budget of US$8 million, it will gross US$1,513,090 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: R) Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
John Sculley of Apple Computer and Bill Gates of Microsoft sign a licensing agreement permitting Microsoft royalty-free use of the visual characteristics of the Macintosh for Windows 1.0 (two days after the system’s release), while committing Microsoft to releasing versions of its most popular applications for the Macintosh and an official acknowledgment that “the visual displays in [Excel, Windows, Word, and Multiplan] are derivative works of the visual displays generated by Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh graphic user interface programs.”
Universal Pictures releases the science fiction film Back to the Future Part II, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Thomas F. Wilson, to 1,865 U.S. theaters. In it, Marty McFly and Doc Brown make an exhilarating visit to the year 2015 seemingly to resolve a few problems with the future McFly family. But when the two return home, they soon discover someone has tampered with time to produce a nightmarish Hill Valley, 1985. Their only hope is to once again get back to 1955 and save the future. In the film, Elijah Fox age eight, is credited as the “Video Game Boy,” although undocumented references refer to the character as Mickey. In one scene, Marty McFly enters the Café 80′s and recognizes an arcade video game called Wild Gunman and begins to play it. Watching him play, Mickey asks, “You mean you have to use your hands?” Produced on a budget of US$40 million, it will gross US$27,835,125 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 1 hrs 48 mins
The NonStop-UX B22 operating system is released.
Novell acquires the WordPerfect Corporation for WordPerfect and Borland International’s Quattro Pro in an attempt to wrest market share from Microsoft’s own word processing and spreadsheet suite, Microsoft Office. Ultimately, the strategy will fail. The WordPerfect suite will decline until it holds only twenty percent of the market in 1996, and in January 1996, Corel will buy the WordPerfect Corporation from Novell.
Sega releases the Sega Saturn video game system in Japan. The system features two 28.6 MHz 32-bit Hitachi SH7064 RISC processors, two video display processors, a Hitachi SH7034 processor controlling the double-speed CD-ROM drive, a Tamaha FH1 digital signal processor, a Motorola 68EC000 sound processor, QSound surround sound, 2MB main memory, 1.5 MB video memory, a memory cartridge slot, and an expansion slot. Price: ¥44,800 (about US$450)
Version 2.0 of the FreeBSD operating system is released.
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution releases the animated film Toy Story, directed by John Lasseter and featuring the voice talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, to 2,457 U.S. theaters. The film, which was produced by Pixar, a studio founded by Steve Jobs, is the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery. One hundred ten people were involved in the creation of the film, but, thanks to the company’s proprietary software, only twenty-eight of them were animators. The one hundred ten thousand frames of the film were rendered over the course of eight hundred thousand machine hours on Pixar’s “RenderFarm” of eighty-seven SparcStation 20 workstations and single SparcServer 1000. Each frame of the film was composed of roughly 500MB of data. Produced on a budget of US$30 million, it will gross US$29,140,617 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: G) Running Time: 1 hr 21 mins
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