This Day in Geek History: November 4
Benjamin Franklin Palmer receives a patent for the first artificial leg. (US No. 4,834)
The first issue of the scientific journal Nature, edited by astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer, is first published. The first issue includes articles on astronomy, education, moths, plants, an obituary for chemist Thomas Graham, paleontology, and several meeting notices. Visit the journal’s official website.
The first cash register is patented by James and John Ritty of Dayton, Ohio.
The entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamen is discovered in the Valley of the Kings where archaeologist Howard Carter had been making extended excavations. One of Carter’s laborers stumbled upon a stone step, the first step in a sunken stairway that ran down into the rock. Carter ordered the stairway filled and telegraphed his patron, “At last have made wonderful discovery in valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact; recovered same for your arrival; congratulations.” On November 26, Carter, with Carnarvon standing by, will drill a small hole in the tomb’s antechamber. Inserting a candle, Carter peered into the darkness at the rich funerary goods. When asked by Carnarvon if he could see anything, the awestruck Carter will reply, “Yes, wonderful things.” In 1907, Lord Carnarvon, a wealthy English aristocrat with a passion for archeology, hired Carter and financed his excavations.
The U.S. Postmaster General orders all homes to get mailboxes or relinquish delivery of mail.
The first air conditioned automobile, a Packard, is exhibited in Chicago, Illinois by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, which has been known for producing luxury automobiles since 1899.
The X-10 nuclear reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory goes “critical” with a self-sustaining fission reaction, becoming the world’s second reactor to achieve such a reaction. The reactor took just nine urgent months to build. Over the next year, the reactor performed flawlessly, irradiating thousands of fuel slugs, which were disassembled and dissolved so the plutonium could be extracted, bit by precious bit. It is an experimental reactor far larger and more advanced than Fermi’s Chicago pile.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) demonstrates all-electronic color television using three picture tubes.
On election night, CBS News uses a UNIVersal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC I) computer to predict the outcome of the 1952 presidential election after analyzing only five percent of the tallied votes. In the race between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, the computer projects a victory for Eisenhower, but journalists Charles Collingwood and Walter Cronkite find the result so dubious in the face of opinion polls that have consistently predicted a landslide victory for Stevenson that they postpone announcing the UNIVAC results until it’s clear to everyone that Eisenhower will win. News of the prediction will vault the UNIVAC to national fame.
The United States government establishes the National Security Agency to collect and analyze foreign communications. Read more about the organization’s history. Visit the organization’s official website.
Compaq announces the suitcase-sized, IBM-compatible Compaq Portable, featuring a 4.77MHz Intel 8088, 128 – 640KB RAM, a nine-inch monochrome monitor, a 320KB 5.25-inch disk drive, and either the CP/M-86 or MS-DOS operating system. It is one of the earliest progenitors of the later laptop, and it’s about the size of a portable sewing machine, which earns it the nickname “the sewing machine.” It will be the first successful IBM PC clone, largely due to a black-box clone of the IBM BIOS (Basic Input Output System) that makes the Compaq Portable completely compatible with IBM computers. However, it cost Compaq a million dollars to create a ROM BIOS that doesn’t violate IBM copyrights. In order to replicate IBM’s BIOS without infringing on any IBM copyrights, Compaq set up two teams of programmers. The first group made a list of everything the BIOS did for a specific set of inputs, carefully omitting any mention of the original code. The second group of programmers then took the notes from the first team and wrote a version of BIOS that performs exactly the same functions as the original, written from scratch without any contamination from the IBM source code. The computer, which will be shipped in January 1983, marks the end of IBM’s hardware monopoly and the birth of a multi-billion industry. Price: US$2,995 or US$3,590 (two floppy system) Weight: 28lb
Dell Inc. is founded in Austin, Texas by University of Texas student Michael Dell as PC’s Limited with just a thousand dollars in start-up capital. The business is at first operated out of Dell’s off-campus dorm room at the Dobie Center. The startup’s mission was to sell IBM-compatible computers, with the philosophy that a company that sold directly to customers could better tailor systems to meet their buyer’s needs. Dell will later drop out of school in order to work full-time. Visit the company’s official website.
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