This Day in Geek History: October 10
The metric system is born. The date (10/10) was chosen as an allusion to the base ten system of measurements.
Neptune’s moon, Triton, is discovered by William Lassell while he is observing the newly discovered planet Neptune. He was attempting to confirm his own observation that Neptune had a ring, which he made the previous week. Instead, he discovers the satellite. Soon after, Lassell will discover that the ring he thought he had seen is only a product of his new telescope’s distortion.
The first tuxedo is worn at a dinner club in New York.
In New York City, the Radio Club of Columbia University, under the direction of inventor Edwin Armstrong, launches the world’s first FM radio station with regularly scheduled programming, WKCR. The first words broadcast are “Good morning, hepsters, jitterbugs, and other lovers of culture.” WKCR will mostly broadcast academic programming, including classroom events, classical music, and the proceedings of the United Nations for the next two decades. After the student uprising of 1968, its format will change to Jazz and alternative music. Visit the official WKCR website.
The adventure television series Zorro, starring Guy Williams, debuts with the episode “Presenting Senor Zorro” on the ABC network. The series will run for seventy-eight episodes over two seasons, with an additional four specials. TV.com
The graphite core of the nuclear reactor in Cumbria, UK catches fire, becoming the world’s first major nuclear accident. The event, which will be dubbed the “Windscale fire” will remain the worst nuclear incident in history until the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 and then the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
International Business Machines (IBM) Data Processing Division (DPD) announces four new products: the IBM 7335 tape drive; IBM 1301 disk storage unit; IBM 1442 Model 4 card reader; and the IBM 1444 card punch.
The Outer Space Treaty, signed on January 27 by more than sixty nations, goes into force. The treaty prohibits the use of nuclear weapons in space and forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet.
Midway releases the arcade game Pac-Man to arcades in Japan. The game will be released in North America exactly one year later. The game, in which players guide the title character through a single-screen maze, eating dots and avoiding contact with four ghosts, will become wildly popular and enormously influential in future game development. The game was developed by Namco over eighteen months primarily by Toru Iwatani. The original title was pronounced pakku-man, a reference to the phrase used by the Japanese to describe the sound of a mouth widely opened and then closed in succession, “paku-paku taberu.”
The Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope observatory in New Mexico is dedicated. Conceived in the sixties and built in the seventies, the VLA is versatile and sensitive, with angular resolution comparable to that of the best ground-based optical telescopes. The VLA is an aperture synthesis interferometric instrument, designed to gain the resolving power of a very large antenna by utilizing a number of smaller antennas. Information from all of its antennas is combined mathematically to produce resolving power equal to that of a single antenna 36km in diameter. The VLA is arranged in a “Y” pattern, with nine antennas on each of the three arms. Each of the twenty-seven antennae is a fully-steerable 82ft diameter parabolic dish, weighing approximately 230 tons. Visit the observatory’s official website.
Apple Computer introduces it new Lisa computer to its sales force at an annual sales meeting in Acapulco, Mexico. In his book, Apple Confidential 2.0, author Owen W. Linzmayer would later quote Apple employee Chris Espinosa as saying, “The story is that… there was instability in the Mexican government at that time. We had a plan that if a coup occurred and martial law was imposed, we would rent a boat and take all the pre-production Lisas out into the ocean and dump them, so they wouldn’t be seized by the military. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t have been a bad thing to do anyway.” (Page 77)
20th Century Fox releases the comedy film Jumpin’ Jack Flash, directed by Penny Marshall and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Collins, John Wood, Carol Kane, and Peter Michael Goetz to 1,080 U.S. theaters. In the film, Terry Doolittle works for First National Bank, where she uses Sperry brand computers to communicate with clients all over the world. One night she is contacted by a man calling himself “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, who turns out to be a British spy stuck in a hostile country in eastern Europe. In an encoded message, he appeals to Terri to help him return home safely. Terry soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly struggle with an espionage ring in a series of adventures throughout New York. The film will gross over US$6 million domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing MPAA Rating: R Running time: 1 hr 40 mins
Asteroid 3753 is discovered to be orbiting the Earth in addition to the Moon by J.D. Waldron of the Siding Spring Observatory. It is named Cruithne, after a Celtic tribe who came to Britain between about 880 and 500 BC. It is pulled alternately by the Sun and Earth. In the course of it’s orbit, it passes closer to the Earth than the Moon, within about fifteen million kilometers (about nine million miles). It is approximately 2.9 – 6.4km in diameter. Cruithne will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least five thousand years.
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