This Day in Geek History: October 18
In New York Harbor, inventor Samuel Morse lays the world’s first telegraph cable, across the length of a mile between the Battery and Governor’s Island. Unfortunately, before his system can be fully demonstrated, a passing ship pulls up the cable.
English engineer and mathematician Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference Engine, dies. At the time of his death, he is living in poverty after years of having funded his own projects after the government stopped funding them.
The first long-distance telephone line is established between the offices of the mayor of Chicago and the mayor of New York City. The line can only carry one call at a time.
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is founded by a consortium of six radio manufacturing companies under a government license as the sole British radio operator. Five years later it will receive a Royal Charter and become the British Broadcasting Corporation. John Reith, the BBC’s founding father, feared that Britain’s broadcasting system would follow in the footsteps of America’s unregulated, commercial radio or the Soviet Union’s rigidly controlled state system of radio. Reith’s goal is to create an independent broadcaster free of political and commercial pressure. More than one million ten shilling (50p) licenses will be issued by November 14, 1922 when daily transmissions will begin.
U.S. inventor Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, dies. He will be remembered as the most prolific inventor in U.S. history, having registered 1,093 U.S. patents over the course of his lifetime.
The existence of the “negative proton,” otherwise known as an “antiproton” is discovered at the University of California, Berkeley. The search for the antimatter subparticle bean in 1932, when the existence of the positron, a particle with the mass of an electron despite a positive charge, was discovered. It took nearly thirteen years to discover the antiproton because its creation involved two thousand times the energy, requiring a much larger “atom smasher” than existed before the Bevatron was built at UC Berkeley. The subparticles were detected when copper was bombarded with protons accelerated to 6.2 billion electron volts of energy, creating of sixty antiprotons.
The world’s first video game, Tennis for Two is introduced by William Higinbotham. While technically, there were earlier electronic games, Tennis for Two is the first game to feature a graphical display, which is fundamental to the definition of the term “video game.” Higinbotham built the tennis simulator to entertain visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and, in fact, would only bring the unit out on the laboratory’s two “Visitor Days.” It would only become known outside the lab after Higinbotham testified in the patent disputes of Magnavox and Ralph Baer. Read more at the official Brookhaven National Laboratory website.
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