This Day in Geek History: October 2
In the Netherlands, Hans Lippershey successfully complete the construction of the first optical telescope. Though there have been earlier telescopes, Lippershey will be the first to patent the device, though he’ll beat out Jacob Metius by only a matter of weeks. He will ultimately be credited with the invention and popularization of the telescope.
Orville Wright sets a new altitude record of 1,600 feet, exceeding the previous record set by Hubert Latham of 508 feet.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke that leaves the left side of his body paralyzed and his left eye blind. He will remain largely disabled through the remainder of his term, leaving his second wife, Edith Wilson nominally in charge of his Presidential duties. Because the full extent of Wilson’s disability and his wife’s role in his presidency won’t be revealed to the public at large until after his death in 1921, Edith Wilson will sometimes be referred to as “the Secret President,” “the first woman to run the government,” and even “the first female president of the United States.”
Scottish engineer John Logie Baird performs the first successful test of a television transmission system when he sends the first greyscale television images from one end of his attic laboratory to the other for the first time. The images are of a ventriloquist’s dummy he nicknamed “Stooky Bill” (“stooky” being slang for someone who moves woodenly and a colloquial term for the plaster cast used to immobilize bone fractures), followed soon after by images of William Edward Taynton, a twenty year-old who worked in the offices below Baird’s workshop. The images are transmitted with a 30-line vertical resolution, however, the images are only transmitted at a rate of five frames a second – significantly slower than the twelve frames a second required to create the illusion of motion. By 1927, Baird will succeed in transmitting a television signal from London to Glasgow, and in 1928, he’ll succeed in transmitting a signal from London to New York.
The Hayden Planetarium in New York, the fourth planetarium in the U.S., opens. In the words of Charles Hayden, the planetarium’s mission is to give the public “a more lively and sincere appreciation of the magnitude of the universe… and for the wonderful things which are daily occurring in the universe.” Hayden believes that everyone should have the experience of feeling the “immensity of the sky and one’s own littleness.” Read more about the History of the Hayden Planetarium.
First self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction is demonstrated in Chicago, Illinois.
The first Peanuts comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz is published in nine newspapers across the country as “Li’l Folks.” The series will run for 17,897 strips until February 13, 2000, the day after Schulz’s death, making it “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being”, according to Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University. At the peak of it popularity, the strip will appear in over 2,600 newspapers with an aggregate readership of 355 million people in 75 countries. The popularity of the strip will play an enormous role in establishing the four-panel comic strip as the industry standard in the United States. Visit Snoopy.com, the Official Peanuts website.
Regular television service begin in Netherlands, with signals transmitted from a converted chapel in Amsterdam.
The ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic computer in history, is ceremoniously decommissioned after nine years in service. The ENIAC was capable of performing five thousand operations per second, but it physically occupies over a thousand square feet of floor space. Portions of the system will be moved to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The television anthology series The Twilight Zone premiers on the CBS network with the episode “Where Is Everybody?” In it, a man wanders an abandoned town struggling to remember who and where he is. The series will become one of the most influential programs in the history of television, establishing numerous story conventions and devices, the best known of which will be the unexpected twist that concludes each episode. The series will run for 156 episode over five seasons. Watch episodes of The Twilight Zone online.
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