December 7

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Podcast Episode

Day in Tech History: Dec 7th

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"At the offices of the Scientific American magazine, Thomas Alva Edison demonstrates his improved phonograph, using a cylinder wrapped with tinfoil instead of wax-coated paper. Just the day previous, he had made the first recording using the device to demonstrate it to John Kruesi, the machinist who built it from Edison’s sketches." 1909 "Leo Baekeland of Yonkers, New York, receives the first US patents for a thermosetting artificial plastic. (US No. 942,699) The patent for “an improvement in methods of making insoluble condensation products of phenol-formaldehyde” covers the creation of what Baekeland dubbed Bakelite. Bakelite is the beginning of the plastics industry. It is a nonflammable material cheaper and more versatile than other known plastics. It will be used in a wide variety of application, from inexpensive jewelry to sophisticated electronics."


"W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts broadcasts video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The broadcast features the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, the radio show’s sponsor."


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper begins a two-year experiment to deliver an abbreviated version of the paper by UHF radio to fifteen households equipped with special receivers.


Ferranti introduces the Atlas, considered the world’s most powerful computer, at an inauguration at Manchester University, in England. Among its advances are the world’s first paging system and pipelined operations. (In computer operating systems, paging is a method by which memory allocation (also called memory address translation) algorithms divide computer memory into small partitions, and allocate memory using a page as the smallest building block.)


Apollo 17, the sixth and last Apollo moon mission, is launched from Cape Canaveral. The crew take the photograph known as “The Blue Marble” as they leave the Earth. Flight Commander Eugene Cernan will be the last man to step on the Moon for decades to come.


What will become the most famous image of the initial staff of the staff of Microsoft is taken. From left to right the picture includes, in the top row: Steve Wood, Bob Wallace, Jim Lane. In the middle row: Bob O’Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, Microsoft’s first salaried employee, Gordon Letwin, lead architect of the OS/2 operating system. In the bottom row: Co-founder Bill Gates, Technical writer Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, Co-founder Paul Allen."

Paramount Pictures releases the science fiction film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett, to 857 US theaters. In it, Admiral Kirk resumes command of the Starship Enterprise in order to intercept, examine, and hopefully stop a destructive space entity that is rapidly approaching Earth. Produced on a budget of US$35 million, it will gross US$11,926,421 domestically in its opening weekend. MPAA Rating: G Running Time: 2 hrs 12 mins


Erik Labs releases BiModem, a new file transfer protocol that allows users to simultaneously upload and download files, and initiate chats during the file transfer. The protocol was developed for use in BBS systems. Download an archived version of the application.


US Congressman Dennis Eckart announces at a large news conference that he is recommending an investigation of Nintendo by the US Justice Department.


Adobe Systems announces it will license the Java programming language from Sun Microsystems, and integrate Java support into Adobe Acrobat as well as Adobe PageMill. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and other executives hold a seven-hour brief and workshop on Microsoft’s Internet strategy in Seattle, Washington. Microsoft announces that it has licensed Java from Sun Microsystems and will add extensions to the technology for use with the Microsoft Network. Microsoft also announces that it has licensed browser technology from Spyglass for Windows 3.1 and the Macintosh, that it will offer Internet Explorer 2.0 on all platforms free of charge, and that the Microsoft Network will be redesigned as a website. The US spacecraft Galileo arrives at Jupiter, more than six years after its launch from the Space Shuttle Atlantis, during Mission STS-34. It fires its main engine for forty-nine minutes to establish an orbit and releases an atmospheric probe, which will relay information on the structure and composition of the planet.


The website of the British Field Sports Society is hacked by “Atrocity"


Apple releases Mac OS 8.5.1, a minor update to Mac OS 8.5 that fixes a number of bugs cause crashes and data corruption.

Microsoft admits to having found a Year 2000 (Y2K) bug in its most recent release of the Windows ‘98 operating system and announces a fix to remedy it.

South Carolina reveals that they have dropped out of the antitrust suit pending against the Microsoft Corporation. The state claims that, after analyzing the recent merger between AOL and Netscape, there is evidence of ample competition within the market. South Carolina had been one of twenty states to join the federal government in the original suit.

A spokesperson for the family of Bill Gates, age 43, announces that he and his wife, Melinda, are expecting a second child in June 1999.


Intel conducts the first public demonstration of its Bluetooth wireless technology, a set of specifications for personal area networks (PANs). The technology will be released in mid-2000. To demonstrate the technology, the data on two notebooks are synchronized wirelessly using Intel’s Bluetooth radio module and software suite. Visit the official Bluetooth website.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sues Napster in San Francisco federal court, alleging copyright infringement. The ensuing publicity generated by the trial will draw millions of new users to Napster’s filesharing service.

2000 announces that it has postponed the launch of its business-to-business, cellular, and life insurance services.


Four Israeli teenagers are arrested for writing and disseminating the Goner worm, which did an estimated 80 million dollars of damage. A fifth would be arrested later. One of the five is a middle school student, the other four are tenth and eleventh graders.


The Astrophysical Journal reports that the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a galaxy that may be just five hundred million years old, which would make it the youngest galaxy yet discovered in the Universe.

Nvidia announces it is making the graphics processor for Sony’s next PlayStation video game system. The two companies have been working for two years to develop a graphics processor based on Sony technology and Nvidia’s GeForce architecture.

Researchers from the New York State Department of Health and State University of New York in Albany demonstrate a device which allows users to interface with a computer using thought alone. “The results show that people can learn to use scalp-recorded electroencephalogram rhythms to control rapid and accurate movement of a cursor in two directions,” say Jonathan Wolpaw and Dennis McFarlane. Before the technology, many researchers had previously assumed that only invasive brain-computer interfaces, in which electrodes are surgically implanted into the brain, could control complex movements. However the success of such demonstrations proves that it may not be necessary to implant electrodes to gain multi-dimensional control."

Version 1.0 of Mozilla Thunderbird is released.

Version 8.4.9 of the Tcl/Tk programming language is released.


The journal Nature publishes the DNA sequence of a domestic dog.


BitTorrent, Inc. CEO Bram Cohen announces that BitTorrent, Inc. has acquired uTorrent, a freeware Bittorrent client written in C++ for Windows. uTorrent will continue to be maintained separately, with its own community, and the µTorrent code base will remain closed source. Ludvig Strigeus, the original creator of uTorrent, will serve as a technical consultant, but BitTorrent, Inc. will continue the project’s development.

Hewlett-Packard HP pays US$14.5 million to settle civil charges brought by the California Attorney General without admitting liability. The complaint alleges that HP violated several sections of California’s penal code, including one that prohibits “willfully and knowingly” accessing computerized telephone account information without permission. It also cites an identity theft statutes that prohibit obtaining someone’s personal identity information and then using that information for an unlawful purpose. Among the other stipulations, HP agrees that for five years, it will: maintain employment of a chief ethics and compliance officer, expand the role of the company’s chief privacy officer to review HP’s investigation practices, expand the company’s employee and vendor codes to ensure that they address ethical standards regarding investigations, and retain an expert in the field of investigations to assist the company’s chief ethics officer with regard to investigations. Of the settlement money, US$13.5 million will go into a new law enforcement fund to fight violations of privacy and intellectual-property rights, while US$650,000 will go to statutory damages, and US$350,000 will reimburse the Attorney General’s Office for the costs of its investigation."

The Nintendo WiiNintendo releases the Wii video game system in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and Sqitzerland. It includes a wireless Wii remote controller, a Nunchuk controller attachment, and video game Wii Sports. Unlike the other game systems of this generation, the Wii doesn’t have an internal hard drive, but it uses 512MB of internal Flash memory instead and features support for removable SD card storage. It also comes bundled with Wii Sports. Price: AUD$399.95 (Australia), €259 (Italy), NZD$499.90 (New Zealand), SFr399 (Switzerland)


Google launches real-time search


Google unveiled Chrome Web Store. Google also debuts the Chrome notebook in the Cr-48. The not-yet finished notebook is a WiFi and 3G notebook that keeps your data in the cloud. The notebook run Chrome OS only.


After delay, Microsoft release XBox360 update with Live TV, gesture and voice commands

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