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John Ambrose Fleming invents the vacuum tube, otherwise known as the thermionic valve. The valve consists of a carbon or tungsten filament lamp with a metal plate insulated from the filament and a wire through the glass wall of the bulb to a third terminal outside. When battery current is applied to the filament, the space between the filament and the insulated plate will conduct electrons in just one direction. Vacuum tubes are used to amplify, switch, or otherwise modify, a signal by controlling the movement of electrons in an evacuated space, and they will remain the basis of electronic technology for decades to come.
Construction of an experimental atomic pile begins. The pile will be used to investigate the world’s first artificial nuclear chain reaction under Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. The later research will be an important contribution to the Manhattan Project, a project to develop nuclear weapons.
The Soviet Union launches the Venera 3 space probe on a mission to land on the surface of Venus.
NASA launches the Skylab 4 with a crew of three astronauts from Cape Canaveral on an eighty-four day mission that will remain the longest American space flight for over two decades. The Skylab crew includes Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward C. Gibson. The three will conduct thousands of experiments during the course of the mission, including the observation and photographing of Comet Kohoutek on Christmas Day. After 1,214 orbits, the crew returned to Earth, splashing down on 8 Feb 1974.
Close Encounters of the Third KindColumbia Pictures releases the science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Franc¸ois Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, and Cary Guffey to 272 US theaters. In it, a line worker, after an encounter with a UFO, feels irresistibly drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where he is convinced that something spectacular is about to happen. Close Encounters is a landmark film for it ground-breaking special effects, as well as for its portrayal of benign rather than hostile extraterrestrials. The portrayal is a significant departure from past science fiction films, which nearly unanimously cast aliens as monsters and villains. Produced on a budget of US$20 million, it will gross US $5,379,460 domestically in its opening weekend. MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 2 hrs 17 mins
Atlantic Releasing Corporation releases the horror film Night of the Comet, directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, and Robert Beltran, to 1,098 US theaters. In it, two girls from the Valley wake up to find that a passing comet has destroyed all life as they knew it and left behind a mysterious red-dust and a pack of cannibal mutants. With the help of a friendly truck driver, the girls save the earth from a villainous think tank, karate chop their way through flesh-eating zombies, and, of course, find time to go to the mall. Produced on a budget of US$3 million, it will gross US$3,580,578 domestically in its opening weekend. MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins
USA Today launches one of the earliest electronic news syndication services, USA Today Update, for business news summaries through Datatimes, GEnie, Minitel, The Source, and Trintex, among others.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Battle first airs. (No. 109) In it, a Ferengi captain returns the abandoned Stargazer to its former captain, Jean-Luc Picard, free of charge. Picard, who experiences severe headaches, begins to relive the so-called Battle of Maxia. Memory Alpha entry
The Fall COMDEX trade show is held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event features 2,000 company booths, and 145,000 people attend. At the event, AMD demonstrates its 50MHz 80486 processors. IBM demonstrates its 100MHz Blue Lightning 486 processor. Trident announces the Storm graphics accelerator chips for ISA, MCA, or VL-Bus graphics cards. The chips support up to 2 MB of video memory, allowing resolutions up to 1280×1024.
3Dfx Interactive unveils the Voodoo 3 chipset at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas, California. At the COMDEX trade show, Iomega announces the Zip 250 drive, which features an external SCSI or parallel port connection and can read and write both 100MB and 250MB cartridges. The transfer rate of the drive is up to 1.7MBps. Price: US$199 and US$17 for 250MB cartridges AMD releases the AMD K6-2 processor at speeds of 366, 380, and 400MHz, featuring bus speeds of 66, 95, and 100MHz respectively. Price: US$187, US$213, and US$283 respectively
ICANN selects seven new top level domain (TLD) names: .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, .pro.
Yahoo! launches Yahoo! Canada in French.
In Los Angeles, California, US Customs Agents seize US$100 million in pirated computer software, the largest such seizure in US history, as a part of Operation White Horse.
Bandai releases the SwanCrystal handheld game console, featuring a 3,072 MHz 16-bit NEC V30MZ Clone, 64KB VRAM, and a 2.8 inch diagonal TFT reflective LCD screen. The SwanCrystal is available in four colors: Blue Violet, Skeleton Black, Skeleton Blue, and Red Wine. It is the third version of Bandai’s WonderSwan system.
Aurora SPARC releases Build 2.0 Beta 2 of the Aurora SPARC Linux operating system.
The European Space Agency (ESA) launches two commercial satellites using the Ariane 5 ECA rocket, achieving the tenth successful launch in a row for the Ariane 5 series. With its total payload mass of about eight metric tons this mission sets a new record.
The United States government has won its fight to keep supervisory authority over the Internet through its contractor, the ICANN, despite opposition from many nations. Instead an international forum, the three-day World Summit on the Information Society, will be set up to discuss net issues, although it will not have any binding authority.
Adobe launches a 64 bit version of Flash for Linux workstations
Apple announced the Beatles library will be available on iTunes. Tracks will cost $1.29, Albums $12.99 and double albums $19.99. The special Beatles box set was also available for $149.
Google Music debuts
Sony released the Playstation 4, including the 8-core AMD Jaguar processor, 8 GB RAM and 1.84 Teraflop AMD graphics card