Hewlett Packard: From Backyard Shed to Silicone Valley

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 18, 1947

David Packard, left, and William Hewlett 'Founded' Silicone Valley. Photo courtesy of sfgate.com.

Hewlett-Packard incorporates; 8 years after its founding.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard met as engineering students at Stanford in the early ’30s and cemented their lifelong friendship during a post-graduation camping trip. Packard went off to take a job with General Electric, while Hewlett went on to postgraduate studies. They were reunited by Stanford profesor, Fred Terman, who encouraged the two to “make a run for it.”

With $500 in cash [about $8,000 in today’s money] borrowed from Terman, plus a used Sears, Roebuck drill press, Hewlett-Packard swung into action in the small shed behind Packard’s modest house Palo Alto, California. The company’s first product, released in 1938, was an audio oscillator used for testing sound equipment. When the Walt Disney Co. bought eight of them to develop the technically advanced movie Fantasia, HP was off and running.

Hewlett-Packard’s rise as a tech powerhouse is a story that’s been told again and again. The electronics products were first-rate and eagerly embraced. Want became need with the coming of World War II, and HP quickly grew, moving out of Packard’s garage in 1940.

But the company was innovative in another, perhaps less-known way.  HP demonstrated a new type of management technique, one that placed a premium on the workers and their happiness. This open-management style was the prototype for how many technology companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, would operate decades later.

The tiny garage in Palo Alto, California, where the company originated, is now regarded as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

Fantasmagorie: First Fully Animated Film

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 16, 1908

One of the 700 Frames from Fantasmagorie, the first fully animated film. Courtesy of filmabinitio.blogspot.com.

Fantasmagorie, a French animated film by Émile Cohl, consists of a stick figure moving about and encountering all manner of morphing objects. This makes Fantasmagorie the first animation on film created using what came to be known as traditional (hand-drawn) animation.

The film was created by drawing each frame on paper and then shooting each frame onto negative film, which gave the picture a blackboard look. It was made up of 700 drawings, each of which was double-exposed (animated “on twos”), leading to a running time of almost two minutes.

First Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Message

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 16, 1858

The First Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Was Sent from Queen Victoria to President Buchanan

The first official telegraph message was sent across the Atlantic Ocean from London to the US.

The transatlantic telegraph cable,  the first cable used for telegraph communications, laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from the Telegraph Field, Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart’s Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America and Europe, and expedited communication between the two. Whereas it would normally take at least ten days to deliver a message by ship, it now took a matter of minutes by telegraph.

Queen Victoria sent the first official telegraph message to President Buchanan in Washington, DC, following 10 days of test messages. The transmission began at 10:50am and was completed at 4:30am the next day, taking nearly 18-hrs to reach Newfoundland. With 99 words, consisting of 509 letters, it averaged about 2-min per letter.

President Buchanan and Queen Victoria were delighted with the speed of communicating via the telegraph.  Imagine what they would think about the speed of today’s text messaging, IMing, and emailing!

Panama Canal Opens

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 15, 1914

The Panama Canal, a 77-kilometre (48 mi) ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, opens.

One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the canal had an enormous impact on shipping between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via either the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (5,900 mi), well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn.

In total over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal. It has been named one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

A Basic PC for $4000?!

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 12, 1981

IBM's First PC, the 5150. Photo courtesy of vintage-computer.com

IBM rolled out the first PC, model 5150.

Of course they had other computers, but nothing that targeted the home market as the PC would. Each PC came with Microsofts’ CP/M Operating System. The 5150 contained a 4.7 MHz processor, 16k or RAM and 40 k of ROM, all for $1,565, which would be nearly $4000 today. For $6000, or roughly $14,000 today, one could have their PC customized!

Lunar Orbiters Take First Full Pictures of Earth

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 1966 and 1967

Lunar Orbiter 1 Took First Images of the Moon and Crescent Earth. Photo courtesy of spaceref.com.

The first pictures of Earth as a whole were taken, beginning with Earth-rise over the lunar surface by Lunar Orbiter 1 in August, 1966. The first full picture of the whole Earth was taken by Lunar Orbiter 5 in August, 1967.

The Lunar Orbiter program was a series of five unmanned lunar orbiter missions launched by the United States from 1966 through 1967. Intended to help selectApollo landing sites by mapping the Moon’s surface, they provided the first photographs from lunar orbit.

All five missions were successful, and 99% of the Moon was mapped from photographs taken with a resolution of 60 meters or better. The first three missions were dedicated to imaging 20 potential manned lunar landing sites, selected based on Earth-based observations. These were flown at low inclination orbits. The fourth and fifth missions were devoted to broader scientific objectives and were flown in high-altitude polar orbits.

The Lunar Orbiters had an ingenious imaging system, which consisted of a dual-lens camera, a film processing unit, a readout scanner, and a film handling apparatus. Both lenses, a 610 mm narrow angle high resolution lens and an 80 mm wide angle medium resolution lens, placed their frame exposures on a single roll of 70 mm film. The axes of the two cameras were coincident so the area imaged in the HR frames were centered within the MR frame areas. The film was moved during exposure to compensate for the spacecraft velocity, which was estimated by an electro-optical sensor. The film was then processed, scanned, and the images transmitted back to Earth.

First Commercially Manufactured Transistor Radio

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 1955

The first radio Sony imported to the US. Photo courtesy of www.transistor.org.

A small company named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, Ltd. introduced the TR-55, the first commercially manufactured transistor radio, under the new brand name, Sony.

A transistor radio is a small portable radio receiver using transistor-based circuitry. Following their development in 1954 they became the most popular electronic communication device in history, with billions manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s.

Their pocket size sparked a change in popular music listening habits, for the first time allowing people to listen to music anywhere they went. In the 1970s their popularity declined as other portable media players such as boom boxes and portable cassette players took over.

B-36 “PeaceMaker” Takes First Flight

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 8, 1946

B-36 Strategic Bomber, the US Military's "PeaceKeeper". Photo courtesy of US Government.

The B-36 strategic bomber took its first flight.

The B-36 bomber was built by Convair solely for the United States Air Force.  It was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built (230 ft or 70 m), although there have been larger military transports.

The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the US arsenal from inside its two bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range greater than 6,000 miles, and a maximum payload of 72,000 lbs, (and thereby having the ability to carry both the United States’ atomic fission and fusion weapons), the B-36 was the world’s first manned bomber with an unrefueled intercontinental range.

The B-36 was arguably obsolete from the outset, being piston-powered, particularly in a world of super-sonic jet interceptors, but its jet rival, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which did not become fully operational until 1953, lacked the range to attack the Soviet homeland from North America and could not carry the huge first-generation hydrogen bomb. Nor could the other American piston bombers of the day, the B-29 or B-50. Intercontinental ballistic missiles did not become effective deterrents until the 1960s. Until the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress became operational in the late 1950s, the B-36, as the only truly intercontinental bomber, continued to be the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the Strategic Air Command, and thus became known as the US’ Peacekeeper.

Red Light, Green Light: First Traffic System Installed

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 5, 1914

First Traffic Light System Used Only Red and Green Lights. Photo credit: globalindustrial.com

The first modern traffic light system was installed on the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.

The American Traffic Signal Company installed a traffic signal system that had two colors, red and green, and a buzzer, based on the design of James Hoge, to provide a warning for color changes. The design by James Hoge allowed police and fire stations to control the signals in case of emergency.

The first four-way, three-color traffic light was created by police officer William Potts in Detroit, Michigan in 1920. In 1922, T.E. Hayes patented his “Combination traffic guide and traffic regulating signal” (Patent # 1447659). Ashville, Ohio claims to be the location of the oldest working traffic light in the United States, used at an intersection of public roads until 1982 when it was moved to a local museum.

Freedom of Speech on the Airways Preserved

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 4, 1987

The Internet and Cable Television Played an Important Role in the Need to Abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Cartoon credit: arcticcompass.blogspot.com

The FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine stating that because of the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional:

“The intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters … [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.”

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced.

The main agenda for the doctrine was to ensure that viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints, and in 1969, the United States Supreme Court upheld the FCC’s general right to enforce the Fairness Doctrine where channels were limited. But the courts did not rule that the FCC was obliged to do so.  The courts reasoned that the scarcity of the broadcast spectrum, which limited the opportunity for access to the airwaves, created a need for the Doctrine. However, the proliferation of cable television, multiple channels within cable, public-access channels, and the Internet have eroded this argument, since there are plenty of places for ordinary individuals to make public comments on controversial issues at low or no cost.

Nuclear Submarine Accomplishes First Undersea Voyage to the North Pole

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 3, 1958

Nautilus: First Nuclear Powered Submarine. Photo compliments of hnsa.org

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine, Nautilus, accomplished the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole.

The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule.

Much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it, the Nautilus stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because its atomic engine needed no air and only a very small quantity of nuclear fuel. The uranium-powered nuclear reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines, allowing the Nautilus to travel underwater at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and on July 23, 1958, departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on “Operation Northwest Passage”–the first crossing of the North Pole by submarine. There were 116 men aboard for this historic voyage, including Commander William R. Anderson, 111 officers and crew, and four civilian scientists. The Nautilus steamed north through the Bering Strait and did not surface until it reached Point Barrow, Alaska, in the Beaufort Sea, though it did send its periscope up once off the Diomedes Islands, between Alaska and Siberia, to check for radar bearings. On August 1, the submarine left the north coast of Alaska and dove under the Arctic ice cap.

The submarine traveled at a depth of about 500 feet, and the ice cap above varied in thickness from 10 to 50 feet, with the midnight sun of the Arctic shining in varying degrees through the blue ice. At 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 3, 1958, Commander Anderson announced to his crew: “For the world, our country, and the Navy–the North Pole.” The Nautilus passed under the geographic North Pole without pausing. The submarine next surfaced in the Greenland Sea between Spitzbergen and Greenland on August 5. Two days later, it ended its historic journey at Iceland.

After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

Microsoft Saves Apple?!

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August, 1997

Apple Surpasses Microsoft to Become the World's Most Valuable Tech Company {image from igadgetsreport.com}

Microsoft saves Apple from bankruptcy. . .less than 13 years later, Apple surpasses Microsoft to become the world’s most valuable tech company.

The Deal

Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, received needed cash — in return for non-voting shares — and an assurance that Microsoft would support Office for the Mac for five years. Apple agreed to drop a long-running lawsuit in which they alleged Microsoft copied the look and feel of the Mac OS for Windows, and to make Internet Explorer the default browser on its computers — but not the only choice.

Microsoft got to look like a noble competitor, for a change, for what amounted to a rounding error on their annual revenues. Timing mattered: The company was in the midst of an image-tarnishing antitrust fight over its heavy-handed promotion of IE during the height of the browser wars with Netscape.

The Student Takes the Apple from the Teacher

In May of 2010, less than 13 years after Microsoft saved Apple, Apple shot past Microsoft, the computer software giant, to become the world’s most valuable technology company.

This changing of the guard caps one of the most stunning turnarounds in business history for Apple, which had been given up for dead only a decade earlier, and its co-founder and visionary chief executive, Steven P. Jobs. The rapidly rising value attached to Apple by investors also heralds an important cultural shift: Consumer tastes have overtaken the needs of business as the leading force shaping technology.

Microsoft, with its Windows and Office software franchises, has dominated the relationship most people had with their computers for almost two decades, and that was reflected in its stock market capitalization. But the click-clack of the keyboard has ceded ground to the swipe of a finger across a smartphone’s touch screen.

And Apple is in the right place at the right time. Although it still sells computers, twice as much revenue is coming from hand-held devices and music. Over all, the technology industry sold about 172 million smartphones last year, compared with 306 million PCs, but smartphone sales grew at a pace five times faster.

Microsoft depends more on maintaining the status quo, while Apple is in a constant battle to one-up itself and create something new, said Peter A. Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. “Apple is a bet on technology,” he said. “And Apple beating Microsoft is a very significant thing.”

In May of 2010, Wall Street valued Apple at $222.12 billion and Microsoft at $219.18 billion. The only American company valued higher was Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalization of $278.64 billion.

First Music Videos Aired in the U.S.

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 1, 1981

MTV Aired First Music Videos in the U.S. in 1981, and thus an era of 24 hour-a-day music on television was born

The U.S. video channel MTV launched, airing “Video Killed the Radio Star” and beginning an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television.

With this new outlet for material, the music video would grow to play a central role in popular music marketing. Many important acts of this period, most notably Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and Madonna, owed a great deal of their success to the skillful construction and seductive appeal of their videos.

Two key innovations in the development of the modern music video were the development of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use video recording and editing equipment, and the development of visual effects created with techniques such as image compositing. The advent of high-quality, color videotape recorders and portable video cameras coincided with the DIY mentality of the New Wave era, enabling many pop acts to produce promotional videos quickly and cheaply, in comparison to the relatively high costs of using film.

Music Videos and the Internet

The earliest purveyors of music videos on the internet were members of IRC-based groups who recorded them as they appeared on television, then digitised them, exchanging the .mpg files via IRC channels. The website iFilm, which hosted short videos, including music videos, launched in 1997. Napster, a peer-to-peer file sharing service which ran between 1999 and 2001, enabled users to share video files, including those for music videos.

By the mid-2000s, MTV and many of its sister channels had largely abandoned showing music videos in favor of reality television shows. 2005 saw the launch of the website YouTube, which made the viewing of online video faster and easier. Thanks to sites such as YouTube, Google Videos, Yahoo! Video, and Facebook, today almost all music videos are created for, and viewed, online.

NASA Is Born

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 29, 1958

President Eisenhower Presents NASA Commissions to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator

U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA.

NASA is an executive branch agency of the United States government, responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA replaced its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NASA science is focused on better understanding the Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

Since NASA became operational on October 1, 1958, U.S. space exploration efforts have included the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is developing the manned Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP), which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.

First Lunar Rover Used on the Moon

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 1971

Apollo 15 Mission's Lunar Rover: First Roving Vehicle on the Moon

Apollo 15 Mission lands first lunar rover on the Moon.

The Lunar Roving Vehicle, or lunar rover, was a battery-powered, four-wheeled rover used on the Moon during the last three missions of the American Apollo program (15, 16, and 17). It was popularly known as the moon buggy, a play on the phrase “dune buggy”.

The lunar rover could carry one or two astronauts, their equipment, and lunar samples. The lunar rover greatly expanded the range of the lunar explorers. Previous teams of astronauts were restricted to short walking distances around the landing site due to the bulky space suit equipment required to sustain life in the lunar environment. The range, however, was operationally restricted to remain within walking distance of the lunar module, in case the rover broke down at any point.

Apollo 15’s Lunar Rover allowed Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin to spend three days on the Moon, a total of 18½ hours outside the spacecraft, and to collect a total of 77 kg (170 lbs) of lunar surface material.  NASA named the Apollo 15 Mission the most successful manned flight ever achieved.

Creator of the First Internet Worm Indicted

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 1989

Morris Computer Worm - The First Internet Computer Worm

Robert Tappan Morris, a Cornell University computer science graduate student, was indicted for unleashing what became known as the Morris worm, the first computer worm on the internet.

A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program that uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network), and it may do so without any user intervention. Unlike a computer virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, even if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.

Like a number of early bits of malware, the Morris Worm’s creator insists that he didn’t design it with the intention of harming computers. Instead, the worm was apparently created with the intention of measuring the size of the Internet. The result, however, was one of the earliest Internet-distributed worms, disrupting perhaps 10% of the computers then on the Internet, and Morris became the first person tried and convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Satellite Telecommunications: Synchronicity At Its Finest

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 26, 1963

Syncom 2 - The First Successful Geosynchronous Satellite

Syncom 2, the first geosynchronous communication satellite, is launched from Cape Canaveral to test practical applications and uses of space technology, such as weather and communications.

The synchronization of rotation and orbital period of such a satellite means that for an observer on the surface of the Earth, the satellite appears to constantly hover over the same meridian (north-south line) on the surface, moving in a slow oscillation alternately north and south with a period of one day, so it returns to exactly the same place in the sky at exactly the same time each day.

During the first year of Syncom 2 operations, NASA conducted voice, teletype, and facsimile tests, as well as 110 public demonstrations to show the capabilities of this satellite. In August 1963, President John F. Kennedy telephoned Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa aboard USNS Kingsport docked in Lagos Harbor; the first live two-way call between heads of government by satellite. The Kingsport acted as a control station and uplink station.

Syncom 2 also relayed a number of test television transmissions from Ft. Dix, N.J. to a ground station in Andover, Maine beginning on Sept. 29, 1963; the first successful TV transmission through a geosynchronous satellite.

Modern communications satellites use a variety of orbits including geostationary orbits, Molniya orbits, other elliptical orbits and low (polar and non-polar) Earth orbits.

Birthday of Unheralded Co-Discoverer of DNA

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 25, 1920

DNA Double Helix

Rosalind Elsie Franklin, a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite, was born on July 25, 1920.

Her DNA work achieved the most fame and controversy.  Franklin was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, which plays essential roles in cell metabolism and genetics, yet she was not originally recognized as a co-discoverer.   The story of DNA is a tale of competition and intrigue, told one way in James Watson’s book, The Double Helix, and quite another in Anne Sayre’s study, Rosalind Franklin and DNA. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize for the double-helix model of DNA in 1962, four years after Franklin’s death at age 37 from ovarian cancer.

I Can See Clearly Now. . .Thanks to HDTV

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 22, 1996

HDTV: Higher Resolution Means Higher Quality

Tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of the first public HDTV broadcast in the United States. The Raleigh, North Carolina television station, WRAL-HD, began broadcasting from the existing tower of WRAL-TV on July 23, 1996.

What Is HDTV?

High Definition is nothing more than a Higher Resolution Video. Resolution means the amount of information (pixels) a picture has. HDTV has one or two million pixels per frame, roughly five times that of SD (Standard Definition). The higher the resolution, the higher the quality. That is why High Definition videos have better image quality than traditional videos.

HDTV in the United States

HDTV technology was introduced in the United States in the 1990s by the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance, a group of television, electronic equipment, communications companies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Field testing of HDTV at 199 sites in the United States was completed August 14, 1994. The first public HDTV broadcast in the United States occurred on July 23, 1996 when the Raleigh, North Carolina television station WRAL-HD began broadcasting from the existing tower of WRAL-TV south-east of Raleigh, winning a race to be first with the HD Model Station in Washington, D.C., which began broadcasting July 31, 1996 with the callsign WHD-TV, based out of the facilities of NBC owned and operated station WRC-TV.

The American Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) HDTV system had its public launch on October 29, 1998, during the live coverage of astronaut John Glenn’s return mission to space on board the Space Shuttle Discovery. The signal was transmitted coast-to-coast, and was seen by the public in science centers, and other public theaters specially equipped to receive and display the broadcast.


First Robot-Related Fatality

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 21, 1984

Industrial Robot At Work

On July 21, 1984, Harry Allen, 34, a diecast operator with Diecast Corp. in Jackson, Michigan, was pinned between a factory pole and the back of an industrial robot. Allen died five days later as a result of his injuries and became the first – and so far only – US victim of an industrial, robot-related accident.

What Happened

Allen had entered a restricted area, presumably to clean up scrap metal from the floor, and got in the way of the robot’s work. A co-worker of Allen’s found him pinned but was unable to come to his immediate aid. Using the robot’s controller, the company’s director of manufacturing finally unpinned Allen, who was alive but in cardiac arrest.  He died 5 days later in a local hospital.

Walking on the Moon: Tech Celebration Sing Along!

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 20, 1969

Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, Walks on the Moon

Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the Earth’s Moon on July 20, 1969, and the next day, crew members, Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Aldrin, Jr., became the first humans to walk on the Moon.

The Mission

Launched from Florida on July 16th, the fifth manned mission, and the third lunar mission of NASA’s Apollo program, was crewed by Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. Their landing craft, Eagle, spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on the lunar surface while Collins orbited above in the command ship, Columbia.  The three astronauts returned to Earth with 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar rocks and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.

Apollo 11 fulfilled U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union, which he had expressed during a 1961 mission statement before the United States Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Sing Along

As I write and reminisce about one of space exploration’s greatest accomplishments, Police’s famous song, ‘Walking on the Moon’ runs through my head.  Again and again.  All day long.  Please join me for a little techie celebration sing-along:

“Giant steps are what you take,
walking on the moon.
I hope my legs don’t break
walking on the moon.
We could walk forever
walking on the moon.
We could be together
walking on, walking on the moon.

Walking back from your house
walking on the moon.
Feet they hardly touch the ground,
walking on the moon.
My feet don’t hardly make no sound
walking on, walking on the moon. . . “

Rosetta Stone Found

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 19, 1799

The Rosetta Stone Reveals Much About Ancient Egyptian Life, Culture and Technology

During Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria.

The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been “dead” for nearly 2,000 years.

French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832), who had taught himself ancient languages, ultimately cracked the code and deciphered the hieroglyphics using his knowledge of Greek as a guide. Hieroglyphics used pictures to represent objects, sounds and groups of sounds. Once the Rosetta Stone inscriptions were translated, the language, culture and some of the advanced technology of ancient Egypt was suddenly open to scientists as never before.

Enjoying a Little A/C Comfort? You Can Thank a Little Brooklyn Printer

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 17, 1902

Air Conditioner - Accidental Human Relief

Yesterday marks the 99th anniversary of the day Willis Haviland Carrier completed the schematic drawings for what will become the first successful air-conditioning system.

The Problem

Fluctuations in heat and humidity in one of Buffalo Forge Company’s clients, a small Brooklyn printing plant, caused its paper to keep expanding or contracting, enough to ensure a misalignment of its colored inks.

The Solution

Carrier, an engineer and very recent graduate of Cornell University, devised a humidity controller that stabilized the environment for the printer’s paper. Air was forced through a filter of a piston-driven compressor, where it was pumped over coils that were chilled using coolant. The cold air was then expelled into a closed space using a fan, cooling the room and stabilizing the humidity and allowing four-color printing to become a reality.

Cooling for Human Comfort

Began in 1924, noted by the three Carrier centrifugal chillers installed in the J.L. Hudson Department Store in Detroit, Michigan. Shoppers flocked to the ‘air conditioned’ store. The boom in human cooling spread from the department stores to the movie theaters, most notably the Rivoli theater in New York, whose summer film business skyrocketed when it heavily advertised the cool comfort. Demand increased for smaller units and the Carrier Company obliged.

In 1928, Willis Haviland Carrier developed the first residential ‘Weathermaker’, an air conditioner for private home use. The Great Depression and then WW2 slowed the non-industrial use of air conditioning. After the war, consumer sales started to grow again. The rest is cool and comfortable history.

PageMaker Is Released

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 15, 1985

PageMaker Logo

PageMaker, one of the first desktop publishing programs, was introduced on July 15, 1985 by Aldus Corporation.  Initially it was released for the then-new Apple Macintosh, and in 1987 for PCs running the then-new Windows 1.0.

As an application relying on a graphical user interface, PageMaker helped to popularize the Macintosh platform and the Windows environment.

First East-West Crossing of the Atlantic

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 13, 1919

Airship R34 Made First East-West Journey Across Atlantic

The R34 returned from the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic on July 13, 1919.

First East-West Crossing

The R34 left Britain on July 2, 1919 and arrived in Mineola, Long Island on July 6 with virtually no fuel left, after a flight of 108 hours. As the landing party had no experience handling large, rigid airships, Major EM Pritchard jumped by parachute and so became the first person from Europe to reach American soil by air.  The return journey to Pulham in Norfolk was from July 10 to 13 and took 75 hours.


The R33 class of British, rigid airships were built for the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, but were not completed until after the end of the War.  The lead ship, R33, went on to serve successfully for ten years and survived one of the most alarming and heroic incidents in airship history when she was ripped from her mast in a gale.  The R34 was the only other airship in the class.  It was decommissioned in 1921 after sustaining damage in adverse weather. The crew nicknamed her “Tiny”.