Mars Climate Orbiter Crashes on Mars


The Mars Climate Orbiter

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

September 23. 1999

After a more than 9 months, the Mars Climate Orbiter arrived at Mars on schedule, on September 23, 1999, in order to be inserted into Mars orbit. After Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI), the spacecraft was intended to become the first interplanetary weather satellite. Mars Climate Orbiter, the first of the two Mars Surveyor 1998 spacecraft (the other being the Mars Polar Lander), was successfully launched on December 11, 1998. After the spacecraft passed behind Mars it never emerged or made radio contact. NASA believe Mars Climate Orbiter was at too low an altitude and was destroyed by atmospheric stresses and friction at this low altitude.

The Mars Curse

38 missions to Mars have been attempted, of those 19 have failed.  Twelve of the missions included attempts to land on the surface, but only seven transmitted data after landing.  Because of this high failure rate of missions to explore Mars it has become known as the Mars curse.  Most of the failure were on early attempts by the Soviet and later Russian Mars probe programthat suffered several technical difficulties. Modern missions have an improved success rate; however, the challenge, complexity and length of the missions make it inevitable that failures will occur.

Birth of a Whole New – and High Level – Language

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

September 20, 1954

FORTRAN: one of the oldest programming languages and first high-level language and compiler. Image courtesy of

The first FORTRAN program is run at IBM.

Fortran is a general-purpose, procedural, imperative programming language that is especially suited to numeric computation and scientific computing. Originally developed by IBM for scientific and engineering applications, Fortran came to dominate this area of programming early on, and has been in continual use for over half a century in computationally intensive areas such as numerical weather prediction, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, computational physics and computational chemistry. It is one of the most popular languages in the area of high-performance computing and is the language used for programs that benchmark and rank the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Jobs Back on the Job!

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

September 16. 1997

Co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, Returns as Apple's CEO in 1997

Co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, returns as CEO.

In the late 1970s, Jobs, with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula, and others, designed, developed, and marketed one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series. In the early 1980s, Jobs was among the first to see the commercial potential of Xerox PARC’s mouse-driven graphical user interface, which led to the creation of the Macintosh.

After losing a power struggle with the board of directors in 1985, Jobs resigned from Apple and founded NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in the higher-education and business markets. Apple’s subsequent 1996 buyout of NeXT brought Jobs back to the company he co-founded.  He served as its CEO from 1997 until August 24, 2011.

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

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.

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.

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.