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Archive for the 'thisdayinhistory' Category

05 March
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Sinclair ZX81

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I wasn’t lucky enough to own a Sinclair when I was younger.  When the Sinclair ZX81 was released on March 5, 1981, I was only two years old.  Although, my father a fellow geek did give me his old Compaq portable when I was old enough to use it.  It was released two years later in January 1983.  But enough of my childhood memories this post is about the Sinclair.  The ZX81 was originally released only in the United Kingdom in March 1981 and later came to the shores of the US as the Timex Sinclair 1000.  It was designed to be a home computer.  It was designed on the cheap to keep cost down.  It didn’t even come with a monitor you had to connect it to a TV instead.  It used audio cassette tape for programs and had only 1KB of memory (could be expanded to 16KB).  I’m pretty sure the watch I’m wearing has more memory than that.  You could by the kit for 50 BP or assembled for 70 BP (162BP and 227BP in 2014 money).  It was hugely popular, selling more than 1.5 million until it was discontinued in 1984.  The entire thing only weighed 12 ounces.

Although they keyboard was laid out in standard QWERTY format, there may be some surprises for modern keyboard users.  Such as the RUBOUT key (delete) and the NEW LINE key (return or enter).

Clive Sinclair the owner of Sinclair research had a very good year when the ZX81 came out.  The company’s profit went from 818k BP to 8.5M BP in 1981-82.  He got a million pound bonus on top of his 13,000 salary.  He was knighted in 1983.

“…Sinclair, the British inventor, had a way of getting things right, but also exactly wrong. Foreseeing the market for affordable personal computers, Sinclair decided that what people would want to do with them was to learn programming. The ZX81, marketed in the United States as the Timex 1000, cost less than the equivalent of a hundred dollars, but required the user to key in programs, tapping away on that little motel keyboard-sticker. This had resulted both in the short market-life of the product and, in Voytek’s opinion, twenty years on, in the relative preponderance of skilled programmers in the United Kingdom. They had their heads turned by these little boxes, he believes, and by the need to program them…

…”But if Timex sold it in the United States,” she asks him, “why didn’t we get the programmers?”

“You have programmers, but America is different. America wanted Nintendo. Nintendo gives you no programmers. Also, on launch of product in America, RAM-expansion unit did not ship for three months. People buy computer, take it home, discover it does almost nothing. A disaster.” -William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

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04 March
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USS Cyclops disappears in Bermuda Triangle

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USS Cyclops

USS Cyclops

I’m a sucker for a Bermuda Triangle story, and this one fits the bill.  On March 4, 1918 USS Navy ship Cyclops set out for Baltimore.  She was heading there most likely to make repairs as her starboard engine had a cracked cylinder and in the previous port water had been seen above the Plimsoll line, the line on the hull that marks the legal limit to which a ship sits in the water.  The Cyclops was a collier, which is a cargo ship mostly used by the Navy to haul coal.  It was launched on May 7, 1910.  Cyclops was last known to be traveling through the Bermuda Triangle when she disappeared.  To add to the mystery both her sister ships were also lost as well during world war II, also in the Bermuda triangle.

The more likely explanation is that the ships had a weakened I-beam which runs the length of the ship at the keel.  Both the sister ships lost during WWII were lost with very full loads and Cyclops was loaded heavily when lost and may have hit a large storm as well, further weakening the keel.  She was deemed lost with all hands on June 1, 1918 by Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Books:

Non-Fiction:

Fiction:

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season (Cyclops featured on episode 16)

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cyclops_%28AC-4%29

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16 February
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First 911 Service in US

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While the first emergency service telephone number was 999 in the United Kingdom in 1937, it took the United States a little long to implement the service.  Things started happening in the US during 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used to report all fires.  In 1967 this was seconded and built upon by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.  They suggested that it be used for all emergencies.  The project fell to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which meat with AT&T in November 1967 to discuss a solution.  By 1968, AT&T had the system implemented.  On February 16, 1968 Alabama speaker of the house Rankin Filte placed a call from the Haleyville City Hall to Tom Bevill at the city’s police station using 911.  When Tom answered he simply said, “hello”.

The system was not widely used however as it took many cities and towns time to implement the system.  The number itself was not widely know about until the 1970’s and it took until the mid to late 1980’s before most places in the US has 911 services.

Other places’ emergency phone numbers:

  • 000 (Australia)
  • 100 (India, Israel, Nepal)
  • 101 (Argentina)
  • 108 (India)
  • 110 (Macau – for mainland tourists)
  • 111 (New Zealand)
  • 112 (European Union, Macau (overseas tourists), Kuwait and on GSM mobile networks worldwide)
  • 117 (Philippines)
  • 119 (parts of South and East Asia)
  • 133 (Chile)
  • 155 (Turkey)
  • 190 (Brazil)
  • 999 (Poland, Ireland (alongside 112), United Kingdom (where it works parallel to 112), Hong Kong, Macau and several other non-EU countries)
  • 1122 (Pakistan – Punjab and KPK)
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15 February
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The First Teddy Bear

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Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

The first Teddy Bear was the brain child of Morris Michtom who was inspired by the political cartoon above.  The cartoon was drawn by Clifford K. Berryman and called “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” where President Theodore Roosevelt is depicted showing compassion for a small bear cub.  Michtom liked the cartoon and showed it to his wife, Rose.  Rose went to create the teddy bear.  On February 15, 1903 the Russian Jewish immigrant placed the little teddy bear in his shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue, New York.

It was donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where it is currently on display.  After the creation of the bear in late 1902, the sale of the bears was so brisk that Michtom created the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.  Through many mergers the company was eventually part of Mattel.

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12 February
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Sikhote-Alin Meteorite

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The Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell around 10:30 local time on February 12, 1947 in the Silkhote-Alin Mountains in the Soviet Union is the largest meteorite to fall in recorded history.  It was an estimated 70 metric tons, that survived the passage through the Earth’s atmosphere.  The large fireball was described as brighter than the sun, and from the north and fell at a 41 degree angle.  The flash and sound was heard for 190 miles.  The 20 mile smoke trail remained in the sky for several hours.

When it hit the atmosphere it was traveling at 8.8 miles per second.  At 3.5 miles up the meteorite broke up.

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11 February
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First Gold Record

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The very first gold record ever given to a musical artist was from RCA Victor to Glenn Miler for his 1.2 million copies sold of Chattanooga Choo Choo.  The idea of gold records were to publicize the large sales records that artist had achieved.  Glenn Miller’s gold record was given to him on February 11, 1942, two years before he would disappear over the English channel serving his country in WWII.

It was until 1958 that an industry level award was created when the Recording Industry of Association of America (RIAA) introduced their gold record program for records of any kind that achieve one million dollars in revenue.

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10 February
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25th Amendment to the United States Ratified

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George W Bush

George W Bush

This is one of those cool things in American history that keeps coming up in post-apocalyptic movies.  For those who don’t remember the 25th amendment deals with presidential succession.  In other words, if the president is no longer able to continue his duties, who takes over for him.  The amendment was ratified on February 10, 1967.  The amendment really just talks about the vice president taking over for the president.  It also goes one step further to say who steps in if the VP is not able to take the presidents place.

It has been used 6 times.

  1. October 12, 1973 Spiro Agnew resigns, President Nixon nominated Gerald Ford as the new VP, the senate confirmed on November 27 and the house on December 6.
  2. August 9, 1974 Nixon resigns and Gerald Ford steps in and is President.  Ford is the only person to be VP and President without being elected to either position.
  3. December 19, 1974 Gerald Ford leaves VP position, its filled by Nelson Rockfeller.
  4. July 12, 1985 Reagan goes in for surgery acting president is George H.W. Bush.
  5. June 29, 2002 George W. Bush has surgery and Dick Cheney is acting president.
  6. July 21, 2007 George W. Bush again invokes the amendment as he goes in for surgery and Cheney is acting president.

For those of you interested, I know I was, here is the list of who’s next from wikipedia:

Presidential line of succession

Presidential line of succession – wikipeda

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09 February
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The “First” Hollywood Star

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Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame – Flickr

We are going to dispel a rumor today.  Not vicious one by any means, but I want to make a point of this since it happens so often on the Internet.  The History Channel’s website has this entry, that states Joanne Woodward was the first star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  Thats just not true, anyone can see the truth on the Walk of Fame’s website.  Stanley Kramer was the first star placed on the walk of fame on March 28, 1960.  But if we are being really truthful here, there was actually a block of stars (1,550) created in 1960 Kramer’s was just the first actually created.  The construction began actually the day before Woodward is credited with the first star, February 8, 1960.  Also, according to the walk of fame website Joanne Woodward was inducted into the walk of fame before construction began, on August 15, 1958.  Wikipedia says the reason for this confusion is that Woodward was the first to pose with her star for photographers.

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08 February
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Skylab 4 Crew Returns to Earth

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Carr and Pogue

Commander Carr balances Pilot Pogue on his finger

Skylab was a space station launched by NASA on May 14, 1973.  It was a workshop, and solar observatory.  The astronauts on board conducted many different experiments.  When skylab was originally launched and deployed it was damaged and Skylab 2 (the numbering of crews started at 2, 1 was the unmanned launch of skylab) did the first major in space repairs to correct the problems caused at launch.

Skylab 4 was the third manned mission and the last crew ever to board the very first American space station.  The mission started on November 16, 1973 and lasted for 84 days, with the crew landing back on Earth on February 8, 1974.  The crew consisted of 3 astronauts:  a commander, pilot and science pilot.  The Skylab 4 astronauts performed scientific experiments in the areas of medical activities, solar observations, Earth resources, observation of the Comet Kohoutek.

Skylab sat empty from 1974 when the last crew left until July 11, 1979 when it re-entered Earth atmosphere and most of it landed/crashed southeast of Perth, Australia.

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06 February
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Reign of Elizabeth II Begins

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Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England

Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England

In 1951 the health of King George VI was declining quickly.  His attendants had already drafted up the accession declaration just in case.  It was a good thing they did because they would be using it soon.  George VI was discovered dead in his bed on February 6, 1952 at Sandringham House in Norfolk.  Coronary thrombosis, a type of heart disease was the cause of death.

Elizabeth immediately flew back from Kenyan where she was on her way back from a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Phillip.  Elizabeth II took control of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, when she took the crown.  Those have since changed as some have become independent or Republics of their own.

She is the second longest ruling British monarch.  The first being her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria at over 63 years.  Queen Elizabeth has been ruling for 52 years this year.  I highly recommend Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith for those interested in learning more about the queen.  I reviewed the book here in 2012.

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