The last American space shuttle, STS-135, lifted off this morning, bringing to a close a remarkable era in U.S. technological dominance.
I stayed home and watched the launch on TV, just as I watched the very first shuttle launch on TV in 1981.… Read the rest
1945: Arthur C. Clarke begins privately circulating copies of a paper that proposes using space satellites for global communications.
It was a bold suggestion for 1945, as the war was just winding down and most people were undoubtedly more concerned about the necessities of life than they were with beaming radio waves down from space.… Read the rest
The portable computer was born 30 years ago this weekend, when Adam Osborne unveiled the Osborne 1 in San Francisco.
Osborne, a journalist and book author, made the transition to entrepreneur on the strength of his personality, ambition and vision. And for a short few months, his computer company was on top of the world, with one of the steepest revenue growth curves ever seen.… Read the rest
A strange legacy of the Japanese power system’s infancy in the late 1800s is complicating efforts to keep Tokyo supplied with electricity.
The problem, as explained by IDG News Service’s Martyn Williams, is that half of the country uses power whose current alternates at 60 Hz, while the other half gets its power at 50 Hz.… Read the rest
1815: English mathematician George Boole, who would help establish what is now known as Boolean logic, is born.
Boole’s breakthrough was the insight that logic, which had previously been considered a branch of philosophy, was actually closer to mathematics. All you needed to do was express logical problems in a symbolic format, and they could be solved in a way similar to mathematical problems.… Read the rest
1954: IBM builds the first calculating machine to use solid-state transistors instead of vacuum tubes.
IBM already had a business selling calculating machines, and it was humming along quite nicely. The IBM 604 Electronic Calculating Punch, which IBM introduced in 1948, was a desk-sized cabinet that ate and spat out punch cards in its single-minded mission of calculating math problems — 20 to 40 addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems for each card.… Read the rest
1837: The U.S. Patent Office approves Thomas Davenport’s application for a patent on an “Improvement in Propelling Machinery by Magnetism and Electro-Magnetism.” We’d call it an electric motor.
Davenport was a Vermont blacksmith and an amateur tinkerer, not a trained scientist or engineer.… Read the rest