This week in technology history 30 September – 6 October 2017
1956 – Dr. Albert Sabin reported that the oral polio vaccine he had developed was ready
for mass testing on an international basis. It was expected to produce long-term, perhaps
lifetime, immunity against the dreaded disease.
1927 – Al Jolson appeared on a movie screen in New York City and said for all to hear
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” It was the first talkie.
1914 – Edwin H. Armstrong received a US patent for a “Wireless Receiving System”
which described his famous regenerative, or feedback, circuit. Armstrong would go on to
pioneer FM radio.
1893 – A US. copyright was issued to William K. L. Dickson for a “publication” consisting
of “Edison Kinetoscopic Records.” It was the first motion picture copyright in North
America. No torrents were uploaded until much later.
1969 – The first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on the BBC. The show
created the Spam sketch that would eventually inspire the slang term for unsolicited
1936 – The first intercity telecast in the U.S. using coaxial cable was transmitted from
New York City to Philadelphia. On 10 Jun of the same year, the first coaxial cable telecast
was transmitted from Radio City, New York City to a transmitter on the top of the
Empire State Building, a distance of about 1.5 miles. It was not until 4 Sep 1951 that the
first U.S. coast-to-coast telecast was made between New York City and San Francisco,
1905 – Orville and Wilbur Wright established a new world airplane flight record with their
third powered aircraft. Orville flew the Flyer III a distance of 24.2 miles (38.9-km) in just
over 38 minutes at Dayton, Ohio. This was more than 29 times around their airfield, and
at an average speed of about 38-mph.
2004 – SpaceShipOne returned from its third journey, a reusable spacecraft that could
carry passengers beyond the earth’s atmosphere. It won the $10 million Ansari X prize
for private spaceflight.
1985 – Richard Stallman started a non-profit corporation called the Free Software
Foundation, dedicated to promoting the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify
computer software. The FSF among other things, enforces the copyleft requirements
of the GNU General Public License often referred to as the GPL.
1958 – The first trans-Atlantic passenger jetliner service was inaugurated by British
Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) with flights between London Heathrow airport
and New York Idlewild (now JFK) airport. The inaugural flight was completed in 8 hours
53 minutes flying time at an average ground speed of 404 m.p.h. by a DeHavilland
Comet. The Comet flight was a public relations victory for BOAC, which was locked in a
fierce trans Atlantic battle with U.S. airline Pan American.
1957 -The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, becoming the first artificial satellite to orbit
the Earth, and motivating the US to get into gear and heat up the space race.
1967 – Air Force Major William “Pete” Knight flew the rocket-powered X-15 aircraft to
4,520 mph, Mach 6.72. That is the fastest manned aircraft ever flown.
1950 – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley received US patents for
circuits that would eventually be called the transistor.
1947 – After 11 years of grinding and polishing a 200-inch diameter telescope lens for
the Mount Palomar Observatory was completed at the California Institute of Technology.
This lens, the first of its size made in the U.S., began when 20 tons of molten glass at
2,700 deg. Fahrenheit were poured into a ceramic mold at Corning Glass Works, Corning
N.Y. on 2 Dec 1934.
1942 – Germany conducted the first successful test of the V-2/A4 rocket, launched from
Test Stand VII at Peenemünde. It traveled 118 miles.
1956 – The Atomicron, the first atomic clock in the U.S., was unveiled at the Overseas
Press Club in New York City. The basis of the timing was the constant frequency of the
oscillations of the caesium atom – 9,192,631,830 MHz. It was priced at $50,000. The
Atomicron measured 84″ high, 22″ wide and 18″ deep.
1955 – ENIAC was shut down for the last time. After 11 years running at 5,000 operations
a second and taking up 1,000 square feet of floor space, it had earned its retirement.
1925 – John Logie Baird performed the first test of a working television system. It delivered
a grayscale 30-line vertically scanned image, at five frames per second. After a
ventriloquist’s dummy appeared on screen, 20-year-old William Edward Taynton became
the first person televised in full tonal range.
1903 – The first U.S. steam-turbine of large capacity for commercial operation was
placed in service at the Fiske Street station of the Commonwealth Edison Co., Chicago,
Illinois. It was built by General Electric Co in Schenectady, N.Y. Compared to the reciprocating
engine it replaced, the turbine needed only one-third of its floor space, had only
one-eight of its weight, and cost only one-third as much.
1971 – The first clinical human CT scan was performed on a middle aged lady with a
suspected frontal lobe tumor, at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital in South London.
1969 – The French Concorde prototype 001 broke the sound barrier for its first time. The
inaugural flight of the aircraft had taken place on 2 Mar 1969 in Toulouse, France. The
first commercial passenger supersonic flights on 21 Jan 1976 of the British and French
Concorde jets marked a brilliant technological achievement.
1958 – The National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics was officially absorbed by the
brand new National Aeronautics and Space Agency. Another expanded government bureaucracy
that was only good for putting people on the moon.
1949 – The first deliveries were made of the first practical rectangular television tube
made in the U.S. The tubes were manufactured by the Kimble Glass Co., a subsidiary
of Owens-Illinois, and sold for about $12. The display face of the tube measured approx.
12in. by 16in.
1954 – The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, was commissioned at the General
Dynamics Electric Boat works in Groton, CT. Its nuclear reactor eliminated diesel
engines which previously limited a sub’s range and speed. Nuclear power also eliminated
diesel fuel storage spaces and periodic surfacing to recharge batteries.
1935 – The Boulder Dam, Boulder City, Nev. was dedicated. The concrete-arch dam,
subsequently named Hoover Dam (1947), supplied the first U.S. hydroelectric plant to
produce a million kilowatts. This production peak occurred in June 1943, though the first
of its four generators was placed into operation on 26 Oct 1936.
1882 – Thomas Edison’s first commercial hydroelectric power plant began operation on
the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.
1846 – Dentist Dr. William Morton used an experimental anesthetic, ether, for the first
time on one of his patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for tooth extraction.