May 26, 1995
Realizing his company had missed the boat in estimating the impact and popularity of the Internet, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates issues a memo titled, “The Internet Tidal Wave,” which signaled the company’s focus on the global network. In the memo, Gates declared that the Internet was the “most important single development” since the IBM personal computer — a development that he was assigning “the highest level of importance.” Still, it is curious why it took someone who was regarded as a technology “innovator” so long to realize this.
May 25, 1983
The third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, is released six years to the day after the first Star Wars movie. Return of the Jedi continued to raise the bar in special effects technology that its predecessors set. The film’s final space battle, for example, was of a size and scale unprecedented at the time.
May 25, 1977
The motion picture Star Wars is released in thirty-two US theaters. The film will immediately break records unlike any before it, essentially becoming the first blockbuster in history. The film’s unprecedented use of special effects sparked a revolution of movies using technology-based visual effects. Perhaps the film’s greatest contribution to technology was the creation two years earlier of the company Industrial Light and Magic, which is still the leading special effects house in the industry.
May 24, 1935
The first night major league baseball game is played in Cincinnati. The hometown Reds defeated the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 2-1. Night baseball caught on around the league very quickly – except for the Chicago Cubs, who didn’t play a home night game until 1988. Why am I not surprised?
May 24, 1844
Samuel Morse sends the first telegraphic message over a line from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. The message, “What hath God wrought!” was transmitted to his partner, Alfred Vail, who retransmitted the same message back to Morse. This formally opened America’s first telegraph line, launching America’s first form of instant communication in history. The biblical text was selected by Annie Ellsworth, the teenage daughter of the U.S. Commissioner of Patents.
May 23, 1903
Paris, France and Rome, Italy are connected by telephone for first time. Feel free to congratulate me for finding this picture at any time.
May 22, 1980
Namco’s upcoming game “Puck-Man” is location tested in a movie theater complex in Japan. After favorable initial testing, the game is slightly tweaked, with the most major change the renaming of the game to “Pac-Man”. Midway, Namco’s U.S. distributor, thought that vandals would alter the letter “P” to an “F”. While the game was not officially released until later in the year (October 10th in the US), the creators of the game consider May 22 to be Pac-Man’s birthday because it was the first time the game was shown to the general public.
One of the little known facts about Pac-Man is that it was specifically developed to be popular with women. Most video games of that time had a war or sports theme to them and women were generally not interested in those games. Pac-Mac would be the first game popular with both men and women and was the first video game to become a social phenomenon. Pac-Mac generated over $2.5 billion by the 1990’s, becoming one of the highest grossing video games of all time.
May 22, 1906
Orville and Wilbur Wright are granted the first airplane patent in the U.S. for their “new and useful improvements in Flying Machines.” (US No. 821,393)
May 21, 1980
The sequel to the the smash success Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back is released on this day, almost exactly 3 years after the release of the original film. The pioneering use of special effects technology in the Star Wars Trilogy transformed the movie industry.
May 21, 1952
The IBM 701 was the company’s first commercial scientific computer, but I guess they figured that calling it a “calculator” would help it sell better. Perhaps they were right, because only expecting to sell five, the company ended up selling nineteen to government, large companies, and universities.