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.
May 20, 1932
Five years to the day after Charles Lindbergh took off on his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland. While her original destination was France, weather and mechanical problems force her to land in Ireland nearly 15 hours after she took off. She become the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
May 19, 2006
Apple opens their second store in New York City, a 20,000 square-foot shop at the underground concourse of the General Motors building at 767 Fifth Avenue. Open 24-hours a day, the shop is visible at street level through a 32-foot glass cube. Designed by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs at a cost of $9 million, people stood on line for hours prior to the store’s opening.
May 19, 2001
Apple Computer opens the first two locations of their new retail stores in McLean, Virginia and Washington, D.C. In the first weekend of opening, the stores will attract 7,700 shoppers and will sell a combined $599,000. While ridiculed by many technology “experts” at the time, the Apple Stores have been insanely successful and was one of the key reasons for Apple’s resurgence in the 2000’s.
May 19, 1980
At the National Computer Conference in Anaheim, California, Apple Computer introduces the Apple III. It is the company’s first attempt at a business computer, its first departure from the Apple II architecture, and it will also become Apple’s first real failure. Apple expects the Apple III to be released in July, but in one of the worst cases of delay in tech history, the system wouldn’t reach stores until January. Once released, the Apple III will be plagued by component failures that would ultimately lead to large recalls. The Apple III never recovered from it’s original negative reception and was discontinued by Apple in 1984
May 18, 1998
The United States Justice Department and the Attorneys Generals of twenty states plus the District of Columbia file an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. The case focuses on Microsoft’s integration of the Internet Explorer web browser into its Windows 98 operating system. The trial becomes one of the most famous events in tech history, eventually resulting in a settlement between the DOJ and Microsoft. In fact, the sanctions levied against Microsoft only recently ended in May of 2011, almost exactly 13 years after the suit was filed.