June 11, 1978
Texas Instruments Inc. introduces the Speak & Spell, a talking educational toy for children. The device features the first electronic duplication of the human voice on a single chip of silicon. It transformed digital information processed through a filter into synthetic speech and could store more than 100 seconds of linguistic sounds.
June 9, 1993
The motion picture Jurassic Park premiers in Washington D.C. The highest grossing film in history at the time, the contributions of Jurassic Park to the field of special effects is perhaps as important as the original Star Wars movie 16 years prior. During the production of the movie, the decision was made to incorporate the use of computer generated imagery (CGI for short) in a large scale. By interweaving the use of CGI and animatronics, the movie’s special effects were of a realism unprecedented at the time (and for many still to this day). Jurassic Park jump started a wave of movies that made heavy use of CGI throughout the rest of the 90’s, and at present, the use of CGI pioneered by the movie is now entirely commonplace.
June 4, 1977
The VHS videocassette format is introduced as Vidstar in North America at a press conference before the Consumer Electronics Show starts in Chicago. VHS, or Video Home System, was based on an open standard developed by JVC in 1976. As compared to the Sony Betamax format it would compete against, VHS allowed longer playtime, faster rewinding, and fast-forwarding.
June 3, 1983
The science fiction film WarGames is released. Notable for bringing the hacking phenomena to the attention of the American public, it ignites a media sensation regarding the hacker sub-culture. The film’s NORAD set is the most expensive ever built at the time at a cost of $1 million dollars. Not widely known is that the movie studio provided the film’s star, Matthew Broderick, with the arcade games Galaga and Galaxian so he could get first-hand experience before shooting the film’s arcade scenes.
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 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)