Miscellaneous Technology

“First” Motion Picture Film to Receive Copyright

January 9, 1894

W.K. Dickson, an employee of Thomas Edison’s movie studio, receives a copyright for a motion picture film. The 5 second demonstration was a 47-frame film showing a man sneezing. This man, Fred Ott, is now most famously known for having this sneeze recorded in film. “Fred Ott’s Sneeze” is the earliest surviving film to receive a copyright in the United States. While technically a copyright for a film had been granted to Edison’s studio in the previous year, the records for what film it was have been lost.

Punched Card Calculator Patented

January 8, 1889

Herman Hollerith is issued a US patent for his punched card calculator. 7 years later he starts a company called the Tabulating Machine Company. In 1911, this is one of 4 companies that merge to form the company that will one day be called IBM.

The First Color Newsreel

January 5, 1948

first color newsreelThe first color newsreel seen by movie theater audiences in the United States is presented, showing clips from the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl football game, shot just 4 days earlier. The entire newsreel is available on YouTube, although inexplicably, the date listed on the video states 1940.

Construction Begins on Golden Gate

January 5, 1933

Construction begins on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers began excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages.

First Handheld Scientific Calculator

HP-35 CalculatorJanuary 4, 1972

Hewlett-Packard introduces the first handheld scientific calculator, the HP-35. The precision of the calculator was greater than most mainframe computers of its time. For such a technological achievement, the name of the calculator is simply derived from the fact that it has 35 buttons. I wonder if they had to use the calculator to figure that out.

4 Wheeled Skates Patented in US

January 4, 1863

4 wheeled roller skates are patented in the United States by James Plimpton of New York. Plimpton’s design was the first dry-land skate that could maneuver in a smooth curve and which allowed for turns and the ability to skate backwards.

First Electric Watch Introduced

January 3, 1957

The Hamilton Watch Company introduces the first electric watch. The Hamilton Electric 500 was the first watch to never need winding. However its battery life was so short that frequent battery replacements were necessary. Plus, as a first of breed, the watch was not very reliable. However, it was an instant hit because the novelty of never needing to wind the watch proved extremely popular.

Hewlett and Packard Formalize Partnership

Original HP LogoJanuary 1, 1939

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard formalize their business partnership. They decide to name the company after themselves, but choose the order of their names by a coin toss. Hewlett-Packard had a 50/50 chance of being named Packard-Hewlett.

First Ball Drop in Times Square, NYC

January 1, 1908

For the first time, a ball is dropped in New York City‘s Times Square to signify the start of the New Year at midnight.

First UHF TV Station

bridgeDecember 29, 1949

Station KC2XAK of Bridgeport, Connecticut becomes the first Ultra high frequency (UHF) television station to operate a daily schedule. How many of you are wondering what UHF TV is? Raise your hands … don’t be shy!

Set up as a working experiment by RCA and NBC, the station was used to test if the UHF spectrum was feasible to broadcast TV. Codenamed “Operation Bridgeport,” after two-and-a-half years of successful transmission, the station was shut down. The UHF transmitter was purchased, dismantled, and reassembled in Portland, Oregon to power the first commercial UHF station in the United States.