November 11, 1973
As invented by Robert Metcalfe and David Boggs, an Ethernet network functions for the first time. From it’s humble beginnings as a research project at Xerox PARC, Ethernet has developed into the de facto standard for business and home networking.
November 10, 2001
Apple ships the first iPod, the device that changed the course of both the music and technology industries. Of course, at the time, most “experts” could only focus on the fact that other devices cost less and may have had more impressive technical specs. Sort of like they do today. I guess when it comes to “experts” and Apple devices, they haven’t learned their lesson yet!
November 10, 1983
Microsoft formally announces Windows, a graphical user interface for Microsoft DOS-based systems. Bill Gates promises that Windows will ship by April of 1984. However, in true Microsoft fashion, Windows 1.0 doesn’t actually ship until November 1985. While Windows 1 and Windows 2 saw limited usage, it wasn’t until Windows version 3 that Windows began to see widespread acceptance.
November 9, 2004
The Mozilla Foundation releases version 1.0 of the Firefox web browser. Firefox is significant in Internet history because it represented the first serious alternative to the dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in several years. By many estimations, Internet Explorer had risen to over 90% of browser marketshare since the downfall of Netscape many years earlier.
It is interesting to note, however, that it was Netscape itself that started the Mozilla project when it released the source code to their Netscape Communicator software in 1998. It was upon this codebase that the foundations of Firefox were laid. Firefox’s original name was Phoenix, seemingly in tribute to the fact that out of the ashes of the fallen Netscape came a new browser.
German Physics Professor Wilhelm Röntgen stumbles upon what he would later describe as “X-rays” while experimenting with electrical discharge tubes. Curious as to what was causing a faint green glow on a nearby fluorescent screen, Röntgen began systematically studying the unknown rays and published the first paper on the phenomenon less than two months later. He referred to the rays as “X”, indicating that they were an unknown form of radiation at the time. The name has stuck, although in several languages, X-rays are referred to as Röntgen rays, in tribute to his discovery. Incidentally, Röntgen was awarded the very first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his work on X-rays.
After only 2 years in business, Pets.com shuts down operations. Cited as one of the biggest failures of the dot-com bubble, Pets.com was able to gain significant brand recognition through its extensive marketing campaign and sock puppet mascot, but lost money due to an unsustainable business plan. Ironically, the company’s best selling product was its sock puppet. And yes, I own one.
IBM and Microsoft formally sign an contract whereby Microsoft will create an operating system for the in-development IBM PC. During the summer of 1980, IBM was originally interested in licensing the popular CP/M operating system, but the inability to come to an agreement with Digital Research led IBM to ask Microsoft if they could develop an operating system similar to CP/M. Microsoft was already going to work with IBM to deliver their BASIC programming language for the IBM PC, but they did not have an operating system. However, Microsoft knew that a small company named Seattle Computer Products had developed an operating system similar to CP/M called QDOS, for Quick-and-Dirty Operating System. Microsoft suggested to IBM that QDOS could work as the IBM PC’s operating system. IBM asked Microsoft to license and further develop the operating system, which led to the formal contract on November 6, 1980. After the contract was signed, in December 1980 Microsoft would license the QDOS operating system to begin development of the IBM PC version. In July of 1981, just weeks before the IBM PC would ship, Microsoft purchased full rights from SCP for what was now called 86-DOS. IBM PC-DOS was the name of the operating system that would ship on the IBM PC, but it was Microsoft that wholly developed the operating system after acquiring it from SCP.
Microsoft shrewdly included a clause in the agreement that allowed them to sell the operating system to other companies under the name MS-DOS. It was this clause that changed the course of technology history, opening the door for Microsoft to become the dominant technology company of the PC era. Microsoft seemed to understand that by controlling the operating system, the underlying hardware became less relevant. IBM obviously did not consider this concept, nor did they foresee that companies would be able to successfully clone their hardware platform. Once companies were able to clone the hardware, they needed an operating system. Microsoft was more than happy to provide them with that operating system, which by design was completely compatible with IBM’s PC-DOS. Once IBM lost control of the platform they created, power shifted to the one major commonality between the IBM-compatible clones: Microsoft’s operating system. It was IBM’s name that pushed the IBM PC into prominence, but it was the combination of hardware cloning and Microsoft licensing the operating system that created the dominant platform of the PC era, crushing nearly all competing personal computer platforms in the process. Without this seemingly minor clause in this pivotal contract, the history of the PC era could have been quite different than it was.
Google introduces the Android platform, its mobile operating system for cell phones based on a modified version of the Linux operating system. The first Android-based phone would ship in September of 2008.
Compaq announces their Compaq Portable PC, one of the early portable computer designs and, more significantly, the first successful IBM-compatible PC clone. Compaq eventually succeeded where other similar companies failed because they took considerable care in creating their product on two fronts. First, they created the first 100% IBM-compatible BIOS, the only proprietary component of the IBM PC. Spending $1 million to reverse engineer the IBM BIOS using clean-room techniques, this also allowed them to avoid copyright infringement charges. Finally, they were legally and financially prepared for the inevitable lawsuit IBM would bring against then, which was dismissed as expected.
By proving that a clean room, reverse-engineered BIOS could create 100% IBM-compatible computers and withstand legal challenges from IBM, Compaq paved the way for the flood of IBM-compatible clones that would begin in the mid-1980’s. This was the opening of the Pandora’s Box that led to IBM losing control of the platform, and the emergence of Microsoft and Intel as the dominant technology companies of the PC era. Even though IBM lost control of the platform they created, the weight of the IBM name combined with the eventual low cost of the IBM-compatible platform crushed nearly all other competing personal computing platforms of the era.
The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit and the first spacecraft to carry a living creature into orbit. Laika, a Siberian Husky dog, unfortunately only survived a few hours into the flight and died from stress and overheating. The Soviets had planned to euthanize Laika regardless, as Sputnik 2 did not have de-orbiting or reentry technology designed into the spacecraft.