August 4, 2007
NASA launches the Mars Phoenix lander. Phoenix would become the first spacecraft to land on the Martian arctic surface. Its mission was to dig for ice and assess if the Martian arctic ever had conditions that could have supported life.
August 3, 1993
Apple introduces the Newton MessagePad, one of the world’s first Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). The term PDA was first used by Apple CEO John Scully in 1992. While a commercial failure, the Newton platform set the bar for future PDA designs. But perhaps the most important advancement the Newton offered to the technology industry was the development of the ARM processor architecture. Apple invested heavily in the fledgling architecture to power the Newton devices. The ARM architecture has been the foundation of most of the world’s mobile devices since that time, including all versions of the Apple iPhone and iPad. Incidentally, in 1998 Apple sold their ownership interest in ARM, generating $800 million. This gave Apple some much needed cash to carry them through their darkest days.
August 3, 1977
Radio Shack introduces their first computer, the TRS-80. With the support of 3500 Radio Shack stores plus a relatively low cost, the TRS-80 helped drive the acceptance of the personal computer in the home. Originally forecasting sales of just 3,000 to 5,000 per year, the TRS-80 sold over 10,000 units in the first month-and-a-half of sales and 200,000 over the lifetime of the product.
August 2, 1873
The Clay Street Railroad begins operation, making it the first cable car in San Francisco’s now famous cable car system.
August 1, 1986
Apple discontinues production of the Macintosh XL, effectively ending the life of the Apple Lisa computer platform. In January of 1985, the Macintosh line of computers was gaining momentum but the Lisa line of computers was not selling well. In order to salvage what they could from the Lisa and offer a more powerful Macintosh computer, Apple created the Macintosh XL model by modifying a Lisa 2/10 computer to run the Macintosh operating system. Apple discontinued the Lisa in April of 1985, but continued production of the hybrid Lisa/Mac Macintosh XL until this date.
MTV, presumably standing for “Music Television”, launches on cable TV. As most people know, after the introduction sequence, the first video played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. However, a bit of trivia is that the second song played was “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar. MTV had an immediate impact on the music industry and was an iconic symbol of the technology-driven 1980’s.
July 31, 1971
Using the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), Astronaut David Scott of the Apollo 15 mission becomes the first person to drive a vehicle on the Moon. The LRV was used during the last three missions to the Moon, Apollo 15, 16, and 17. The three LRVs used during the missions still remain on the surface of the moon.
July 30, 1979
Apple begins work on the Lisa, which would become the world’s first commercial computer with a graphical user interface. Originally intended to sell for $2,000 and ship in 1981, the Lisa is delayed until 1983 and sells for $10,000. Utilizing technology that is ahead of its time, the high cost, relative lack of software, and some hardware reliability issues ultimately sink the success of the Lisa. However, much of the technology introduced by the Lisa influenced the development of the Macintosh as well as other future computer and operating system designs.
July 29, 1914
The first test call is made on the newly completed transcontinental telephone line, taking place between New York and San Francisco. The last pole was erected and the line completed two days earlier on July 27th, but commercial service did not start until January 25th of the next year. The sixth month delay was due to AT&T’s wish to publicize the service in conjunction with San Francisco’s 1915 World Fair.
July 28, 1981
IBM introduces their System/23 Datamaster desktop computer, only two weeks before they introduce their IBM PC. Geared towards small business for use as a word processor and data processor, the computer was designed to be set up by end-users without the need of a computer specialist. While now a footnote in history, the importance of the Datamaster is that many of the team members that developed it were re-assigned to the secret IBM PC project. Much of the knowledge they acquired working on the Datamaster went into developing the IBM PC as quickly as possible. For example, the choice of the Intel 8088 processor in the IBM PC was based on the team’s familiarity with the similar Intel 8085 processor used in the Datamaster.