Control Data Corporation (CDC) releases their CDC 1604 computer, the world’s fastest computer at the time and the first commercially successful fully-transistorized computer. The 1604 was CDC’s first computer, primarily designed by engineer Seymour Cray, who would later go on to found Cray Research and be called the “father of the supercomputer”.
Thomas Edison and a group of investors form the Edison Electric Light Company. The goal of the company was to provide financial support for Edison’s electric light experiments and work on developing an electrical lighting system for an entire city. The long-lasting carbonized filament light bulb was developed by Edison while working for this company. Eventually this and several other Edison companies were merged to form General Electric.
Atari releases their Video Computer System (known as the VCS and later as the Atari 2600). It took two years for the VCS to gain traction, but by 1979 it was the best selling gift of the Christmas season. Once it was established, the Atari VCS took the market by storm, popularized home video gaming, and helped cement the video game movement into mainstream culture.
Ameritech Mobile Communications executive Bob Barnett makes a phone call from a car parked near Soldier Field in Chicago, officially launching the first cellular network in the United States.
Hailed by Steve Jobs as a computer “five years ahead of its time”, NeXT, Inc. introduces their NeXT Computer. Due to its cube-shaped case, the computer was often referred to as “The Cube” or “The NeXT Cube”, which led to the subsequent model offically being named “NeXTcube“. The new computer introduced several innovations to personal computers, such as including an optical storage disk drive, a built-in digital signal processor for voice recognition, and an object-oriented development environment that was truly years ahead of its time.
While not a commercial success, the NeXT Computer and the technology developed for it have a long and storied history. Tim Berners-Lee developed the first world wide web server and web browser on a NeXT computer, crediting the NeXT development tools for allowing him to rapidly develop the now ubiquitous Internet system. After Apple purchased NeXT in 1997, they used the operating system of the NeXT computers to form the base of Mac OS X. Eventually Apple’s iOS, which runs the iPhone and iPad, was itself based upon Mac OS X and hence draws its lineage to NeXT. Finally, the object-oriented development environment that Berners-Lee used to create the World Wide Web is the forerunner of the development environment that today’s programmers use to develop iPhone and iPad Apps. If it wasn’t for the NeXT Computer back in 1988, you may not have your Angry Birds today.
NASA launches Pioneer 1, the first spacecraft launched by the newly formed space agency. Originally intended to fly by the Moon, a launch malfunction due to a programming error caused Pioneer 1 to only attain a ballistic trajectory, which caused it to fall back to the Earth after 43 hours of flight. However, some useful scientific data was returned by the spacecraft.
Midway releases the video game Pac-Man to arcades in North America. While the Japanese release under the name “Puck-Man” occurred in May of that year, the game’s popularity didn’t take off until being released in the United States. Pac-Man will become the first true mega-hit video game in history, sparking “Pac-Man Fever” and catapulting the video game industry into mainstream culture.
The video game Mortal Kombat is released into arcades. Now one of the most popular fighting game series in history, the original Mortal Kombat became well-known for its graphic display of blood and deadly finishing moves known as “fatalities”. As often happens in situations like these, the controversy surrounding the game only served to fuel its popularity.
I remember the game becoming popular on the heels of Street Fighter II. I never really liked the game because I felt it was all flash and no substance. And the martial arts techniques portrayed were often really bad. But it was occasionally fun to knock someone’s head off.