May 13, 1991
The System 7 operating system for the Macintosh is released, the second major upgrade to the Mac OS. One of the major features included in System 7 is built-in cooperative multitasking. System 7 also introduces the concept of “aliases”, which will later be copied as “shortcuts” in Microsoft Windows 95. System 7 was the first Mac OS that I personally became familiar with, and it was the foundation of the Mac OS until the release of Mac OS X almost exactly 10 years later.
May 11, 1979
At the West Coast Computer Faire, Harvard MBA candidate Daniel Bricklin and programmer Robert Frankston give the first demonstration of VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet software. First released for the Apple II, VisiCalc made a business machine of the personal computer. VisiCalc was a huge success, selling more than 100,000 copies in the first year. VisiCalc also spurred the sales of the Apple II, as people would buy the Apple II just to run VisiCalc. Overall, the spreadsheet validated the usefulness of the home computer and was likely a major factor for IBM accelerating their entry into the PC market.
*Some sources list VisiCalc’s first demonstration as May 12th. I’d like to find a definitive source.
May 10, 1894
“Wireless” is born when Guglielmo Marconi sends a radio wave three-quarters of a mile. Three years later the Marconi Company will successfully communicate “ship to shore” over a distance of twelve miles. Marconi’s work leads to the commercialization and proliferation of most of the radio technologies we know today.
May 8, 1886
German scientist, Dr. Carl Gassner, is issued a German patent for the first “dry” cell battery, which uses zinc as its primary component. A U.S. patent will be issued to Gassner in 1887. His battery is much like today’s carbon-zinc, “general purpose” batteries, although most people use alkalines.
May 7, 1954
IBM announces the IBM 704 Data Processing System, the world’s first mass produced computer to feature floating point arithmetic hardware. Besides this ultra-geeky distinction, the IBM 704 will leave its mark in computer history before it is discontinued on April 7, 1960. Both the FORTRAN and LISP programming languages were first developed for the IBM 704, as well as the first music application, MUSIC. Physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr. of Bell Labs will synthesize speech for the first time in history on an IBM 704. Not bad for a mainframe.