May 31, 1991
Sega releases the video game Zero Wing for the Sega Mega Drive system in Europe. The game was never released in North America, and was relatively unknown until years later when the poorly translated opening scene was popularized on the Internet. The most famous mistranslation is the phrase “All your base are belong to us,” which has become a very popular Internet meme.
May 29, 1999
May 29, 1992
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago, Apple Computer CEO John Sculley first announces the coming release of the Newton personal digital assistant to a group of reporters, explaining that the Newton “is nothing less than a revolution.” Although there was not a fully functioning prototype available, the Newton technology is demonstrated, including how to order a pizza by moving topping icons onto a pie and then faxing the order from the device.
The Newton is Apple’s first major new product line since the Macintosh was released eight years earlier. The Newton unveiling generates immediate buzz, but due to several factors, Sculley’s announcement will ultimately be considered a major mistake. The announcement itself tipped the company’s hand to its competitors and wildly inflated consumer expectations. The Newton’s release was delayed until August of 1993, and when it was released, it was not as user-friendly as expected. Specifically, the core hand-writing recognition feature was widely criticized as buggy and inaccurate. While the technology was greatly improved in subsequent revisions, the Newton never gained much commercial success, and shortly after his return Steve Jobs discontinued the Newton in 1998.
May 28, 1987
CompuServe releases the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) standard as a new computer graphics file format. Due to color limitations, the GIF format is unsuitable for reproducing color photographs, but it is well-suited for more simple images such as graphics or logos with solid areas of color. This made it probably the most popular graphics format for the early Internet, until the famous “GIF licensing controversy” soured many designers to its use. The PNG format was developed in response as an alternative to GIF to get around the licensing issues. However, all relevant patents have since expired and the GIF format may now be freely used. Today it still sees widespread use, especially when simple animations are needed.
May 27, 1988
Microsoft releases 2 versions of Windows 2.1 – One for 286 computers and one for 386 computers. Do you remember this version of Windows? No? Not many people do. It wasn’t until version 3 that Windows had any sort of appreciable user base.
May 26, 1995
Realizing his company had missed the boat in estimating the impact and popularity of the Internet, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates issues a memo titled, “The Internet Tidal Wave,” which signaled the company’s focus on the global network. In the memo, Gates declared that the Internet was the “most important single development” since the IBM personal computer — a development that he was assigning “the highest level of importance.” Still, it is curious why it took someone who was regarded as a technology “innovator” so long to realize this.