In a makeshift lab on the second floor of a rental house, Chester Carlson and his assistant Otto Kornei successfully invent the process that would lead to the photocopier. Carlson had written “10.-22.-38 ASTORIA” on a piece of paper and these became the historic words that were the first photocopied. Ironically, Kornei had so little faith in the invention that within a year he quit working for Carlson and willingly gave up any claims he had on the process. However, Carlson would later gift Kornei 100 shares of the Xerox corporation that would eventually be worth $1 million.
At the COMDEX computer expo in Las Vegas, Apple introduces the first line of PowerBook notebook computers, the PowerBook 100, PowerBook 140, and PowerBook 170. The first truly portable Macintosh, the PowerBook line redefined portable computing and set the bar for future laptop designs. For example, the PowerBooks were the first laptop to have a trackball positioned in front of the keyboard. Most existing PC laptops of the time ran DOS and were therefore keyboard-oriented, requiring the use of external mice.
Thomas Edison perfects the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb. Using a filament of carbonized cotton thread, his first attempt at this design results in a bulb that lasts about 13.5 hours before burning out. He later extends the life of the bulb to 40 hours. Edison’s successful design came only after he had tested over 6,000 different vegetable fibers during a span of over 18 months running 1,200 experiments and spending $40,000.
Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in New York and limited other North American markets. An immediate hit, Nintendo released the game nationwide in February 1986. Along with the NES, Nintendo released eighteen games that day, including: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and Super Mario Bros.
William Higinbotham and Robert Dvorak, Sr. show off a tennis simulator game they called Tennis for Two. Developed on a Donner Model 30 analog computer using an oscilloscope, it is the first known electronic game to use a graphical display. Higinbotham and Dvorak developed the game to show off to visitors to the Brookhaven National Laboratory where they worked. The game was only shown off twice, during the laboratory’s annual visitor’s day. While hundreds of visitors lined up to play the game when it was made available, little was known about the game for decades. While somewhat similar in gameplay to the later hit Pong, there is no known direct relationship between the games.
Colin Needham, an English movie fan, launches the “rec.arts.movies movie database”, which would later be known as the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb. An engineer working for HP at the time, by 1996 Needham quit his job to work on IMDb full-time. The IMDb is one of the most visited sites on the Internet and was acquired by Amazon in 1998. Needham is still the General Manager of the IMDb to this day.
Guglielmo Marconi officially opens the first commercial transatlantic wireless telegraph service, which runs between Nova Scotia and Ireland.
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”.