First Night Baseball Game

First Night BaseballMay 24, 1935

The first night major league baseball game is played in Cincinnati. The hometown Reds defeated the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 2-1. Night baseball caught on around the league very quickly – except for the Chicago Cubs, who didn’t play a home night game until 1988. Why am I not surprised?

The Wright Patent

Wright FlyerMay 22, 1906

Orville and Wilbur Wright are granted the first airplane patent in the U.S. for their “new and useful improvements in Flying Machines.” (US No. 821,393)

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackMay 21, 1980

The sequel to the the smash success Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back is released on this day, almost exactly 3 years after the release of the original film. The pioneering use of special effects technology in the Star Wars Trilogy transformed the movie industry.

First Sports TV Broadcast

May 17, 1939

NBC carries the first broadcast televised sporting event in history, the second game of a doubleheader baseball game between Columbia and Princeton. Only about 400 TV sets were capable of receiving the transmission, but it was an important first step in the history of televised sports. NBC would later broadcast a major league baseball game in August of that year, a college football game in September, closely followed by an NFL game in October.

Previously Germany had televised parts of the 1936 Olympic games, but TV sets were not available for sale in Germany at the time. Therefore viewing was limited to a number of “public viewing rooms” in Berlin and Potsdam.

First Laser Created

Ted Maiman Holding First LaserMay 16, 1960

Physicist Theodore Maiman creates the first laser light, using a synthetic-ruby crystal device. He was not the first to develop the theories behind lasers nor first to apply for patents, but he was the first to create an operating laser device. The light produced by this device was not a true beam as we think of most lasers today, but rather a pulse. Other researchers would create the first laser beam soon after.

First Demonstration of Hi-Fi Tape Technology in US

May 16, 1946

Jack Mullin, an electrical engineer and US Army Signal Corps veteran in World War II, gives the first demonstration of a high-fidelity tape recording in the United States at an Institute of Radio Engineers meeting in San Francisco. He was able to demonstrate that a recorded jazz band sounded virtually identical to a live one during this demo, impressing the many engineers in attendance.

While stationed in England early in the war, Mullin had discovered that German radio was able to broadcast symphony recordings in superior quality to anything he had heard before. He later had the opportunity to examine captured German electronic equipment and discovered the AEG Magnetophon audiotape recorder, which had been in use on German radio since 1941. He received permission to take two of the recorders and blank tape back home after he left the Army in 1946 as “war souvenirs”. He then refined and fitted the German machines with “American electronics”.

In 1947 Mullin would catch the ear of Bing Crosby’s technical producer, who was looking for a way to broadcast Crosby’s recordings in better quality since his show, Philco Radio Time, was losing ratings due to the poor quality of recorded audio at the time. Mullin was brought on as Crosby’s chief engineer and the recordings made by Mullin were a hit with listeners. Crosby invested $50,000 in Ampex, which was at the time was a small 6-person electronics firm working with Mullin to develop commercialized versions of Mullin’s modified Magnetophons. Ampex and Mullin would forever change the recording industry with the Ampex Model 200A, first shipped in 1948. 60 years later at the 50th Grammy Awards, Ampex received the Technical Grammy Award, in recognization for having “revolutionized the radio and recording industries”.

Money For Nothing?

Money For Nothing VideoMay 13, 1985

The British rock band Dire Straits releases their fifth album, Brothers in Arms, which will become the first CD to sell over a million copies. It was the most successful album release on compact disc for over two decades. I guess “Money for Nothing” was more than a song title.

The Birth of Wireless

Guglielmo MarconiMay 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.

Germans Can Be So Dry

Gassner BatteryMay 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. Unlike previous wet cells, this dry cell is more solid, does not require maintenance, does not spill, and can be used in any orientation. Gassner’s development led to the production of the first convenient battery for widespread use and the invention of the flashlight. Gassner’s design is virtually unchanged in today’s zinc carbon “general purpose” batteries. Although most people use alkalines, in fact zinc carbon batteries will last longer in low drain devices such as remote controls and clocks.

GPS Gets Less Selective

GPSMay 1, 2000

President Bill Clinton releases a statement announcing that the U.S. government will remove Selective Availability from its Global Positioning System at midnight, improving the accuracy of civilian GPS devices from 100 meters to 20 meters. Originally created to impede hostile forces from taking advantage of the GPS system, pressure mounted from many areas to eliminate Selective Availability and make GPS more accurate for civilian purposes. Initially set to be disabled in sometime 2006, it happened on this day 6 years earlier than planned because the U.S. military had developed a new method of denying GPS to hostile forces in a specific areas without affecting the rest of the world or its own systems. This action paved the way for the proliferation of GPS usage for accurate navigation functions, such as the turn-by-turn apps we use today on our smartphones.