The First Battery
Alessandro Volta sends a letter to Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society of London, describing his “electric pile”. This was the first device that could form a steady flow of electricity, now recognized as the first practical battery. Later called the “Voltaic Pile”, the entire reason Volta created the device was to prove another Italian scientist wrong. Luigi Galvani had incorrectly believed that frog muscles could generate electricity. Volta believed that the frog legs Galvani was using was simply reacting to electricity and set out to create proof. Regardless, within mere weeks the importance of this first battery was realized which allowed many further scientific advancements to be possible, such as electrochemistry. Recognizing the importance of his work, including the Voltaic Pile, the electrical unit of the Volt is named in Volta’s honor.
Sydney Harbor Bridge Opens
The Sydney Harbor Bridge first opens to traffic. Nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch design, it spans 503m across Sydney Harbor and is the world’s tallest steel arch bridge at 134m high. Along with the harbor and the Sydney Opera House, the bridge forms part of the now legendary view of Sydney. The bridge took 1,400 workers and 8 years to complete, yet it took the government of Australia 56 years (until 1988) to fully pay off the cost of building the bridge.
The First Practical Electric Razor
Jacob Schick’s 2nd commercial design of an electric razor goes on sale. His first attempt, which went on sale in 1929, was an awkward design with the electric motor connected by a cable to the shaving head. Not surprisingly that model didn’t sell well. Schick had to mortgage his home to keep his company going. This new version put the motor inside the shaving head making it much more convenient. Even though it went on sale during the Great Depression, Schick managed to sell 3000 units that year at $25 each (close to $400 in today’s money) and 1.5 million by 1937, creating the electric razor industry.
NFL Adopts Instant Replay … For The First Time
March 11, 1986
The NFL adopts a limited instant replay system. This system was dropped, however, in 1992 before the current instant replay system was instated in 1999. In effect, you could say the current system is an instant replay itself!
Paper is Shown To Emperor of China, Paper Industry is Launched
Tsai Lun (or Cai Lun), a eunuch in service to the Emperor of China, shows the court his version of paper. Lun had been experimenting with and refining a process for making paper that had been in use for two centuries prior. His paper, perhaps the first to incorporate wood, became the basis of the Chinese paper industry that eventually spread to the rest of the world a few hundred years later.
This is also perhaps the earliest event in technology history with a recorded date!
Compact Disc Introduced
Philips introduced the Compact Disc to the world at a press conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Sony and Philips cooperated to standardize on a 12 cm diameter disc as it would have enough audio data capacity to hold Beethoven’s 74-minute Ninth Symphony.
SCO Sues IBM; Threatens Linux Users
The SCO Group, formerly known as Caldera, files a $1 Billion lawsuit against IBM for allegedly “devaluing” its version of UNIX. SCO claimed that IBM had contributed SCO’s proprietary code to the codebase of the open-source Linux, thereby making SCO’s UNIX less valuable. A couple of months later in May, SCO sent letters to many major corporations warning them of the possibility of liability if they used Linux. SCO eventually even threatened individual Linux users who did not license SCO UNIX.
Among some Linux fans, the lawsuit was a threat to the Open Source movement. However most saw the lawsuit as simply legal maneuvering by SCO to try to capitalize on Linux as it had changed the competitive landscape of the UNIX marketplace. Long story short, through a series of claims and counter-claims involving SCO, IBM, Red Hat, and Novell most of SCO’s claims were dismissed and SCO went bankrupt. However, the original lawsuit did not finally come to resolution until November of 2021!
Concorde Makes Maiden Flight
March 2, 1969
The Concorde supersonic transport (SST) jet makes its maiden flight. The Concode is only the second supersonic passenger airliner to have been commercially operated. The Concorde fleet flew until November 26, 2003.
Disney CEO Claims Apple Encourages Theft
February 28, 2002
Disney CEO Michael Eisner testifies at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on the protection of digital content from piracy. Eisner lobbies for sterner enforcement of copyright laws, claiming that Apple Computer advertisements for the iPod encourage copyright violations. “Rip. Mix. Burn. … they can create a theft if they buy this computer.”
A little over 3 years later, Eisner was later replaced as CEO by Robert Iger, who quickly arranged the buyout of Pixar Animation Studios, of which Steve Jobs was CEO. This move made Steve Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder and a member of Disney’s board. I guess it’s a small world after all!
First Color TVs Go on Sale
February 28, 1954
The first color television sets using the NTSC standard are offered for sale to the general public. NTSC is the standard used in most of North and South America, Japan, and a few other places in the world.