August 6, 1997
At the Macworld Expo in Boston, Steve Jobs announces that Apple and Microsoft have signed a five-year alliance. Bill Gates famously makes his seemingly ominous “big brother” appearance on the large presentation screen during the announcement. As part of the deal, Microsoft committed to continuing development of Microsoft Office for Mac over the next five years, Apple would make Internet Explorer the default web browser on the Mac, Apple and Microsoft would collaborate on Java compatibility, and Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple stock. However, the most important part of the arrangement is that both companies would cross-license all existing patents along with any new patents over the next five years, Apple would drop their long-running series of patent-infringement lawsuits against Microsoft, and Microsoft paid an undisclosed amount of money to Apple.
The common assumption in the tech community is that Microsoft’s $150 million investment in Apple saved the company. However, the reality is that with Apple holding $1.2 billion in cash at the time, $150 million was a relatively small sum of money. Some now believe the undisclosed amount of money that Microsoft paid Apple was in fact a secret settlement to the patent-infringment claims. Estimated at anywhere between $500 million to $2 billion, this was the real meat of the “cross-licensing” arrangement. It was likely this much larger undisclosed amount, along with the show of confidence that Apple would be around at least another five years, that gave Apple and Steve Jobs the breathing room needed to reinvent Apple into the most valuable company in the world.
August 5, 1858
After four failed attempts, American merchant Cyrus West Field succeeds in completing the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable. Completed approximately two months after construction began, the cable is only operational for just over a month. However, this cable proved the feasibility of transatlantic communications and Cyrus West Field raised new funds to complete the first permanent telegraph line in 1866.
August 4, 2007
NASA launches the Mars Phoenix lander. Phoenix would become the first spacecraft to land on the Martian arctic surface. Its mission was to dig for ice and assess if the Martian arctic ever had conditions that could have supported life.
August 3, 1993
Apple introduces the Newton MessagePad, one of the world’s first Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). The term PDA was first used by Apple CEO John Scully in 1992. While a commercial failure, the Newton platform set the bar for future PDA designs. But perhaps the most important advancement the Newton offered to the technology industry was the development of the ARM processor architecture. Apple invested heavily in the fledgling architecture to power the Newton devices. The ARM architecture has been the foundation of most of the world’s mobile devices since that time, including all versions of the Apple iPhone and iPad. Incidentally, in 1998 Apple sold their ownership interest in ARM, generating $800 million. This gave Apple some much needed cash to carry them through their darkest days.
August 3, 1977
Radio Shack introduces their first computer, the TRS-80. With the support of 3500 Radio Shack stores plus a relatively low cost, the TRS-80 helped drive the acceptance of the personal computer in the home. Originally forecasting sales of just 3,000 to 5,000 per year, the TRS-80 sold over 10,000 units in the first month-and-a-half of sales and 200,000 over the lifetime of the product.
August 2, 1873
The Clay Street Railroad begins operation, making it the first cable car in San Francisco’s now famous cable car system.
August 1, 1986
Apple discontinues production of the Macintosh XL, effectively ending the life of the Apple Lisa computer platform. In January of 1985, the Macintosh line of computers was gaining momentum but the Lisa line of computers was not selling well. In order to salvage what they could from the Lisa and offer a more powerful Macintosh computer, Apple created the Macintosh XL model by modifying a Lisa 2/10 computer to run the Macintosh operating system. Apple discontinued the Lisa in April of 1985, but continued production of the hybrid Lisa/Mac Macintosh XL until this date.
MTV, presumably standing for “Music Television”, launches on cable TV. As most people know, after the introduction sequence, the first video played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. However, a bit of trivia is that the second song played was “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar. MTV had an immediate impact on the music industry and was an iconic symbol of the technology-driven 1980’s.
July 31, 1971
Using the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), Astronaut David Scott of the Apollo 15 mission becomes the first person to drive a vehicle on the Moon. The LRV was used during the last three missions to the Moon, Apollo 15, 16, and 17. The three LRVs used during the missions still remain on the surface of the moon.
July 30, 1979
Apple begins work on the Lisa, which would become the world’s first commercial computer with a graphical user interface. Originally intended to sell for $2,000 and ship in 1981, the Lisa is delayed until 1983 and sells for $10,000. Utilizing technology that is ahead of its time, the high cost, relative lack of software, and some hardware reliability issues ultimately sink the success of the Lisa. However, much of the technology introduced by the Lisa influenced the development of the Macintosh as well as other future computer and operating system designs.