What Happened Today, January 24th

IBM's SSEC
IBM's SSEC
 
IBM Dedicates the SSEC

IBM dedicates the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC). Later the SSEC was put on public display near the company's Manhattan headquarters so passers-by could watch its operational speed. Before its decommissioning in 1952, the SSEC produced the moon-position tables used for plotting the course of the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.

Original Macintosh, 1984.
Original Macintosh, 1984.
 
Apple Macintosh is released.

Apple Computer, Inc. released its Macintosh computer with an unprecedented media campaign, including a groundbreaking TV commercial shown during the 1984 Super Bowl. Selling for about 2,500 dollars, the Mac used a Motorola 68000 microprocessor and had 128k of RAM (memory). The Macintosh's graphical user interface (GUI) was revolutionary and led to its rapid adoption in education, desktop publishing and graphic design. Early sales were brisk, with 70,000 units sold in the first one hundred days after its introduction.

What Happened This Week

IBM's SSEC
IBM's SSEC
 
IBM Dedicates the SSEC

IBM dedicates the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC). Later the SSEC was put on public display near the company's Manhattan headquarters so passers-by could watch its operational speed. Before its decommissioning in 1952, the SSEC produced the moon-position tables used for plotting the course of the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.

Original Macintosh, 1984.
Original Macintosh, 1984.
 
Apple Macintosh is released.

Apple Computer, Inc. released its Macintosh computer with an unprecedented media campaign, including a groundbreaking TV commercial shown during the 1984 Super Bowl. Selling for about 2,500 dollars, the Mac used a Motorola 68000 microprocessor and had 128k of RAM (memory). The Macintosh's graphical user interface (GUI) was revolutionary and led to its rapid adoption in education, desktop publishing and graphic design. Early sales were brisk, with 70,000 units sold in the first one hundred days after its introduction.

 
Robot Kills Auto Worker

Robert Williams of Michigan was the first human to be killed by a robot. He was 25 years old. The accident at the Ford Motor Company resulted in a $10 million dollar lawsuit. The jury deliberated for two-and-a-half hours before announcing the decision against Unit Handling Systems, a division of Litton Industries. It ordered the manufacturer of the one-ton robot that killed Williams to pay his family $10 million. The robot was designed to retrieve parts from storage, but its work was deemed too slow. Williams was retrieving a part from a storage bin when the robot's arm hit him in the head, killing him instantly. In the suit, the family claimed the robot had no safety mechanisms, lacking even a warning noise to alert workers that it was nearby.

 
Electronic vs. Paper Books in SF Library

The New York Times chronicles the debate between electronic and paper books in an article about the new San Francisco Public Library. Critics complained that the library sacrificed too much book space for computer terminals and too many books for online information, lamenting as well the end of the traditional card catalogue that has marked a move to the information age for many libraries.

 
Jim Clark Leaves Silicon Graphics to Start Mosaic Communications

Silicon Graphics Inc. co-founder Jim Clark leaves the company to start Mosaic Communications with Marc Andreessen. Mosaic became Netscape Communications Corp., and the company’s first product was a web browser, subsequently renamed Netscape Navigator. The share of Netscape users peaked in the mid-1990s, but had fallen to less than one percent by the end of 2006.

Console of GE's ERMA (Electronic Recording Machine - Accounting)
Console of GE's ERMA (Electronic Recording Machine - Accounting)
 
Bank of America and SRI Sign a Contract to Develop ERMA's Pilot Model

Bank of America and SRI signed a contract for phase 3 of the proposal covering the development, construction, and testing of a pilot model ERMA to provide service to 12 branches. ERMA was a computer-based system to process the increasing number of checks in circulation after World War II. The contract specified that Bank of America would pay SRI no more than $850,000 over four years, with an additional $25,000 for subcontracts. Although the final expenses were never released, most engineers estimate that the grand total was actually around $10 million.

Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System
Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System
 
Manufacturer Responds to Report of Poor Security in Electronic Voting Machines

Diebold Systems responds to a report submitted to the state of Maryland which revealed that their electronic voting machines had software security flaws that could potentially compromise election outcomes. The report, titled Response to: Department of Legislative Services Trusted Agent Report on Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System, recommended a number of corrective actions to fix security holes after an outside consulting firm successfully hacked into the voting systems under conditions similar to an election environment. Diebold allayed concerns over the flaws in their software and a spokesman stated that, "There is nothing that has not been or can't be mitigated" in “assuring the utmost security” for the upcoming March and future elections. In an ever more networked and computerized voting infrastructure, security, accuracy and transparency could play a key role in democratic elections.

Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart
 
Douglas Engelbart Born

Doug Engelbart, best known for inventing the mouse, is born. Engelbart publically demonstrated the mouse at a computer conference in 1968, where he also showed off work his group had done in hypermedia and on-screen video teleconferencing. The founder of the Bootstrap Institute, Engelbart has 20 patents to his name. Engelbart died in 2013.

 
Two New Primes Found with SWAC

Using the Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC), researchers found two new prime numbers the first time they attempted a prime-searching program on the computer. Within the year, three other primes had been found. The National Bureau of Standards funded construction of the SWAC in Los Angeles in 1950 and it ran, in one form or another, until 1967.

 
AT&T and VLSI Protect Against Eavesdropping

AT&T Bell Laboratories and VLSI Technology announce plans to develop strategies for protecting communications devices from eavesdroppers. The goal would be to prevent problems such as insecure cellular phone lines and Internet transmissions by including security chips in devices.