Always in motion is the future. – YODA, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
1827 – John Walker, an English chemist, sells the first friction match that he had invented the previous year.
…He developed a keen interest in trying to find a means of obtaining fire easily. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but it had not been found possible to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood. While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth. He at once appreciated the practical value of the discovery, and started making friction matches. They consisted of wooden splints or sticks of cardboard coated with sulphur and tipped with a mixture of sulphide of antimony, chlorate of potash, and gum, the sulphur serving to communicate the flame to the wood.
The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. With each box was supplied a piece of sandpaper, folded double, through which the match had to be drawn to ignite it. He named the matches “Congreves” in honour of the inventor and rocket pioneer, Sir William Congreve. He did not divulge the exact composition of his matches.
Two and a half years after Walker’s invention was made public, Isaac Holden arrived, independently, at the same idea of coating wooden splinters with sulphur. The exact date of his discovery, according to his own statement, was October 1829. Previously to this date, Walker’s sales-book contains an account of no fewer than 250 sales of friction matches, the first entry bearing the date 7 April 1827. Already comfortably well off, he refused to patent his invention, despite being encouraged to by Michael Faraday and others, making it freely available for anyone to make. He received neither fame nor wealth for his invention, although he was able to retire some years later. The credit for his invention was attributed only after his death.
1940 – Booker T. Washington becomes the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp.
On April 7, 1940, Washington became the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp. Several years later, he was honored on the first coin to feature an African American, the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar, which was minted by the United States from 1946 to 1951. He was also depicted on a U.S. Half Dollar from 1951–1954.
1964 – IBM announces the System/360.
The IBM System/360 (S/360) was a mainframe computer system family announced by IBM on April 7, 1964, and delivered between 1965 and 1978. It was the first family of computers designed to cover the complete range of applications, from small to large, both commercial and scientific. The design made a clear distinction between architecture and implementation, allowing IBM to release a suite of compatible designs at different prices. All but the incompatible model 44 and the most expensive systems used microcode to implement the instruction set, which featured 8-bit byte addressing and binary, decimal and (hexadecimal) floating-point calculations.
The slowest System/360 model announced in 1964, the Model 30, could perform up to 34,500 instructions per second, with memory from 8 to 64 KB. High performance models came later. The 1967 System 360 Model 91 could do up to 16.6 million instructions per second. The larger 360 models could have up to 8 MB of internal main memory, though main memory that big was unusual—a more typical large installation might have as little as 256 KB of main storage, but 512 KB, 768 KB or 1024 KB was more common. Up to 8 megabytes of slower (8 microsecond) Large Capacity Storage (LCS) was also available.
System/360 was extremely successful in the market, allowing customers to purchase a smaller system with the knowledge they would always be able to migrate upward if their needs grew, without reprogramming of application software or replacing peripheral devices. Many consider the design one of the most successful computers in history, influencing computer design for years to come.
1969 – The Internet’s symbolic birth date: publication of RFC 1.
The inception of the RFC format occurred in 1969 as part of the seminal ARPANET project. Today, it is the official publication channel for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and — to some extent — the global community of computer network researchers in general.
The authors of the first RFCs typewrote their work and circulated hard copies among the ARPA researchers. Unlike the modern RFCs, many of the early RFCs were actual requests for comments and were titled as such to avoid sounding too declarative and to encourage discussion. The RFC leaves questions open and is written in a less formal style. This less formal style is now typical of Internet Draft documents, the precursor step before being approved as an RFC.
In December 1969, researchers began distributing new RFCs via the newly operational ARPANET. RFC 1, entitled “Host Software”, was written by Steve Crocker of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and published on April 7, 1969. Although written by Steve Crocker, the RFC emerged from an early working group discussion between Steve Crocker, Steve Carr and Jeff Rulifson.
1983 – During STS-6, astronauts Story Musgrave and Don Peterson perform the first space shuttle spacewalk.
STS-6 carried a crew of four – Paul J. Weitz, commander; Karol J. Bobko, pilot; Story Musgrave and Donald H. Peterson, both mission specialists. Using new spacesuits designed specifically for the Space Shuttle program, Musgrave and Peterson successfully accomplished the program’s first extravehicular activity (EVA) on 7–8 April 1983, performing various tests in the orbiter’s payload bay. Their spacewalk lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes.
2001 – Mars Odyssey is launched.
2001 Mars Odyssey is a robotic spacecraft orbiting the planet Mars. The project was developed by NASA, and contracted out to Lockheed Martin, with an expected cost for the entire mission of US$297 million. Its mission is to use spectrometers and a thermal imager to detect evidence of past or present water and ice, as well as study the planet’s geology and radiation environment. It is hoped that the data Odyssey obtains will help answer the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars and create a risk-assessment of the radiation future astronauts on Mars might experience. It also acts as a relay for communications between the Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory, and the Phoenix lander to Earth. The mission was named as a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, evoking the name of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001 on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and reached Mars orbit on October 24, 2001, at 02:30 UTC (October 23, 19:30 PDT, 22:30 EDT). The spacecraft’s main engine fired in order to brake the spacecraft’s speed, which allowed it to be captured into orbit around Mars. Odyssey used a technique called “aerobraking” that gradually brought the spacecraft closer to Mars with each orbit. By using the atmosphere of Mars to slow down the spacecraft in its orbit, rather than firing its engine or thrusters, Odyssey was able to save more than 200 kilograms (440 lb) of propellant. Aerobraking ended in January, and Odyssey began its science mapping mission on February 19, 2002. It is currently in a polar orbit around Mars with an altitude of about 3,800 km or 2,400 miles.
2009 – Say hi to Phil…
Phil Torrone (Senior Editor @ MAKE) and I work on many projects together and many parts of the Adafruit business – you may have noticed some new things going on here at Adafruit with Phil’s fingerprints on them. Phil will also be guest posting on the adafruit blog, his posts will either be from him as “pt” or as “adafruit” our shared publishing account here, say hi!