1736 – James Watt, British chemist and engineer is born.
James Watt was a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist whose Watt steam engine, an improvement of the Newcomen steam engine, was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.
While working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, Watt became interested in the technology of steam engines. He realised that contemporary engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder. Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Eventually he adapted his engine to produce rotary motion, greatly broadening its use beyond pumping water.
Watt attempted to commercialise his invention, but experienced great financial difficulties until he entered a partnership with Matthew Boulton in 1775. The new firm of Boulton and Watt was eventually highly successful and Watt became a wealthy man. In his retirement, Watt continued to develop new inventions though none was as significant as his steam engine work. He died in 1819 at the age of 83.
He developed the concept of horsepower, and the SI unit of power, the watt, was named after him.
1883 – The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begins service at Roselle, New Jersey.
On January 19, 1883, the world’s first electric lighting system employing overhead wires began service in Roselle, and was built by Thomas Edison to demonstrate that an entire community could be lit by electricity. The First Presbyterian Church, located on the corner of West 5th Avenue and Chestnut Street, was the first church in the world to be lit by electricity.
1915 – Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.
The terms “neon light” and “neon sign” are now often applied to electrical lighting incorporating sealed glass tubes filled with argon, mercury vapor, or other gases instead of neon. In 1915 a U.S. patent was issued to Claude covering the design of the electrodes for neon lights; this patent became the strongest basis for the monopoly held in the U.S. by his company, Claude Neon Lights, through the early 1930s.
1948 – Nancy Lynch, American computer scientist and academic is born.
Nancy Ann Lynch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering in the EECS department and heads the Theory of Distributed Systems research group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
She is the author of numerous research articles about distributed algorithms and impossibility results, and about formal modeling and validation of distributed systems (see, e.g., input/output automaton). She is the author of the graduate textbook “Distributed Algorithms”. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and an ACM Fellow.
1959 – Danese Cooper, American computer scientist and programmer is born.
Danese Cooper is an American advocate of open source software.
Cooper has managed teams at Symantec and Apple Inc. and for six years served as chief open source “evangelist” for Sun Microsystems before leaving to serve as senior director for open source strategies at Intel. In 2009 she worked as “Open Source Diva” at REvolution Computing (now Revolution Analytics). She is a board member of the Drupal Association and the Open Source Hardware Association. She is a board observer at Mozilla, and serves as a member of the Apache Software Foundation. She was a board member at Open Source Initiative. In February 2014, Cooper joined PayPal as their first Head of Open Source.
Cooper’s major work within the open source area of computer software has garnered her the nickname “Open Source Diva”. She was recruited, while at a sushi bar in Cupertino, to a position at Sun working towards opening the source code to Java. Within six months she quit frustrated by the claims of open source development with Java that Sun made, only to find that little “open sourcing” was taking place. Sun sought to keep Cooper understanding her need to further open source software and re-hired her as their corporate open source officer. Her six years with Sun Microsystems is credited as the key to the company opening up its source code and lending support to Sun’s OpenOffice.org software suite, Oracle Grid Engine, among others. In 2009 she joined REvolution Computing, a “provider of open source predictive analytics solutions”, to work on community outreach amongst developers unfamiliar with the programming language R and general open source strategies. She has also made public speaking appearances discussing open sourcing, speaking at the Malaysian National Computer Confederation Open Source Compatibility Centre, OSCON, gov2.0 Expo, and the Southern California Linux Expo. In 2005 Cooper was a contributing author to Open Sources 2.0: The Continuing Evolution.
1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, is announced.
The Lisa is a personal computer that was designed by Apple Computer, Inc. during the early 1980s. It was one of the first personal computer to offer a graphical user interface in a machine aimed at individual business users. Development of the Lisa began in 1978. The Lisa sold poorly, with only 100,000 units sold.
In 1982, after Steve Jobs was forced out of the Lisa project, he joined the Macintosh project. The Macintosh is not a direct descendant of Lisa, although there are obvious similarities between the systems. The final revision, the Lisa 2/10, was modified and sold as the Macintosh XL.
The Lisa was a more advanced system than the Macintosh of this time in many respects, such as its inclusion of protected memory, cooperative multitasking, a generally more sophisticated hard disk based operating system, a built-in screensaver, an advanced calculator with a paper tape and RPN, support for up to 2 megabytes (MB) of RAM, expansion slots, a numeric keypad, data corruption protection schemes such as block sparing, non-physical file names (with the ability to have multiple documents with the same name), and a larger higher-resolution display. It would be many years before many of those features were implemented on the Macintosh platform. Protected memory, for instance, didn’t reappear in Apple products until the Mac OS X operating system was released in 2001. The Macintosh featured a faster 68000 processor (7.89 MHz) and sound, however, while the complexity of the Lisa operating system and its programs taxed the 5 MHz Motorola 68000 microprocessor so that consumers said it felt sluggish, particularly when scrolling in documents.
1986 – The first IBM PC computer virus is released into the wild. A boot sector virus dubbed (c)Brain, it was created by the Farooq Alvi Brothers in Lahore, Pakistan, reportedly to deter piracy of the software they had written.
Brain is the industry standard name for a computer virus that was released in its first form in January 1986, and is considered to be the first computer virus for MS-DOS. It infects the boot sector of storage media formatted with the DOS File Allocation Table (FAT) file system. Brain was written by two brothers, Basit Farooq Alvi and Amjad Farooq Alvi, from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.
2006 – The New Horizons probe is launched by NASA on the first mission to Pluto.
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program. Engineered by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), with a team led by S. Alan Stern, the spacecraft was launched with the primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system, and a secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).
On January 19, 2006, New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station directly into an Earth-and-solar escape trajectory with a speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). After a brief encounter with asteroid 132524 APL, New Horizons proceeded to Jupiter, making its closest approach on February 28, 2007, at a distance of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). The Jupiter flyby provided a gravity assist that increased New Horizons ’ speed; the flyby also enabled a general test of New Horizons ’ scientific capabilities, returning data about the planet’s atmosphere, moons, and magnetosphere.
Most of the post-Jupiter voyage was spent in hibernation mode to preserve on-board systems, except for brief annual checkouts. On December 6, 2014, New Horizons was brought back online for the Pluto encounter, and instrument check-out began. On January 15, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft began its approach phase to Pluto.
On July 14, 2015, at 11:49 UTC, it flew 12,500 km (7,800 mi) above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet. Having completed its flyby of Pluto, New Horizons has maneuvered for a flyby of Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, expected to take place on January 1, 2019, when it is 43.4 AU from the Sun.
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