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September 13, 2016 AT 6:00 am

Time Travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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1755 – Oliver Evans, American inventor, engineer and businessman is born.

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Oliver Evans was an American inventor, engineer and businessman. A pioneer in the fields of automation, materials handling and steam power, Evans was one of the most prolific and influential inventors in the early years of the United States. He left behind a long series of accomplishments, most notably designing and building the first fully automated industrial process; the first high-pressure steam engine; and the first (albeit crude) amphibious vehicle and American automobile.

Born in Newport, Delaware, Evans received little formal education and in his mid-teens was apprenticed to a wheelwright. Going into business with his brothers, he worked for over a decade designing, building and perfecting an automated mill with devices such as bucket chains and conveyor belts. In doing so Evans designed a continuous process of manufacturing that required no human labor. This novel concept would prove critical to the Industrial Revolution and the development of mass production. Later in life Evans turned his attention to steam power, and built the first high-pressure steam engine in the United States in 1801, developing his design independently of Richard Trevithick, who built the first in the world a year earlier. Evans was a driving force in the development and adoption of high-pressure steam engines in the United States. Evans dreamed of building a steam-powered wagon and would eventually construct and run one in 1805. Known as the Oruktor Amphibolos, it was the first automobile in the country and the world’s first amphibious vehicle, although it was too primitive to be a success as either.

Evans was a visionary who produced designs and ideas far ahead of their time. He was the first to describe vapor-compression refrigeration and propose a design for the first refrigerator in 1805, but it would be three decades until his colleague Jacob Perkins would be able to construct a working example. Similarly, he drew up designs for a solar boiler, machine gun, steam-carriage gearshift, dough-kneading machine, perpetual baking oven, marine salvage process, quadruple-effect evaporator and scheme for urban gas lighting; ideas and designs which would not be made reality until some time after his death. Evans had influential backers and political allies, but lacked social graces and was disliked by many of his peers. Disappointed and then angry at the perceived lack of recognition for his contributions, Evans became combative and bitter in later years, which damaged his reputation and left him isolated. Despite the import of his work, his contributions were frequently overlooked (or attributed to others after his death) so he never became a household name alongside the other steam pioneers of his era.

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1948 – Margaret Chase Smith is elected United States senator, and becomes the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

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Margaret Madeline Chase Smith was an American politician. A member of the Republican Party, she served as a U.S Representative (1940-1949) and a U.S. Senator (1949-1973) from Maine. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of the United States Congress, and the first woman to represent Maine in either. A moderate Republican, she is perhaps best remembered for her 1950 speech, “Declaration of Conscience,” in which she criticized the tactics of McCarthyism.

Smith was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1964 presidential election, but was the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party’s convention. Upon leaving office, she was the longest-serving female Senator in history, a distinction that was not surpassed until January 5, 2011, when Senator Barbara Mikulski was sworn in for a fifth term. To date, Smith is ranked as the longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate. (If Susan Collins, who holds Smith’s former Senate seat, completes her current term, she will tie Smith for that title.)

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1956 – The IBM 305 RAMAC is introduced, the first commercial computer to use disk storage.

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The IBM 305 RAMAC was the first commercial computer that used a moving-head hard disk drive (magnetic disk storage) for secondary storage. The system was publicly announced on September 13, 1956, with test units already installed at the U.S. Navy and at private corporations. RAMAC stood for “Random Access Method of Accounting and Control”, as its design was motivated by the need for real-time accounting in business.

The first RAMAC to be used in the U.S. auto industry was installed at Chrysler’s MOPAR Division in 1957. It replaced a huge tub file which was part of MOPAR’s parts inventory control and order processing system. The 305 was one of the last vacuum tube computers that IBM built. It weighed over a ton. The IBM 350 disk system stored 5 million alphanumeric characters recorded as 6 data bits, 1 parity bit and one space bit for 8 bits recorded per character. It had fifty 24-inch-diameter (610 mm) disks. Two independent access arms moved up and down to select a disk, and in and out to select a recording track, all under servo control. Average time to locate a single record was 600 milliseconds. Several improved models were added in the 1950s. The IBM RAMAC 305 system with 350 disk storage leased for US$3,200 (equivalent to $26,961 in 2015) per month. More than 1,000 systems were built. Production ended in 1961; the RAMAC computer became obsolete in 1962 when the IBM 1405 Disk Storage Unit for the IBM 1401 was introduced, and the 305 was withdrawn in 1969.

The original 305 RAMAC computer system could be housed in a room of about 9 m (30 ft) by 15 m (50 ft); the 350 disk storage unit measured around 1.5 square metres (16 sq ft). The first hard disk unit was shipped September 13, 1956. The additional components of the computer were a card punch, a central processing unit, a power supply unit, an operator’s console/card reader unit, and a printer. There was also a manual inquiry station that allowed direct access to stored records. IBM touted the system as being able to store the equivalent of 64,000 punched cards.

Programming the 305 involved not only writing machine language instructions to be stored on the drum memory, but also almost every unit in the system (including the computer itself) could be programmed by inserting wire jumpers into a plugboard control panel.

During the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley (USA), IBM provided the first electronic data processing systems for the Games. The system featured an IBM RAMAC 305 computer, punched card data collection, and a central printing facility.

Currie Munce, research vice president for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (which has acquired IBM’s hard disk drive business), stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that the RAMAC unit weighed over a ton, had to be moved around with forklifts, and was delivered via large cargo airplanes. According to Munce, the storage capacity of the drive could have been increased beyond five megabytes, but IBM’s marketing department at that time was against a larger capacity drive, because they didn’t know how to sell a product with more storage.

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1985 – Super Mario Bros. is released in Japan for the NES, which starts the Super Mario series of platforming games.

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Super Mario Bros. is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo as a pseudo-sequel to the 1983 game, Mario Bros. It was originally released in Japan for the Family Computer on September 13, 1985, and later that year for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America and Europe on May 15, 1987, and Australia later in 1987.

It is the first of the Super Mario series of games. In Super Mario Bros., the player controls Mario and in a two-player game, a second player controls Mario’s brother Luigi as he travels through the Mushroom Kingdom in order to rescue Princess Toadstool from the antagonist Bowser.

In 2005, IGN’s poll named the “pioneering” and “highly influential” title as the “greatest game of all time”, considering it to have aided in resurrecting the crashed American video game market of the 1980s. The game’s mid-1980s release served to further popularize the side-scrolling subgenre of the already popular platform video game genre of the early 1980s. In addition to its definitive features, the game has also sold enormously well, and was the best-selling game of all time for a single platform for approximately three decades at over 40 million units, until Nintendo’s Wii Sports took that title. The commercial success of Super Mario Bros. has caused it to be ported to almost every one of Nintendo’s major gaming consoles. Nintendo released special red variants of the Wii and Nintendo DSi XL consoles in re-packaged, Mario-themed, limited edition bundles in late 2010 as part of the 25th anniversary of the game’s release.

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2013 – Adafruit releases the Gemma!

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Happy 3rd birthday to the Adafruit Gemma!


2015 – How DIY electronics startup Adafruit Industries became a multimillion-dollar company @IEEEInstitute #makerbusiness

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How DIY Electronics Startup Adafruit Industries Became a Multimillion-Dollar Company – IEEE – The Institute. Our Ladyada hits the cover of the magazine as well, wow! The Institute is the world’s largest technical professional society, IEEE.

Engineering and entrepreneurship in many ways go hand in hand. IEEE members have for decades been at the forefront of turning their ideas into successful businesses. In this issue, we present IEEE’s efforts to attract more entrepreneurial types to the organization and to support members’ ventures through online resources, networking events, and more. A venture capitalist whose companies have never failed shares his advice with engineers who want to turn their business or product ideas into reality. We also feature several members behind some of today’s hottest startups and delve into the humble beginnings of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and other multibillion-dollar companies.

Meet IEEE Member Limor Fried. Her do-it-yourself electronics company for hobbyists has carved out a category all its own and is worth millions. Through the new IEEE entrepreneur initiative, the organization hopes to attract more members like Fried who are developing engineer-inspired ventures.

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