April milestones in the history of technology

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The highlights of what happened in April in the unfolding story of technological innovations, ventures, and personalities.

April 1, 1976

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne sign a partnership agreement that established the company that will become Apple Computer, Inc. on January 3, 1977. (Wayne left the company eleven days later, relinquishing his ten percent share for $2,300).

April 1, 1985

Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant launch The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), one of the first online communities which had a far-reaching impact on the nascent culture of the Internet.

April 1, 2004

Google launches Gmail, as an invitation-only beta. The launch was initially met with wide-spread skepticism due to Google’s long-standing tradition of April Fools’ jokes. Google’s press release said: “Google Gets the Message and Launches Gmail. A user complaint about existing email services lead Google to create search-based Webmail. Search is number two online activity and email is number one: ‘Heck, Yeah,’ said Google Founders.” Gmail officially exited beta status on July 7, 2009 at which time it had 170 million users worldwide. On February 1, 2016, Google announced Gmail has more than 1 billion active monthly users.  

April 2, 1902

The first American theater devoted solely to movies opens in Los Angeles. Admission to the 200-seat "Electric Theater" was a dime

April 3, 1973

Martin Cooper makes the first mobile phone call, using an early model of Motorola’s DynaTAC phone, a phone weighing 2.5 pounds, measuring 9 inches long and 5 inches deep, and featuring about 20 minutes of battery life.

April 4, 1975

Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft in Albuquerque. New Mexico, the home of MITS, the company which developed the Altair 8800 PC for which they wrote a version of the BASIC programming language.

April 4, 1994

Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark incorporate the Mosaic Communications Corporation, which will later be renamed Netscape Communications Corporation. It released its first product, Mosaic Netscape 0.9, the first widely popular Web browser, in October 1994. Netscape had a successful IPO on August 9, 1995, marking the start of what later will be called “the Dot-Com Bubble.”

April 7, 1927

AT&T demonstrates television for the first time, as the live picture and voice of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover are transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C., to New York.

“Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history,” Hoover said. “Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

April 11, 1936

German civil engineer and early computer pioneer Konrad Zuse files for a patent on the automatic execution of calculations, a process that will become central to the Z-1, Germany’s first computer.

April 12, 1996

Public shares of Yahoo! are offered in the company’s initial public offering (IPO).The shares, which were initially offered at $13, trade for as much as U$43 before settling at $33 at the close of market, valuing the company at $1.1. billion.

April 14, 1894

The first commercial exhibition of motion pictures in history is given in New York City, using ten Kinetoscopes.  Though not a movie projector—it was designed for films to be viewed individually through the window of a cabinet housing its components—Edison’s Kinetoscope introduced the basic approach that would become the standard for all cinematic projection before the advent of video: it creates the illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images over a light source with a high-speed shutter.

April 16, 1975

Sony launches the Betamax videocassette format in Japan. Sony’s corporate history explains the origins of the name: “‘Beta’ is the Japanese word used to describe the way signals were recorded onto the tape. From this sprung the idea of using the word ‘beta.’ [In addition,] the tape path in the new loading system closely resembled the Greek letter beta, when seen from above. This symbol is associated with good luck and can be construed as a drawn out pronunciation of the English word ‘better.’ ‘Max,’ an abbreviation of the word ‘maximum’ was intended to impart a meaning of grandness, and was then added to the end. The name ‘Betamax’ was born.”

April 17, 1977

On the second day of the West Coast Computer Faire, Apple Computer formally introduces the Apple II, Apple’s first popular personal computer, shortly after the company’s one year anniversary. 

April 18, 1983

Osborne Computer introduces The Osborne Executive portable computer, featuring 128KB RAM, a 7-inch amber monitor, a detachable keyboard, and two 204KB 5.25-inch disk drives. Price: $2,495. Weight: 28lb.

April 20, 1951

MIT’s Whirlwind computer first comes online. It was the first computer that operated in real time and used video displays (cathode-ray tubes) for output. In the 1950s, Whirlwind became the prototype for a series of computers that enabled the air force to build a sophisticated air defense system, the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment or SAGE.

April 22, 2008

Seagate announces that it has shipped one billion hard drives since its founding in 1979, becoming the first hard drive manufacturer to reach the milestone. All told, the drives which it has already shipped would have a total capacity of roughly 79 million terabytes.

April 25,1961

Robert Noyce is granted a patent for a “Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure,” a type of integrated circuit made of Silicon. Integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronic equipment today and have revolutionized the world of electronics. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip was an enormous improvement over the manual assembly of circuits using electronic components. The integrated circuit’s mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors.

April 27, 1981

Xerox introduced the Xerox 8010 Star Information System, featuring a bitmapped screen, Ethernet, a computer mouse, a laser printer, the Smalltalk language, a WYSIWYG word processor, and software for combining text and graphics in the same document. It failed in the marketplace, but raised expectations and laid important groundwork for the computers of today.

April 28, 2003

Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. The store sold more than 1 million tracks in its first five days and became the biggest music vendor in the U.S. five years later.

April 29, 1980

Data General (DG) introduces the Eclipse MV/8000 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Known internally as Project Eagle, the 2-year development of the 32-bit “super-minicomputer,” the engineers working on it, and the parallel (and eventually, failed) development of a competing DG product, became the subject of Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Soul of a New Machine, published in 1981.  

April 30, 1993

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research where Tim Berners-Lee has invented the World Wide Web, announces that it is putting the software in the public domain.  This has made the World Wide Web an open and free platform, letting millions of applications bloom.