June in the history of technology

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

June 1, 1869

Thomas Edison of Boston, Massachusetts, is granted his first patent (US No. 90,646) for an “electrographic vote recorder.” Edison wrote in his patent application: “The object of my invention is to produce an apparatus which records and registers in an instant—and with great accuracy—the votes of legislative bodies, thus avoiding loss of valuable time consumed in counting and registering the votes and names, as done in the usual manner.”

June 3, 1880

Alexander Graham Bell's assistant transmits a wireless voice telephone message from the roof of the Franklin School to the window of Bell's laboratory, some 213 meters (about 700 ft.) away in Washington DC. Bell told a reporter shortly before his death that the photophone, transmitting speech on a beam of light, was "the greatest invention [I have] ever made, greater than the telephone."

June 5, 2002

The Mozilla Organization makes publicly available the Mozilla 1.0 browser suite. The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite’s software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox.

June 6, 1995

William D. Montalbano at the Los Angeles Times reports on Father Leonard Boyle, the director of the Apostolic Vatican Library, who is "bringing the computer to the Middle Ages and the Vatican library to the world." The library on the Web, says Boyle, “will last forever.” More than 4400 manuscripts have been digitized to date and the goal of the Digita Vaticana Onlus project is to digitize all 80,000 manuscripts in the library.

June 9, 1922

Joseph Tykociński-Tykociner, University of Illinois's first research professor of engineering, publicly demonstrates for the first time a motion picture with a soundtrack optically recorded directly onto the film. In the first sounds ever publicly heard from a composite image-and-audio film, Helena Tykociner, the inventor's wife, spoke the words, "I will ring," and then rang a bell. Next, Ellery Paine, head of the university's Department of Electrical Engineering, recited the Gettysburg Address.

June 10, 1952

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) computer, in development since the spring of 1946, is officially dedicated. Michael Williams writes in A History of Computing Technology: “It was quite small by the standards of the day, measuring only 6 feet long, 8 feet high, and 2 feet wide… the performance of the machine set the design standard for the very fast parallel computers of the future, and when people speak of the von Neumann architecture of a modern computer they are really describing the parallel data path of the IAS machine rather than anything that von Neumann did earlier.”

June 14, 1822

Charles Babbage reads a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society, entitled "Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables" in which he proposes the construction of the Difference Engine. Considered to be a pre-curser of modern computers, it was designed to speed-up the production of error-free mathematical tables, just as early modern computers did. In 1991, London’s Science Museum completed the construction of the first-ever working model of the Difference Engine, under the direction of Doron Swade and Alan Bromley.

June 14, 1941

John Mauchly meets John Atanasoff at Iowa State University. During the next five days, Mauchly learned everything he could about what became to be known as the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) which he first heard about when Atanasoff visited Philadelphia in December 1940. The ABC was the first electronic digital computing device but was never put to actual use because both Atanasoff and Berry left Iowa in 1942 to contribute to the war effort and did not resume the work after the war.

The significance of this meeting emerged years later when it became part of the evidence that led the judge in the case of Honeywell, Inc. v. Sperry Rand Corp., et al. to decide that the ENIAC patent was invalid, among other reasons, because “Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves invent the automatic electronic computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff.”

June 16, 1911

The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company is incorporated. It changed its name to IBM in 1924.

June 16, 1977

Software Development Laboratories (SDL) is incorporated in Santa Clara, California, by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oates. It changed its name to Relational Software, Inc. (RSI) in 1979 and again to Oracle Systems Corporation in 1982. Since 1995, it has been known as Oracle Corporation.

June 18, 1908

Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton publishes a letter in the journal Nature titled “Distant Electric Vision” in which he envisioned television as it was developed three decades later. He wrote: “Possibly no photoelectric phenomenon at present known will provide what is required in this respect, but should something suitable be discovered, distant electric vision will, I think, come within the region of possibility.”

June 18, 1948

Columbia Records introduces the LP (long playing) record at a press conference in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

June 20, 1840

Samuel F.B. Morse receives a patent (US No. 1,647) for “Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals,” later known as “Morse code.”

June 21, 1948

The world’s first stored-program electronic digital computer successfully executes its first program. F.C. Williams who designed and built (with Tom Kilburn) the Small Scale Experimental Machine (later nicknamed “Baby”), described the first successful run:

“A program was laboriously inserted and the start switch pressed. Immediately the spots on the display tube entered a mad dance. In early trials it was a dance of death leading to no useful result, and what was even worse, without yielding any clue as to what was wrong. But one day it stopped, and there, shining brightly in the expected place, was the expected answer. It was a moment to remember. This was in June 1948, and nothing was ever the same again.”

June 25, 1876

Alexander Graham Bell gives a public demonstration of his new invention, the telephone, at the Centennial Exhibition, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Steven Lubar in InfoCulture: “Bell demonstrated three induction telephones to a select jury that included Sir William Thomson, perhaps the best-known British electrical scientist and Dom Pedro, emperor of Brazil. It made an enormous hit: Dom Pedro expressed everyone’s astonishment with the new machine by exclaiming (so legend has it), ‘My God, it talks!’”

June 26, 1974

A Universal Product Code (UPC) label is used to ring up purchases at a supermarket for the first time. The first UPC ever scanned (with the help of a NCR scanner) is on a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum (now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History), which was purchased at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio.  Stephen A . Brown in Revolution at the Checkout Counter: The Explosion of the Bar Code: “The opening of the March store is very important from a historical perspective. By no means, however, did it signify the success of the U.P.C. Several years would pass before it became obvious that scanning would become widespread. In the interim, a number of doubters publicly proclaimed the failure of the U.P.C…  By 1976, BusinessWeek was eulogizing ‘The Supermarket Scanner that Failed.’”

June 30, 1945

John von Neumann distributes a 101-page document titled “First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC.” Campbell-Kelly and Aspray call it in Computer: A History of the Information Machine, “the technological basis for the worldwide computer industry.” In The History of Modern Computing, Paul Ceruzzi says it “is often cited as the founding document of modern computing.”