Milestones in the history of technology

Newsletter Subscription

Keep up with new content on the site, receive exclusive content and commentary, and learn about activities within the Straight Talk community.

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

March 2, 1791

The Chappe brothers send the message “si vous réussissez, vous serez bientôt couverts de gloire” (if you succeed, you will soon bask in glory) between Brulon and Parce, a distance of ten miles, over their optical telegraph, using a combination of black and white panels, clocks, telescopes, and codebooks. 

March 4, 1840

Alexander S. Wolcott and John Johnson open the first commercial photography studio in New York.  Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine described Wolcott as having “nearly revolutionized the whole process of Daguerre… [who] as is well known, could not succeed in taking likenesses from the life, and, in fact, but few objects were perfectly represented by him, unless positively white, and in broad sunlight. By means of a concave mirror, in place of ordinary lens, Mr. W. has succeeded in taking miniatures from the living subject, with absolute exactness, and in a very short space of time.”

March 5, 1839

Samuel F. B. Morse and Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre meet in Daguerre’s studio, in Paris, France. Morse, a celebrated portrait painter, wrote to his brother: “[The Daguerreotype] is one of the most beautiful discoveries of the age…. they resemble aquatint engravings, for they are in simple chiaro-oscuro and not in colors. But the exquisite minuteness of the delineation cannot be conceived. No painting or engraving ever approached it. … The impressions of interior views are Rembrandt perfected.”

March 5, 1975

The Homebrew Computer Club meets for the first time, with 32 “enthusiastic people” attending. It was started by Gordon French and Fred Moore who met at the Community Computer Center in Menlo Park. They both were interested in maintaining a regular, open forum for people to get together to work on making computers more accessible to everyone. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak showed off at the club prototypes of the Apple I and Apple II computers.

March 6, 1997

The first-ever nationally televised awards ceremony devoted to the Internet is broadcast. 700 people attended the first year of the annual Webby Award event at Bimbo’s Night Club in San Francisco.

March 8, 2002

The lawsuit that was filed by Random House against e-book publisher Rosetta Books for acquiring titles directly from authors, is decided in favor of Rosetta Books. The court’s decision paved the way for authors to publish their work electronically, independent of their print publishers.

March 10, 1891

Almon Brown Strowger is issued a patent for his electromechanical switch to automate telephone exchanges. The first automatic switchboard was installed in La Porte, Indiana, in 1892, but they did not become widespread until the 1930s. Anticipating future reactions to some of the inventions of the computer age, shifting work to the users was not received enthusiastically by them. But AT&T’s top-notch propaganda machine got over that inconvenience by predicting that before long, more operators would be needed than there were young girls suitable for the job.

March 11, 1811

The first Luddite attack in which knitting frames were actually smashed occurs in the Nottinghamshire village of Arnold. Kevin Binfield in Writings of the Luddites: “The grievances consisted, first, of the use of wide stocking frames to produce large amounts of cheap, shoddy stocking material that was cut and sewn rather than completely fashioned and, second, of the employment of ‘colts,’ workers who had not completed the seven-year apprenticeship required by law.”

March 13, 1970

The PDP-11 minicomputer is introduced by the Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC). It will remain in active production until 1996, and during the course of its production, it will be one of the most popular 16-bit minicomputers ever produced.

March 14, 1956

The first practical commercial black-and-white video recorder is demonstrated at the NARTB (later the NAB) broadcast convention in Chicago, Illinois and simultaneously in Redwood City, California. The VR-1000 from the Ampex Corporation of Redwood City is roughly the size of a chest freezer with five additional six foot racks of circuitry. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) will purchase three of the video recorders later in the year, each of which will cost $75,000.

March 15, 1985

The first Internet domain name, symbolics.com, is registered.  

March 18, 1909

Einar Dessau of Denmark employs a shortwave transmitter to converse with a government radio post about six miles away in what is believed to have been the first broadcast by a ‘ham’ radio operator.

March 22, 1895

Auguste and Louis Lumières hold their first private screening of projected motion pictures.

March 25, 1857

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville receives a patent for the Phonautograph, the first device to record sound.  He made sound recordings in order to analyze sound visually, not to play them back. But in 2008, audio historians and recording engineers succeeded in playing sound recordings made by de Martinville in 1860 and posted them online.

March 31, 1951

A ceremony in Philadelphia marks the first sale—to the U.S. Census Bureau—of the UNIVAC I, the first commercial computer developed in the U.S.