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November milestones in the unfolding story of technological innovations, ventures, and personalities.
November 1, 1870: The U.S. Weather Bureau makes its first meteorological observations using 24 locations that provided reports via telegraph. For the first time, weather observations from distant points could be “rapidly” collected, plotted, and analyzed at one location.
November 2, 1988: Robert T. Morris, a computer science graduate student at Cornell University, releases a self-replicating computer worm on ARPANET (a predecessor of the Internet) and, unwittingly, launches what will become the cybersecurity industry, a $75 billion market in 2015.
The worm was part of a research project meant to determine the size of the Internet by infecting UNIX systems in order to count the number of existing connections. Because of a programming error, the worm began infecting machines repeatedly, causing clogged networks and system crashes. It became the first worm to spread extensively “in the wild,” the first worm to receive extensive media coverage, and one of the first programs to exploit a buffer overrun vulnerability.
Morris was dismissed from Cornell, sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $10,000. He eventually became a tenured professor at MIT.
November 3, 1983: Fred Cohen, a student at the University of Southern California School of Engineering, conceives of the first computer virus to be labeled a “virus” (which unlike “worms” require the spreading of an infected host file) as an experiment to be presented at a weekly seminar on computer security. Four years later, Cohen published a demonstration that there is no algorithm that can perfectly detect all possible viruses.
November 4, 1937
Today in 1937, Howard Aiken, an instructor in the Department of Physics at Harvard University, having been turned down by the leading manufacturer of calculators (the Monroe Calculating Machine Company), submitted a proposal to IBM, titled “Proposed Automatic Calculating Machine.” I. Bernard Cohen in Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer: “Soon thereafter, the engineers at IBM and the Harvard authorities began to refer to the machine as a ‘calculating plant.’ That, in fact, was the name IBM used in its contract with Harvard.”
Aiken’s conceived of this first computer, which became to be known as the Harvard Mark I, as a tool to aid in scientific calculations.
November 4, 1952: Two of the major television networks use computers for the first time to predict the results of the presidential election. CBS used a Univac computer weighing 25,000 lbs., while NBC opted for Monrobot, a smaller “electronic brain.” In contrast, ABC’s News Director John Madigan professed a disdain for such gimmicks, declaring: “We’ll report our results through Elmer Davis, John Daly, Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson—and about 20 other human brains,” according to Time Magazine.
November 11, 1997: IBM announces the first high-capacity desktop PC disk drive with a new breakthrough technology called Giant Magnetoresistive (GMR) heads, which enabled the further miniaturization of disk drives. The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg for the discovery of the GMR effect in 1988.
November 12, 1936: Alan Turing delivers to the London Mathematical Society his paper “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” In the paper, Turing described the Universal Machine, later to be known as the Turing Machine, an idealized computing device that is capable of performing any mathematical computation that can be represented as an algorithm. In subsequent decades, it became a conceptual framework for modern computers.
November 17, 1970: Douglas Engelbart receives a patent for his invention of the first computer mouse. Early models had a cord attached to the rear part of the device looking like a tail, resembling a mouse.
November 20, 1963: The MIT student newspaper reports that many telephone services have been curtailed “because of so-called hackers,” the earliest known use of the term.
November 21, 2005: Cyber Monday is born with Shop.org announcing in a press release “‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year.” According to Shop.org/BizRate Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, 77% of online retailers said that their sales “increased substantially” the previous year on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
November 22, 1995: Toy Story opened in U.S. theaters, the first feature-film to be made entirely with computer-generated imagery (CGI).