Today in Geek History for November

November 2

1815: George Boole was born in Lincoln England. He was a mathematician and schoolteacher famous for An Investigation of the Laws of Thought. His method of formal logic (defining statements as True or False) has been a cornerstone in computer programming and hardware design since the 1940’s. This type of Algebra in which all values are reduced to either True or False was named Boolean logic. Anyone care for an intriguing round of Knights and Knaves??? Yes, I am a Geek to the nth degree.

1988: Robert Morris, Jr. launched one of the first worms into the Internet. His intentions were to perform an experiment to gage the size of the Internet. However, he ended up crashing computer systems nationwide including many used in universities, military sites, and medical research facilities. His worm also crippled the Internet itself as the decision was made to partition the Internet and many regional networks chose to disconnect altogether while repairs were being made. Morris was the first person to be indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His father was the chief scientist at the National Computer Security Center, a department of the NSA. He is now a tenured professor at MIT. Interestingly, he was a student at Cornell at the time he secretly released this worm from a system at MIT.

November 9

1979: NORAD computers detected a massive Soviet nuclear strike and national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, received a call in the middle of the night about the impending doom. It was discovered however that this was a false alarm thrown by an overworked computer system and a faulty security test. There were several other false alarms; however, human safeguards caught each one.
Anybody remember War Games? “Want to play a game???”
For more scary insights to today’s fact, you can check out The National Security Archive.

2004: Mozilla’s Firefox 1.0 was released. Mozilla’s mission has always been “to preserve choice and innovation on the Internet.” The foundations of Firefox were laid on the source code of the Netscape Communicator software. Netscape was the Internet’s first widely used browser.

November 12

1980: Voyager I passes within 77,000 miles of Saturn’s south pole. It sends back our first up-close images of Saturn’s rings.

VGER or Veejer
“On its journey back, it amassed so much knowledge, it achieved consciousness itself. It became a living thing.”
James T. Kirk from Star Trek: The Motion Picture

1981: NASA launches Space Shuttle Columbia as STS-2. This was the first spacecraft to be reused on a second mission. Its crew included Commander Joe H. Engle and Pilot Richard H. Truly. Commander Engle manually flew the re-entry from Mach 24 throughout the entire approach and landing. He is the only shuttle pilot to have done so – as a test of the of the shuttle’s stability and controls limits.

1982: According to Twin Galaxies: Doug Nelson sets the high score for Pac-Man at the Fun Factory arcade in Bakersfield, California. His winning score: 9,980,420.
I think I’ve got Pac-Mac Fever!!
1990: World Wide Web: Proposal for a HyperText Project was released by Tim Berners-Lee. This proposal outlined Berners-Lee’s vision for what soon became the World Wide Web. He completed a web browser three months later and three months after that, the WWW became operational.

November 17

1978: The two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special aired for the first and only time on the CBS network. It was a very campy program that showcased Chewbacca and Han Solo visiting Chewy’s home world for Life Day. Although it was never officially released, it became highly boot-legged by Star Wars fans.
2005: Mark Russinovich of Winternals warns that software released by Sony meant to uninstall the XCP rootkit (that they previously released on about 22 million CD’s) would create further vulnerabilities.
That’s right kids, Sony placed a nasty bit of software on CD’s they produced after their merger with BMG. This was their answer to Napster; however, their software was malicious in that it hid itself on people’s computers and even though some users may have refused the EULA terms, the software would still “phone home” and spy on customer’s listening preferences.

*Side note: Mark Russinovich is the author of several great cyberterrorism novels. My favorite so far is Zero Day. The opening of this book describes an act of cyberterrorism that causes an airliner’s controls to fail mid-flight. Very scary stuff…..

November 23

1964: The BBC launched a new SciFi show called Doctor Who. We are now on the 12th Doctor. Long live the Time Lords!
1992: Business Week announces that the computer business is “on the skids.” The year had seen numerous layoffs at companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems. The article concluded that there would need to be a reshuffling of the deck and each business would need to find its own specialty. Whew! Glad that worked out!
19??: My mom, Gaylene, was born and while she has been technology challenged most of her life; she is responsible for unleashing a geek/nerd of epic proportions into public. (me – Hi Mom! Happy Birthday!)

November 30

1886: George Westinghouse, with the help of Nikola Tesla, opens the first commercial alternating current power plant in Buffalo, NY. AC current can be transmitted further than DC current and is equally safe even though Edison publicly executed an elephant to try to prove Tesla wrong. Long Live Tesla!

1955: A boy living in Colorado Springs transfixed the last two numbers of a Santa hotline set up for kids during the holiday season. His phone call connected with Combat Operations Center of the Continental Air Defense Command. COC Commander Col. Harry Shoup, thinking this was a prank call, roughly answered “There may be a guy called Santa Clause at the North Pole, but he’s not the one I worry about coming from that direction.” CONAD and NORAD decided to turn the event into good PR by starting their annual tracking of Santa’s Sleigh every Christmas. During those earliest Christmas trips during the Cold War, children were assured that Santa would be kept safe “against possible attack from those do not believe in Christmas.”

1983: Radio Shack unveils the Tandy TRS-80 Model 2000 computer at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas. Some of its selling points included: a smoking hot 8MHz Intel 80186 processor, 128KB RAM, two 720KB disk drives, and the MS-DOS 2.0 operating system. The base price was US$2,750 (not including monitor) and you could upgrade it by adding a 10 MB hard drive for $250. If you wanted to add color, you could opt for a color graphics card at $750 (the optional monochrome graphics card was $450) and an optional color monitor for $800. And if you really wanted to soup it up, you could add an extra 128KB RAM for $300. That is a whole lot of options! It makes you think twice about that ‘slow’ computer you have at home.

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