25 geekiest 25th anniversaries of 2013

A look back at the most memorable tech-related happenings of 1988

Back in 1988
Back in 1988

Network World’s 7th annual collection of the year’s “25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries” includes the invention of Doppler Radar, the introduction of IBM’s AS/400, the scourge of the Morris worm, the publishing of Stephen Hawking’s "A Brief History of Time", as well as “America’s Finest News Source:” The Onion. Also, there was the addition to the lexicon of the phrases “global warming” and, sorry, “eating your own dog food.” When done feel free to take a look at the first six installments of this series: 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; and 2007.

“Eating your own dog food”
Credit: YouTube.com
“Eating your own dog food”

Eating your own dog food -- now a cliché used by businesses that translates loosely to “We use our own stuff” – is traced by some to 1970s TV commercials where actor Lorne Greene claimed he fed Alpo to his own pets. However, former VMWare CEO and ex-Microsoft exec Paul Maritz is credited with popularizing the phrase with a 1988 email to a colleague titled “Eating our own Dogfood.”

IBM’s AS/400
IBMs AS/400

Code-named “Silver Lake” and developed at IBM’s facility in Rochester, Minn., the AS/400 midrange computer family was introduced on June 21, 1988. It was renamed eServer iSeries in 2000.

The Morris Worm
Credit: YouTube.com
The Morris Worm

On Nov. 2, 1988, the Morris Worm became the first Internet worm to cause major damage and attract widespread attention from the mainstream media, such as this report (left) by the PBS affiliate station in Boston. The worm’s author, Robert Tappan Morris, was convicted of violating the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and sentenced to three years of probation.

A Brief History of Time
A Brief History of Time

First published in 1988, Stephen Hawking’s popular-science book "A Brief History of Time" has sold more than 10 million copies.

Doppler Radar
Doppler Radar

From the National Weather Service site: “The radar used by the National Weather Service is called the WSR-88D, which stands for Weather Surveillance Radar - 1988 Doppler (the prototype radar was built in 1988). As its name suggests, the WSR-88D is a Doppler radar, meaning it can detect motions toward or away from the radar as well as the location of precipitation areas. "This ability to detect motion has greatly improved the meteorologist's ability to peer inside thunderstorms and determine if there is rotation in the cloud, often a precursor to the development of tornadoes."

Timex Indiglo
Timex Indiglo

From the Smithsonian Institution site: “Timex received the patent for the Indiglo€ nightlight in 1988. The nightlight's bluish green light illuminates the entire dial of the watch evenly at the push of a button. The dial is coated with a compound of zinc sulfide mixed with copper, a substance which becomes luminescent when an electrical charge is applied. This layer is sandwiched between two conductive layers which act as electrodes. When the button is pushed, energy is supplied by the battery across the two electrodes, which in turn lights up the dial.”

First transatlantic fiber-optic cable
Credit: YouTube.com
First transatlantic fiber-optic cable

Called TAT-8 and built by a consortium led by AT&T, France Telecom and British Telecom, the 3,148-mile cable linked North America and France at a cost of $361 million. The dedication ceremony featured science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. A trial cable tested in 1983 in waters off the Canary Islands failed to carry shark protection, which triggered shark feeding frenzies and shark electrocutions, according to Wikipedia. If you wonder what a shark biting a cable might look like, watch the video.

Huawei
Credit: REUTERS/Darley Shen
Huawei

Now a source of competition for U.S. vendors and security concerns for the U.S. government, Chinese networking vendor Huawei was founded in 1988 by an ex-military officer.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
Mystery Science Theater 3000

I could pretend that I was cool enough to have been into this show, but I wasn’t, so here’s how it’s described by IMDb: “In the not too distant future, a man and his robots are trapped on the Satellite of love, where evil scientists force them to sit through the worst movies ever made.” It ran for 11 years and won a bunch of awards. This fan site has a “Today’s Riff” feature that seems like fun.

“Climate change”
“Climate change”

Although he didn’t coin the term on the spot, NASA scientist James Hansen was instrumental in bringing “climate change” into the American lexicon when he testified before a Senate committee in June of 1988.

Oncomouse
Oncomouse

No, not a computer peripheral. The Oncomouse, also known as the Harvard mouse, is a genetically modified lab animal that carries a specific gene called an activated oncogene. In 1988, its “inventors” were granted a patent. That patent expired in 2005.

Laserphaco Probe
Credit: YouTube.com
Laserphaco Probe

In May 1988, Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologic surgeon, received a patent on her invention, the Laserphaco Probe. From an MIT profile of Dr. Bath: “The Laserphaco Probe (is) a surgical tool that uses a laser to vaporize cataracts via a tiny, 1-millimeter insertion into a patient’s eye. After using the Laserphaco Probe to remove a cataract, the patient’s lens can be removed and a replacement lens inserted.” Video shows a 1987 TV news segment that includes an interview with Dr. Bath.

Eudora email client
Eudora email client

Developed in 1988 by Steve Dorner at the Computer Services Organization of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Eudora e-mail client was named after American author Eudora Welty, who wrote the popular short story “Why I Live at the P.O.” Development of the commercial version stopped in 2006, but Eudora OSE (Open Source Edition) 1.0 was released last September.

Space shuttle flights resume
Space shuttle flights resume

NASA’s space shuttle program had been grounded since the Challenger disaster of Jan. 28, 1986. From the NASA website: "On 29 September 1988, NASA Headquarters's officials were excited at the prospect of a successful return-to-flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. At 11:37 a.m., Discovery lifted off the launch pad and quickly accelerated out of sight to the relieved applause and yells of approval of the tens of thousands of spectators who gathered to wish the crew and NASA well. As the craft climbed into the blue sky, many members of the launch control team were filled with emotion, some moved to tears."

Richard Feynman dies
Credit: YouTube.com
Richard Feynman dies

A contributor to the Manhattan Project, Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Richard Feynman was renowned for his work in quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics, but will be remembered by some for his participation on the commission that investigated NASA’s 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and his use of a glass of ice water to demonstrate his key conclusion. In the video at left, Feynman explains how he was convinced to join that commission. Feynman died Feb. 15, 1988 at age 69.

Apple sues Microsoft and HP
Apple sues Microsoft and HP

This was The Great GUI Lawsuit of 1988. Apple alleged that Microsoft and HP ripped off the “look and feel” of Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. Four years later Apple had nothing but legal bills to show for the effort.

The Onion
The Onion

The Onion – self-proclaimed and undisputed as “America’s Finest News Source” – was founded by Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1988. (A couple years back we wrote about “How The Onion tackles tech.”)

The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988
The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988

Whatever your opinion of the 1987 “borking” of rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, the disclosure of his video rental habits at his confirmation hearing (left) led Congress to pass The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988. Theoretically, this means that what transpires between you and and the media rental service of your choice should stay private.

Business Software Alliance
Business Software Alliance

Depending on your point of view: The Business Software Alliance is a trade organization that represents software manufacturers and is dedicated to eradicating piracy and copyright infringement. Or it’s a trade organization representing software makers that strong-arms small businesses and exaggerates the scale of software piracy. Either way, it was founded 25 years ago.

Super Mario Bros 2
Credit: YouTube.com
Super Mario Bros 2

Wired writes: "American players had to wait about two years to play this oddball black-sheep game. Although it dramatically changed the Mario gameplay, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a beloved classic in its own right." Super Mario Bros 2 was released in the U.S. on Sept. 1, 1988.

Nintendo Power Pad
Credit: YouTube.com
Nintendo Power Pad

I’d say you had to be there, but truth is these can still be bought online. From Wikipedia: "The Power Pad accessory is laid out in front of the video display for various games, generally plugged into the second NES controller port, with players stepping on the large buttons to control gameplay. There are two illustrated sides to the pad: Side A, which is rarely used, has eight buttons, while side B has 12 buttons numbered from 1-12." What the guys in the video are doing with it I have no idea.

Plutonium-238
Plutonium-238

NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, left Earth last year carrying 8 pounds of Plutonium-238, which Curiosity, like many a space probe before it, uses to convert heat into electricity. The United States stopped making Plutonium-238 in 1988 and supplies have dwindled to dangerously low levels, endangering future space exploration, as explained in this NPR story.

Microsoft passes Lotus
Microsoft passes Lotus

There was a time when Lotus Development Corp. was the No. 1 software maker in the world. That time ended in 1988, when Lotus was surpassed by Microsoft.

Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver

From IMDb: “Jaime Escalante is a mathematics teacher in a school in a Hispanic neighborhood. Convinced that his students have potential, he adopts unconventional teaching methods to help gang members and no-hopers pass the rigorous Advanced Placement exam in calculus.”

Human-powered flight record
Human-powered flight record

From a Wired story about the latest attempt to break the 25-year-old record: "A team from MIT set the current world record in 1988 with its Daedalus, pedaled from the Greek Island of Crete to the island of Santorini. But in actuality, the pilot ended up about 20 feet short of the beach on Santorini, landing in the water after a small thermal updraft from the beach lifted a wing and turned the aircraft back over the water, where the pilot landed before swimming to shore."