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A look back at the most memorable tech-related happenings of 1990.
Back in 1990
Network World’s annual roundup of the year’s “25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries” this time includes the debuts of the Hubble Space Telescope, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft PowerPoint, IMDb and the EFF. Not to mention Archie and TED.
Cisco goes public
Cisco Systems went public on Feb. 16, 1990 and was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange with a market capitalization of $224 million, an amount known today at the company as a rounding error.
Hubble placed into orbit
Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on April 14, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has taken billions and billions of really cool pictures. It’s also the only telescope that has been fixed in space by astronauts.
Adobe releases Photoshop 1.0
Developed by Thomas and John Knoll, graphics editing software Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was released on Feb. 19, 1990 … and ever since we have been unable to trust our own eyes.
Human Genome Project founded
From the National Human Genome Research Institute’s website: “The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the great feats of exploration in history - an inward voyage of discovery rather than an outward exploration of the planet or the cosmos; an international research effort to sequence and map all of the genes - together known as the genome - of members of our species, Homo sapiens. Completed in April 2003, the HGP gave us the ability, for the first time, to read nature's complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.”
Paleontologist finds T-rex ‘Sue’
On Aug. 12, 1990, remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex were discovered on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Nicknamed Sue, after the paleontologist Sue Hendrickson who made the discovery, it is considered the most complete T-rex specimen ever found.
Corbató wins Turing Award
American computer scientist Fernando J. Corbató won the Turing Award "for his pioneering work in organizing the concepts and leading the development of the general-purpose, large-scale, time-sharing and resource-sharing computer systems.” In the 1960s, Corbató had played a role in deploying the first known computer password.
Electronic Frontier Foundation founded
From the group’s website: “The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.”
SR-71 Blackbird’s final flight
At 2,124 mph, it was a humdinger. A strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the SR-71 screamed from Palmdale, Calif., to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia in only an hour, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, a record. It’s on display at the Smithsonian Institution 's National Air and Space Museum.
‘Archie’ finds FTP files
From Wikipedia: " ‘Archie’ is a tool for indexing FTP archives, allowing people to find specific files. It is considered to be the first Internet search engine. The original implementation was written in 1990 by Alan Emtage and Peter J. Deutsch, then postgraduate students at McGill University in Montreal and Bill Heelan, who studied at Concordia University in Montreal and worked at McGill University at the same time.”
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) was launched on Oct. 16, 1990. Brainchild of British computer programmer Col Needham, now CEO, IMDb now lists more than 3 million movies, TV shows and video games.
Powerpoint slides onto scene
Love it or hate – and most of us hate it – Powerpoint made its official debut on May 22, 1990 as part of Microsoft Office. Windows 3.0 was released that same day.
Remembering ‘Total Recall’
Because Arnold. From IMDb: “Douglas Quaid is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories. But something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now the story really begins …”
The conference famous for its talks and known as TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design – became an annual event beginning in 1990. There are now more than 1,700 TED talks available for free at TED.com.
Scientific American Frontiers debuts
A PBS television series about technology, science and medicine, Scientific American Frontiers aired for 15 years. MIT professor Woodie Flowers was host until 1993, after which actor Alan Alda served in that capacity until the show ended in 2005.
Boeing delivers two new Air Force Ones
In 1990, the government took delivery of two Boeing VC-25As, highly customized 747-200B series aircraft. They have served presidents as Air Force One since then but they may be replaced as soon as 2017.
TI adds graphing calculator
In 1990, Texas Instruments introduced its first graphing calculator: the TI-81. Today the line continues to be more or less mandatory equipment for American schoolchildren, including my own.
MITers found iRobot
From the company’s website: “Founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists, iRobot designs and builds some of the world’s most important robots. … More than 10 million home robots have been sold worldwide, with the award-winning iRobot Roomba floor vacuuming robot leading the charge.”
U.S. decommissions ARPANET
Established in 1969, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was officially decommissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense on Feb. 28, 1990. The rest is the Internet.
More formally, Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies. You know it: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
Kevorkian assists in first suicide
Using a drug-delivery device he called a Thanatron, Jack Kevorkian, derided by some as Dr. Death, assisted in the suicide of a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. This was the first publicly acknowledged assisted suicide involving Kevorkian, who would later be convicted of second-degree murder and serve eight years in prison.
Technology failure exposes Milli Vanilli
In November of 1990, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences rescinded a Grammy Award garnered earlier that year by Milli Vanilli. The undoing of the pop duo had begun at an MTV concert where a skip in a recording of a song they were supposed to be singing revealed the performers to be lip syncing.
CIA launches ‘Misty’ spy satellite
From a 2001 NBC report: “‘The Wizards of Langley,’ a history of the CIA’s top-secret Directorate of Science and Technology, notes that the United States may have tried to hide the successful first launch of Misty by making it seem that the satellite had exploded before reaching its final orbit. The ruse fooled the American media — and, more importantly, the Soviet Union.”
Motorola releases ‘Wrist Watch Pager’
From a post on Motorola’s Pinterest page last summer: “Motorola and Timex Corporation jointly developed the Wrist Watch Pager. Combining a contemporary-styled watch with the features of a numeric pager, the device could store up to eight time-stamped notifications. While not a commercial success, the Wrist Watch Pager foreshadowed the growth of today’s market for wearable data technology.”
Apple introduces Macintosh Classic
Making its debut on Oct. 15, 1990, the Macintosh Classic was the first Mac to be priced at less than $1,000, as in a dollar less than $1,000. It was discontinued in 1993.
IBM splash include System/390
From the IBM Archives: “IBM makes its most comprehensive product announcement in 25 years by introducing the System/390 family consisting of 18 Enterprise System/9000 processors ranging from midrange computers for office environments to the most powerful computers IBM has ever offered.”
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