This year's 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries
From AT&T to Woz's "US Festival," with DNS, TCP-IP, 1-2-3, Word, "WarGames" and even the first real mobile phone included: 1983 has a heckuva year in tech. A few have already received press attention, but only here can you find all 25 neatly assembled and alphabetized
FCC OKs first mobile phone: September 21, the US Federal Communications Commission gives its blessing to the Motorola DynaTac 8000x...and 10 minutes later some jerk is yapping on the thing in a movie theatre. It weighed almost 2 pounds and fetched US$4,000.
DNS spares us 184.108.40.206: Imagine a 'Net where impossible-to-remember IP addresses reigned instead of roll-off-the-tongue domain names. (No GoDaddy girls, for one thing.) Even 25 years ago, with only a few hundred machines connected, that was unappealing enough to produce the Domain Name System.
"The Right Stuff," all right: Inspirational story of the Mercury 7 astronauts. The book was better, but the movie wasn't bad. Won four Oscars. Tagline: "America was looking for a hero who had what it takes to become a legend. America found seven of them."
Lotus 1-2-3 spreads its wings: Not the first PC spreadsheet, but for a good run after its introduction on January 26, Lotus 1-2-3 was the green eye-shade of modern apps. Five years later, Excel begins to outsell...well, you know that story.
Dahon folds bike into briefcase: Maybe not a briefcase, but the first of what will be 3 million Dahon folding bicycles rolls off an assembly line in Taiwan. Brainchild of US physicist David Hon -- see the name thing going on there? -- the Dahon folder was conceived as a planet-saving response to the oil crisis of the 1970s.
Chillin' on "The Day After": We've always known that wartime technology will be the death of us, and so it was that "The Day After," a US TV movie, would come to be known as the script for the final chapter: nuclear war. And, sure enough, the survivors have it worse than those who get incinerated. Nuclear winter, anyone?
FBI nabs hubby-wife spy duo: James Harper, freelance electrical engineer, was married to Ruby Schuler, secretary to the president of ballistic-missiles contractor Systems Control. She swiped docs that he passed to the Polish government. They got caught after he got cold feet and tried to negotiate his way out.
Woz's "US Festival" wows 'em: Friends told Steve Wozniak that one was enough after he lost his shirt on the '82 event, but Woz would have none of that talk. The '83 fest featured The Clash, Van Halen, INXS, Ozzy, Bowie, and on Saturday, a Who's Who of country stars.
Galileo's ray of hope: Some 350 years after the man's demise, a papal-appointed Roman Catholic Church commission concludes that the Italian astronomer and physicist didn't deserve all the grief he got back in the day for seeing correctly what revolves around what.
TCP-IP rules: This was the year's first historical moment of geekiness, as the ARPANET went full-bore TCP-IP on January 1.
AT and T is born...kinda-sorta: Southwestern Bell, headquartered in the US. Later SBC. In 2005, SBC euthanizes the quivering mess that was the original AT and T, born 128 years earlier as Bell Telephone Co. No fools, they kept the name.
Pioneer 10 boldly goes: That's Neptune in the rear-view mirror, meaning that on June 13, Pioneer 10 became the first manmade bucket of bolts to bolt the solar system (although reading up on this reveals some dispute about definitions.)
Sally Ride's historic one: It was aboard Challenger, June 18. Ride, remember, was the first American woman in space, not the first woman, having been beaten to that honor by a pair of Russians.
US PC World boots up: A magazine about personal computers? On the newsstand right alongside Time, Newsweek, and, depending on where you live, Playboy? Must have seemed silly to many in 1983.
Modern plant biotech blooms: It was at a January meeting of genetic experts in the US -- you know how those things can get out of hand -- that three research teams independently reported having used Agrobacterium tumefaciens to transfer new genes into plant cells. And thus was born modern agricultural biotechnology.
'Nation at Risk' slapped upside the head: Concern that a poorly educated workforce was getting its butt kicked by foreign competition prompts US President Reagan to ask the National Commission on Excellence in Education to blue-ribbon the problem. Good thing they nipped that in the bud.
Lisa beats Mac to Steve's car keys: Sporting such novelties as a GUI and mouse, costing a prohibitive 10 grand, and destined to be short-lived (R.I.P., 1985), Apple's PC for business may be most memorable for having prodded Steve Jobs off its development team and over to the one producing MacIntosh.
"War Games" invades cinemas: From IMDB: "A young man finds a back door into a military central computer in which reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III."... Oopsie.
Osborne Computer flat-lines: First to market with a portable computer that came with bundled software -- and an enticing US$1,795 price tag -- Osborne fell victim to a combination of rising competition and inability to deliver on marketing promises. The bankruptcy alarm sounded September 13.
Nintendo invades Japan: Japanese kids got all the cool junk first back in the early '80s, so no surprise that the Nintendo Entertainment System was numbing young minds there for two years before making its US debut in '85.
Star Wars, Return of the Boondoggle: You need be of a certain age to recall the guffaws that greeted US President Reagan's March 23 announcement of an anti-missile shield, officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative and forever derided as "Star Wars." There will be tears for generations to come over the wasted hundreds of billions.
Word is the word: Stone tablets to Microsoft Word: Sometimes it seems as though there was nothing in between. On October 25, Microsoft released the first version of its word processor, initially called Multi-Tool Word, soon thereafter, Microsoft Office Word.
Compaq Portable, in name only: Suppose it depends on what you mean by portable. At a not-so-svelte, 28 pounds, the Compaq Portable, while laying claim to being the first IBM-compatible carry-about, wasn't exactly ready to be slipped into a manila folder. Heavy price tag, too: US$3,590.
GNU's Not Unix, oh no: Richard Stallman writes on net.unix-wizards: "Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to everyone who can use it. Contributions of time, money, programs and equipment are greatly needed."
Lawmakers adopt Orphan Drug Act: When US Congress passed The Orphan Drug Act the idea was to use tax breaks and long-term market exclusivity to encourage pharmaceutical companies to find treatments for maladies that strike too few people to otherwise be worth the investment. It worked.