Today in TIME Tech History: Death Rays, Spy Tech of the ’60s, How to Find God Online and More

Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 16 between 1923 and today.

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Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 16 between 1923 and today.

If you’re a TIME subscriber, you can click each headline to read the entire story.

Science: Goldenrod Rubber (Dec. 16, 1929):

Thomas Alva Edison in a fringed muffler, Mrs. Edison, four servants, a dozen laboratory assistants and five carloads of laboratory gear & raw materials, all rolled southward last week from New Jersey toward Fort Myers, Fla. Through the press rolled headlines. For Inventor Edison, having celebrated the golden jubilee of his electric light bulb, had signalized his annual winter hegira by an announcement that sounded fraught with gold.

Packed in his five carloads of laboratory material were tons of stalks of a common, ubiquitous weed: goldenrod. Goldenrod, announced Inventor Edison, seemed a likely U. S. weed from which to produce the object of his major research in the past two years: Rubber.

Science: Eye Prints (Dec. 16, 1935):

Last week a bald, hulking criminologist named Carleton Simon expounded in great detail a method of identification which no criminal could circumvent without blinding himself. Dr. Simon would use the pattern of blood vessels in the circular backdrop of the eye. Almost infinitely various is this network in different people, and the chance that two persons might have the same pattern is as fantastically improbable as identical fingerprints. Age or disease may change the character of the eye veins and arteries, but not their position.

Science: Particle Protection (Dec. 16, 1935):

Every so often newspapers get steamed up about some mysterious new ray which will deal long-range death to men and animals, down airplanes or work other wholesale damage. Lately a ray said to stop gasoline engines and supposedly invented by no less a personage than Guglielmo Marconi stirred up a pother, which faded away when Marconi himself squelched it. Last week another exciting ray story cropped up in dispatches from Berkeley, Calif, which produced such headlines as NEW LETHAL RAY HURLED BY MAGNET, and NEW DEATH RAY TO AID MANKIND BEGINS ITS TEST.

Business: Machines for Food (Dec. 16, 1935):

Nearly 75% of U. S. oranges, though ripe, edible and juicy, are partially or completely green in color, would sell at a disadvantage against no better but more appealing fruit. When these oranges have received the Color Process (dipping in a solution of food-color) they emerge as yellow as ever an orange grew. Color Process machinery is one of the many leased specialties of Food Machinery Corp., world’s largest maker of mechanical aids to food growing, handling, packing and canning.

Science: Sunspots & Radio (Dec. 16, 1935):

A new view of sunspot effect on radio was presented last week in Science by Radio Section Chief John Howard Dellinger of the U. S. Bureau of Standards. Dr. Dellinger had noticed a curious fade-out of daytime reception of high-frequency signals, occurring at almost uniform intervals approximating 54 days, twice the sun’s rotation period.

Science: Silver Seaweed (Dec. 16, 1940):

The new electron microscope leads scientists a long way downward into the realm of the infinitesimally small. Using magnetically focused electron beams instead of light beams, it discloses details (of germs, chemicals, etc.) 20 or more times finer than can be seen with optical microscopes (TIME, Oct. 28). Fortnight ago its beams cleared up another dark corner. In Rochester, tart, smart, British-born Charles Edward Kenneth Mees, head of research at Eastman Kodak Co., announced it had upset old notions of how silver is distributed in photographic films.

Medicine: Matter Over Mind (Dec. 16, 1946):

In Boston last week, it finally happened: science set a machine to study a machine. The occasion: a meeting of the Eastern Association of Electroencephalographers (brainwave recorders).

In the famed Ether Dome of Massachusetts General Hospital, a blond British electroencephalographer named William Grey Walter unveiled his invention—a yellow box, resembling a deep-freeze unit, full of vacuum tubes, condensers, switches, wires. Walter applied to a patient’s head the electrodes of an electroencephalograph (a machine that traces the peaks and valleys of the brain waves, helps to diagnose epilepsy, brain tumors, etc.). Then he attached his analyzing machine to the electroencephalograph.

Technology: Everybody’s Got the Bug (Dec. 16, 1966):

Manhattan-based Continental Telephone Supply Co., Inc., a leader in the bug-and anti-bugging business, proudly advertises a postage-stamp-size, transistorized “007 Spy Transmitter” that can pick up whispered conversations and broadcast them to a conventional radio receiver located nearby. The 007 is powered by a tiny nickel-cadmium or mercury battery that will last for 60 hours. Another Continental bug looks like an exact copy of a telephone microphone. But substituted for that mike in a standard telephone, it operates indefinitely on the phone’s own current and transmits both sides of any telephone conversation to a special receiver as far as 400 ft. away. Continental also offers a 4-in. dart transmitter that can be fired from a carbon-dioxide-powered dart gun into an area otherwise inaccessible to the bugger. Built to withstand the shock of impact, it will embed itself in a wall or tree, pick up nearby sound and radio it back over a range of 300 ft.

FINDING GOD ON THE WEB (Dec. 16, 1996):

Like schools, like businesses, like governments, like nearly everyone, it seems, religious groups are rushing online, setting up church home pages, broadcasting dogma and establishing theological newsgroups, bulletin boards and chat rooms…

The signs of online religious activity are everywhere. If you instruct AltaVista, a powerful Internet search engine, to scour the Web for references to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the program turns up an impressive 25,000 references. But ask it to look for Web pages that mention God, and you’ll get 410,000 hits. Look for Christ on the Web, and you’ll find him–some 146,000 times.

CAN THOR MAKE A COMEBACK? (Dec. 16, 1996):

The Internet, which pushes the cost of spreading the word down near zero, could carry this atomizing trend to unplumbed depths. Of course it may not, but already it has taken the first step: empowering legions of obscure but enterprising people who harbor ambitions of spiritual leadership. Out on the fringe of the World Wide Web, beyond mainstream religion, storefront preachers and offbeat theologies are springing up like mushrooms.

IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST (Dec. 16, 1996):

My friends in the newspaper business have been coming back from trips to Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, in terror. There is no hope for us, my pals say. Already Bill Gates has sent out advance teams to hover like those spaceships in Independence Day over 10 major U.S. cities. In each, Microsoft Network (MSN) employees are setting up regional Websites that will publish local listings of movies, concerts, restaurant reviews and so forth, draining readers and ads from the local newspapers and eventually turning them into dust. Two dozen other glitzy programs, some suspiciously magazine-like, will finish off the rest of us.

Video: Kidvid Cassettes for Christmas (Dec. 16, 1985):

Videocassettes for children are shaping up to be some of this season’s hottest stocking stuffers. Among the stars are such old friends as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Pinocchio (the classic Walt Disney movie is currently the top- selling children’s cassette). But more recent favorites–from movies, TV and toy stores–include Rainbow Brite, the Care Bears, My Little Pony and the Transformers. Kidvid now accounts for 15% of the total home-video business, according to some industry estimates. Moreover, with their relatively low prices (typically between $10 and $40), children’s tapes are usually bought rather than rented.

Gadgets: Do the Write Thing (Dec. 16, 2002):

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but these days it’s facing some stiff competition from the personal computer. That’s why Logitech created the IO Personal Digital Pen ($199), a new, cyborganic writing implement that bridges the otherwise mutually exclusive worlds of screen and paper. Here’s how it works: the IO writes like an ordinary ballpoint pen, but it contains a computer chip that records and remembers every scribble. When you’re through writing, the IO downloads your jottings to your PC, where you can either save them as pictures or use handwriting-recognition software to convert them to text in an ordinary Microsoft Word document.

The Dream Scheme (Dec. 16, 2002):

One day, all your home-entertainment needs may be fulfilled by an inconspicuous cube that sits in the center of your living room. For now, if you want to do all the cool things modern consumer electronics allow–record DVDs, watch movies in HDTV, save your favorite TV shows for later viewing (with or without the commercials) and load all your CDs onto a hard drive for easier organization–you need space for a wall of sound and video.

I Want My HDTV! (Dec. 16, 2002)

[T]oday only 4% of U.S. households have HDTVs, and for years the best advice for those who wanted one was to wait. That created a classic chicken-and-egg situation. Consumers were reluctant to purchase HDTV sets because they were too expensive and there wasn’t anything worth watching on them; broadcasters were reluctant to invest in HDTV programming until there was an audience big enough to make it worth their while.

This year, we may finally have reached a tipping point.

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