Today in TIME Tech History: No Stopping Napster, ‘Name Caller’ Phone Dialer, Stair Climbers and More

Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 18 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 18 between 1923 and today.

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

(LIST: Top 10 Gadgets of 2012)

Business: Electrolux Goes Home (Dec. 18, 1933):

One thing that caught the attention of Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr. at the Refrigeration Show in Manhattan in 1926 was an automatic ice box which had no moving parts, made no noise and worked by means of a little gas flame and a solution of ammonia and water. Solemn Mr. Sloan had a long talk with the tall, red-cheeked man who was standing beside this new refrigerator. Mr. Sloan liked the refrigerator but not its price. Six years later Mr. Sloan’s Frigidaire Corp. was also making a refrigerator which chilled when heat was applied.

Science: For Rainy Days (Dec. 18, 1950):

One way to make a raincoat is to use a solid sheet of rubber or plastic that water cannot penetrate. Another and newer way is to cover the fibers of ordinary cloth with a substance that water does not “wet.” Many substances have this property, e.g., the oil that waterproofs a duck’s feathers. But most of them are unsatisfactory; they wear off or are easily removed by cleaning processes. The current house organ of the Dow Chemical Co. tells about waterproofing agents made of silicones: organic compounds with atoms of silicon built into their molecules.

Cosmology: Procreation in Space (Dec. 18, 1964):

How was the universe created? All at once, and billions of years ago, says the “big bang” faction of cosmologists, and not a single atom has been created since that explosion. “Continual creation” cosmologists take a different tack. They believe that the matter in the universe was created gradually and is still being created, probably as neutrons or hydrogen atoms in the lonely spaces between the galaxies. Not quite satisfied with either theory, Professor William H. McCrea of the University of London’s Royal Holloway College now offers an improvement on continual creation. In the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, McCrea argues that matter is created in the places where matter is thickest, the dense centers of galaxies.

NEW PRODUCTS: Name Calling (Dec. 18, 1972):

In the tradition of the electric toothbrush and the high-speed electric cocktail mixer, the latest effort-saving gadget is the Name Caller, which does away with the need of dialing a telephone. By pressing a button on the device, which can be easily attached to the phone, a user can reach any one of 38 numbers. Besides its speed and convenience, the Name Caller provides a foolproof way for a baby sitter to phone police, firemen or the family doctor in an emergency. The gadget—about the size of a small bathroom scale—has been available for only four months in seven major markets, including New York City and Los Angeles, and already more than 50,000 have been sold at prices from $50 to $60.

COMPUTERS: The Elephant Tries to Dance (Dec. 18, 1989):

To corporate customers, computers once meant IBM mainframes. But that has changed as high-powered workstations and personal computers from such companies as Compaq, Apple and Sun Microsystems have won over legions of business users. As a result, IBM’s earnings have slipped from $6.6 billion in 1984 on total sales of $46 billion to an estimated $5.5 billion last year on total sales of $60 billion.

Health: America Goes Stair Crazy (Dec. 18, 1989):

The growing vogue for stair climbing has been made possible by the development of new and better machines. They come in a dozen different models, including several home versions, that are easier to use and much more widely available than earlier devices. Over the past year, many health clubs have doubled the number of machines for their members. Even so, supply has badly trailed demand.

Technology: Old Masters, New Tricks (Dec. 18, 1989):

Critics scoffed when computers were first enlisted to help restore Michelangelo’s magnificent frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. What could an electronic filing system in some Vatican basement contribute to the painstaking, labor-intensive task of liberating one of the world’s largest and most famous paintings from nearly 500 years of accumulated grime and murky glue? But the computer — an Apollo workstation programmed to map every curve and crack down to the last millimeter — proved so indispensable that it was installed 20 meters (65 ft.) above the ground, on the main scaffold, where it put a wealth of data about the frescoes at the master restorer’s fingertips. Today man and machine labor side by side, only an arm’s length from Michelangelo’s original brushstrokes.

The Best Cybertech of 2000 (Dec. 18, 2000):

Any song. Any time. Free. That’s the beauty of Napster, the simple computer program written by college dropout Shawn Fanning that sparked a global frenzy of music sharing. With its 38 million converts, even Metallica and its legions of lawyers won’t get this genie back into its bottle.

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