Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 20 between 1923 and today.
If you’re a TIME subscriber, you can click each headline to read the entire story.
Science: Precision and Stability (Dec. 20, 1937):
Dr. Louis Caryl Graton, professor of mining geology at Harvard, last week issued the following statement:
”A new microscope developed at Harvard incorporates such novel features of design as to permit a new step forward in the scientific investigation of the extremely minute. Somewhat paradoxically, the instrument itself is of great size and massive proportions, weighing about one ton, in order to insure utmost precision and stability.”
Transport: Technical Adviser (Dec. 20, 1937):
P. A. A. wants from the eight leading U. S. firms that build big airplanes a machine delivered within three years that will fly 5,000 mi. non-stop at 200 m.p.h. at altitudes up to 20,000 ft. and carry a payload of 25,000 lb. in which is included full day and night accommodation for 100 passengers, crew of 16, mail, baggage and express. Six months from now if Colonel Lindbergh and P. A. A. are still interested, $35,000 will be allotted to cover the cost to the builders of further estimates.
Science: Sound on Cellophane (Dec. 20, 1943):
A new sound-recording machine which may upset the recording industry was in production last week in Manhattan. A compact affair not much bigger than a portable radio, it makes records on Cellophane tape. They are first class as to tone, and in durability, ease of production and cheapness they beat any records previously produced.
The machine is a record addict’s dream. It can be plugged into a microphone, radio or telephone for recording; then a flip of a switch sets the machine to play the record back. Its Cellophane tape permits eight hours of recording or playing without changing. Its sapphire needle does not have to be changed, never scratches the record. The high-fidelity cellophane record, which costs only 50¢ per hour’s recording to make, emits almost no surface noise, can be played thousands of times. The inventor plans to turn out a smaller home model of the machine for $50.
Science: Toward the Infinitesimal (Dec. 20, 1943):
Modern scientists have been able to study ever smaller particles of matter. Recently the pursuit of the infinitesimal reached a new vanishing point. An R.C.A. microphysicist developed an instrument which can analyze the atomic composition of a particle as small as a millionth of a billionth of a gram.
The inventor of this “electron microanalyzer” is a fledgling still in his late 20s, James Hillier, co-inventor of the electron microscope.
Science: For Hypersonics (Dec. 20, 1948):
Most branches of technology have a backlog of unfinished business: basic principles worked out theoretically but not yet put to use. With jet propulsion, it is just the opposite. Practical jet engineers are already working close to the limits of theoretical knowledge. Ahead of them lies a blank area which the “longhairs” (theoretical men) have hardly begun to explore.
To refill the reservoir of jet theory, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation announced this week that it will grant $500,000 to Princeton University and California Institute of Technology for two jet propulsion centers.
Science: Omnirange to Guide Them (Dec. 20, 1948):
The time is coming when an airliner can fly through the air (stormy) with the greatest of ease and land on an airport (fogbound) as if the day were clear. Last week the Civil Aeronautics Authority was busily installing “omniranges”: the key gadget of the new navigation system. Two hundred and seventy of them are already in place. By early next summer there will be over 400, blanketing nearly all the U.S.
The House: Look, Ma, I’m on TV! (Dec. 20, 1963):
Television has finally completed its invasion of the American home. It will now be possible to record the family’s very own Golden Treasury of Dr. Kildare to keep forever. The Cinerama-Telcan does the trick. It is a videotape recorder no bigger than a bread box. Wired into a home TV set, it can record programs off the air as they are being watched. Then, with a flick of the switch, Telcan can play them back immediately or at any future time as desired. The machine can be halted during commercials, or they can be snipped out later. The neatest part of the trick is the price: under $300. The least expensive “home” TV recorder previously available is an Ampex portable unit that turns out tapes of broadcast quality but costs $11,900.
Computers: Tackling IBM (Dec. 20, 1968):
Four years ago, Minneapolis-based Control Data Corp. brought out its model 6600 computer, the largest machine of its type in the world. Pride soon turned to problems as debugging took longer than expected, and the company began losing money. To make matters worse, Thomas Watson’s IBM an nounced that it would bring out its own supercomputer, the 360/91. As a result, many potential purchasers held off buying the multimillion-dollar 6600 machine, and Control Data lost as many as 50 sales. When IBM was slow in producing the 360/91, and then turned out only a few before discontinuing it, Control Data’s crusty chairman, William C. Norris, felt that he had been had. “IBM has been out to get us,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Norris introduced a still more capacious computer, the 7600, billed once more as the world’s biggest. It is a 10 ft. by 10 ft. fortress. Beneath the glass and walnut exterior are 1.8 mil lion transistors, 2.2 million resistors, about 30,000 male and 30,000 female connectors and millions of other parts. The machine works five times as swift ly as the older 6600 and sells for up to $15 million; Control Data already has five sales orders from U.S. Government agencies.
Astronomy: Observatory in the Sky (Dec. 20, 1968):
The fresh view of the universe was made possible by the successful launching of the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, which began probing the heavens with eleven telescopes while circling the earth in a 480-mile-high orbit—well above the confining atmosphere. Unfolding its solar panels, the OAO obediently performed operations that assured ground controllers that it was in good working order. Then the 4,400-lb. spacecraft turned to its first assignment. Rolling slowly in space, it sought out two reference stars and unerringly swung its telescopes toward a bright Southern Hemisphere star named Miaplacidus.
Pac-Man Finally Meets His Match (Dec. 20, 1982):
Over the past several years, almost no business has grown faster than video games, but last week stocks of most of the industry’s highflying participants came crashing down with a thud. Warner Communications, owner of Atari, the king of video games, unexpectedly forecast a slump in fourth-quarter earnings. The news reverberated through Wall Street. Analysts began recalculating profit estimates of the best-known games manufacturers, trying to divine whether the Atari setback had more cosmic implications. By week’s end no one was quite ready to declare that the stock market was flashing a bleak “Game Over” for the popular amusements. But it seemed clear that video-game makers would no longer be able to rack up record profits with the ease of a twelve-year-old joystick junkie who stars at Pac-Man.
Blazing Modems (Dec. 20, 1999):
I’m turning into a truly shallow and pathetic person. The proof? Ask me to name the most important moment in my life this past year, and I answer without hesitation: getting high-speed access to the Internet at home. It happened two weeks ago, and I’m still faint with excitement…
I had heard horror stories about how long it would take to install the cable modem. These turned out to be untrue. Since I already had a TV-cable outlet in my home office, it took the cable guy half an hour to plug in the modem, drop an Ethernet card into my PC and configure it all. Bing, bang, I’m online at 5 or more megabits per sec.
The Index Game (Dec. 20, 1999):
More powerful than Microsoft! Able to leap Time Warner in a single bound! Why, it’s Yahoo! In one breathtaking trading session, Yahoo went from being a glitzy dotcom to being one of the largest corporations in the world, surpassing hundreds in market value. And what had Yahoo done to earn the additional $40 billion in market cap? Zip-o. Amazingly, the updraft was a bizarre offshoot of the company’s admission, after the close last Tuesday, to the elite Standard & Poor’s 500.
In Brief: Technology (Dec. 20, 1999):
Why hire a housekeeper when technology can do the dirty work for you? Dyson’s DC06 robotic vacuum cleaner, unveiled last week and due out in May, uses three onboard computers and 50 sensors to navigate its way around your plants, pets and furniture–all without tumbling down the stairs. The DC06 hums along at 1.5 ft. per sec. and can negotiate small inclines up to 1-in. high. If it sounds too good to be true, perhaps the price will bring you back to earth: at $3,500, it’s more expensive than hired help.
Home, Hearth & Hollywood (Dec. 20, 1999):
Blame it on Blair Witch. When a hit summer film revolves around three kids who run around the woods with cameras and don’t even use the steadycam setting, it is only going to be a matter of time before something equally weird happens to home movies. The Project was famous for being filmed on a camera bought at (and returned to) Circuit City, edited on a $30,000 shoestring and promoted like hell on the Internet. This holiday season, however, millions of wannabes can go through exactly the same process for less than $3,000–cast party not included.
Digital-video (DV) camera prices are plummeting south toward the $1,000 border. Cheap DV-ready PCs, bundled with professional-editing software, are zooming off store shelves. And a host of popular production websites have sprung up to showcase amateur movie shorts. All of which has led experts to believe we’re in for a DV Christmas.
Can I Edit the Old Stuff? (Dec. 20, 1999):
The good news is that I’ve found a way to edit old analog movies on my home computer. In fact, an entire industry has emerged to support the more than 44 million U.S. households that own a PC and an analog camcorder, and want to make movies worth watching.
The product that offers the most flexibility is the Matrox Marvel G400-TV, a $300 kit consisting of an advanced graphics card that slides inside your PC (you need a Windows machine with a Pentium II 233-MHz or faster processor) and an external hub that takes analog video from myriad sources (VCR, cable TV, camcorder) and puts it on your computer screen.
Cybertech: The Best Cybertech of 1999 (Dec. 20, 1999):
Not since CDs arrived has the music world been in such a tizzy over technology. Mpeg-3, a longtime standard for digital music on the Net, entered the spotlight this year when MP3.com issued its IPO and MP3 players were declared legal. Now you don’t need a recording label to make it big–and industry execs are playing catch-up.