Today in TIME Tech History: Thinking Machine (1949), Flight Simulator (1955), the Super BlackBerry eLink (2000) and More

Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on January 24 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 January 24 between 1923 and today.

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

Manual Voice (1938)

Oh, Lila, I love you.

Hello, London, are you there?

Minnie . . . father . . . upper . . . rather. . . tata!

Radio listeners in the U. S. heard gibberish of this sort one day last week, pronounced in a queer, blurred, atonal voice like that of a person who has been stone deaf since birth. As a matter of fact the words, which came from London, were not spoken by a human being at all but were uttered by an apparatus in the hands of Sir Richard Paget, 69-year-old barrister, linguist, musician, acoustician, who clings to the old British tradition that well-disposed people of the aristocracy should take an interest in the arts and sciences.

Sir Richard believes that human speech is primitive, that gestures could be much more expressive. His voice apparatus is largely a metal and fabric tube which has parts corresponding to the larynx, tongue, and palate.

Magnetism in Harness? (1944)

For about 700 years, magnetism has been known as the force that stands still. Last week a physicist claimed to have proved that magnetism moves. Professor Felix Ehrenhaft, formerly of Vienna, told the American Physical Society meeting in Manhattan that magnetism flows as electricity flows. If he is right, his discovery is at least as revealing as Benjamin Franklin’s kite, and technology has a new horse to harness.

The Thinking Machine (1949)

In the laboratory of Barnwood House Mental Hospital, on the outskirts of Gloucester, England, is a modest black contraption that looks like four storage batteries set in a square. Its only visible moving parts are four small magnets, one swinging like a compass needle over each box. Psychiatrist William Ross Ashby, who built the machine, thinks that it is the closest thing to a synthetic human brain so far designed by man.

Practical calculating machines, explains Dr. Ashby, merely take orders and act upon them, in complicated but predetermined ways. His machine, which he calls a “homeostat,” is different.

The Guiding Stars (1955)

The new D-2 High-Speed High-Latitude Celestial-Navigation Trainer was specially designed by Link Aviation Inc. to simulate the flights of jet bombers over the arctic, where the magnetic compass is practically useless and the sun often out of sight.

Inside the building, which is roughly cubical and 61 ft. long, is a three-quarter sphere made of a spidery crisscross of thin-walled steel lined with wire mesh. The whole thing, 30 ft. in diameter, is mounted so that it can be tilted 65° in any direction. It can also revolve, and a platform poking up to its center can revolve independently.

Washington’s Challenge to IBM (1969)

IBM’s future has been based on its computers and its competitive prowess. Now the future may depend on the courts. Last month the company was charged with monopolistic practices in a civil antitrust suit brought by a competitor, Control Data Corp. Two weeks ago IBM was the target of another suit, brought by a customer, Data Processing Financial & General Corp. And last week IBM was hit by the most important suit of all. The Justice Department climaxed a long investigation by bringing its own antitrust action—the biggest of the Johnson era—against the company.

Toward Better Quakecasting (1969)

Although scientists are powerless to prevent earthquakes, they have high hopes that they can some day forecast them with reasonable accuracy. That day may not be far off. By carefully measuring movements along the San Andreas and nearby smaller faults, Seismologist Renner Hofmann says, he has successfully predicted recent California earthquakes. To prove that he is not merely displaying scientific hindsight, Hofmann has issued a new U.S. quake-cast. Within the next 18 months, he predicts, earthquakes of at least moderate intensity will rock areas near Santa Cruz and south of Bakersfield.

Blackberry Jam (2000)

The new, new thing looks just like the old Blackberry but has some notable, hidden differences. Instead of relying on BellSouth, eLink sends its digital packets over the ARDIS network, which covers more territory–220 million people in the U.S., vs. BellSouth’s 175 million. ARDIS can also handle faster speeds–up to 19.2 kilobits per sec., according to the eLink folks, twice as fast as their competitor. Finally, the ARDIS network is renowned for its “in-building” penetration, which means that I can travel up, down and around the august Time & Life Building and never miss a bit…

I’ve been play-testing my eLink for three weeks now, and it’s been just super. E-mail keeps track with me even when I’m moving faster than a Long Island Rail Road locomotive. It leaps the tall buildings in a single bound. I’m told that the network is so strong you could send and receive e-mail while flying over big cities, though the FAA frowns on that kind of thing. One AA battery lasted two weeks, the little eight-line screen was surprisingly readable, and the “trackwheel” turned out to be an excellent way to navigate through menus.

More tech history here…

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