Today in TIME Tech History: 3DO, Left-Handed Gadgets, the Computer ‘Mouse’ and More

Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 19 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 19 between 1923 and today.

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

Science: Nut News (Dec. 19, 1938):

For a hungry small boy to crack one walnut, or even a dozen, is no problem. But cracking walnuts in hundreds of thousands is what the California Walnut Growers’ Association does, and it wanted a cracker which did not break up the meats.

For the supplicant walnut men, the University of California’s College of Agriculture invented a machine in which the walnuts ride on whizzing belts past a buzzsaw. The buzz-saw nicks a groove in the shells of the nuts. Then, as the nuts pass a tiny aperture, an explosive charge of acetylene and oxygen is shot into each nut. The nut then drops into an ignition chamber where a gas flame ignites the charge. Pop! goes the walnut. Most of the shells drop into one hopper, the meats into another.

Transport: Fluid Drive (Dec. 19, 1938):

Every 1939 Custom Imperial Chrysler sold last week had as standard equipment a hydraulic clutch which eliminates any mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels. Called fluid drive. Chrysler’s innovation removes the necessity for gear shifting and clutching except when a car is pulling heavily or backing up.

ARMY & NAVY: Robots by Denny (Dec. 19, 1938):

Cinemactor Reginald Denny last week sold to the U. S. War Department six radio-controlled airplanes, to be used as targets for anti-aircraft gunners and pursuit pilots. First developed in California as a Denny hobby, the miniature (8 ft. by 12 ft.), gasoline-driven robots need no pilots, can fly at 7,000 to 8,000 feet for 30 minutes. Until the planes are delivered next summer, practicing gunners must continue to get along with colored streamers towed behind full-sized craft.

NEW PRODUCTS: Something for Lefty (Dec. 19, 1949):

A Manhattan department store offered left-handed corkscrews, fountain pens, watches, shears and checkbooks, just in time for Christmas…

The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. unveiled a new Scotch tape for industrial use. Made of acetate film, reinforced with glass filaments, it is strong enough to band and strap heavy machinery parts, plate glass, lumber and other heavy objects for shipping.


Far off on deserts, in forests and on snow-covered mountaintops, the scientific shock troops toss rockets out of the atmosphere or study the performance of dangerous experimental airplanes. Some of these men seldom touch aircraft, “inhabited” or “uninhabited.” With weird telescopic cameras, they photograph the trails of meteors, measure the night glow of the sky or the brightness of searchlight beams pointed toward the stars. All these methods give information about the high atmosphere, where future aircraft will fly.

Science: Sky Catch (Dec. 19, 1960):

In a virtuoso feat that is rapidly becoming standard operating procedure, an Air Force C-119 cargo plane equipped with a grappling hook last week snagged in mid-air a third Discoverer satellite — a 300-lb. gold-plated capsule that had traveled more than a million miles in polar orbit before being parachuted near Hawaii upon pushbutton command from a control room in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Science: Unnatural Water (Dec. 19, 1969):

Western scientists were frankly skeptical. Russian Chemists N. Fedyakin and Boris Deryagin claimed to have produced a mysterious new substance, a form of water that was so stable it boiled only at about 1,000°F., or five times the boiling temperature of natural water. It did not evaporate. It did not freeze—though at —40°F., with little or no expansion, it hardened into a glassy substance quite unlike ice.

Environment: Ford’s Better Idea (Dec. 19, 1969):

While all the improved devices in Ford’s future may eventually reduce the exhaust pollution of internal-combustion engines by 90%, the ultimate solution to the problem could well be a new kind of power source. Ford has already experimented with electric cars and gas-turbine engines for trucks and buses. Now Henry Ford II promised that it will also move “ahead on the more difficult problem of developing a turbine engine for passenger car use.

Space: Those Balky Computers Again (Dec. 19, 1983):

Only seconds after the space shuttle touched down on the California desert last week, a playful voice crackled from the radio at Mission Control in Houston. “Columbia,” it said, “we’ve got some good news and bad news for you. The good news is, we’ve had lots of beer waiting for you. The bad news is, we drank it eight hours ago.”

NASA, of course, does not permit alcohol aboard its spacecraft or on its facilities, but last week, after Columbia’s harrowing, computer-plagued final day in orbit, the space agency had good reason to splash everyone with champagne.

Computers: Software for All Seasons (Dec. 19, 1983):

Writing is a task that a computer can make less painful, and scores of programs are now available to turn a microcomputer into a word processor. Most fall into one of two categories: simple-but-limited or powerful-and-unnecessarily-complicated. Microsoft, the leading microcomputer-software firm, has put its considerable prestige and programming talent behind Microsoft Word, a word-processing program that is loaded with extras yet relatively easy to master. The program employs a “mouse,” a pointing device about the size of a pack of cigarettes, to move around blocks of text. But since some touch typists do not like to take their fingers off the keyboard, use of the mouse is optional. For IBM Personal Computers and compatible machines: $375 ($475 with mouse).

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Ma Bell Gets a Call (Dec. 19, 1998):

If there were sighs of relief at AT&T, there were whoops of joy at the Kansas City headquarters of U.S. Sprint. Last week the two companies landed the biggest telephone contract in history: to replace the cranky, 25-year-old federal long-distance telephone system with a modern, fiber-optic system that would be capable of transmitting not only conversations and data but also video images.

Playing for Keeps (Dec. 19, 1994):

Journalists who cover the computer and video-game business always look forward to the annual pre-Christmas visit from Trip Hawkins, chairman and founder of the upstart game-system company called 3DO. Hawkins is a rarity in the uptight game industry — a straight-shooting top executive who actually enjoys the products he sells. His press tours, first as chairman of Electronic Arts and then as front man for 3DO, usually combine a lively round of game playing and a dose of blunt talk about the business — shaded ever so slightly to set his own company apart. This year, however, there was no hiding the fact that Hawkins’ firm is up against the wall — surrounded by enemies and running out of lives. “The price is right, and the software is in place,” he says. “If the customers don’t buy 3DO this year, they probably never will.”

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