Today in TIME Tech History: Rube Goldberg (1970), Picture-in-Picture (1987), 96 Megabytes of RAM (1998) and More

Let’s hop in the TIME Wayback Machine to see which notable tech-related stories were published on December 21 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 21 between 1923 and today.

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

Science: Nuclear Secrets (Dec. 21, 1931):

From Democritus the Greek (400 B. C.) to the late great Englishman John Dalton (1766-1844) scientists were blandly sure that the atom was the smallest thing in the world. Modern physicists know that this is not so, that the atom is composed of a nucleus and surrounding spheres of electrons, that these constituents are capable of being separated. Scientists probing into the infinitesimal atomic nucleus with various tools, last week published new data concerning the nature of the universe and the physical properties of drinking water.

Science: Sunburnometer (Dec. 21, 1936):

Chicago’s Northwestern University last week announced successful tests of a “sunburnometer,” a recording device to measure the intensity of the ultraviolet component of the sun’s light which causes sunburn.

Science: Wartime Technology (Dec. 21, 1942):

“Glass eyes” for gun sights, binoculars and other military instruments are ground ten times faster than by hand on new machines designed by American Optical Co. of Southbridge, Mass. Diamond-impregnated tools replace the loose abrasives formerly used.

Science: Chromatic Aberration (Dec. 21, 1942):

Charles Arthur Birch-Field, who is no crackpot, last month advertised that from ordinary black & white pictures on photographic film he could get the colors of the original scenes…

Any photographic film that is printed as a positive, no matter how old, can be put into any projector that is fitted with a Birch-Field “iriscope,” can then be projected on a screen to show the scene’s original tints, somewhat faint but true. Though few except Birch-Field had suspected it, the colors had been registered in the structure of the film since its first exposure. The iriscope is a simple transparent disk that fits over the projector’s lens and is dyed with the colors of the spectrum in concentric circles from blue on the inside to red on the rim.

Technology: Management by Computer (Dec. 21, 1962):

In the midst of a corporate board meeting, the chief executive officer flips a switch, and instantly a screen overhead lights up with the company’s profit-and-loss statement, tallied up to the minute. Another flip of the switch, and the screen glows with a graph disclosing just what progress the company has made up to the moment on Contract X.

This Brave New World technology is now a possibility in a score of major U.S. corporations, which are deep in a new phase of computer technology known as management information systems. The goal of these systems: to give a manager instant reports on the latest developments in every phase of his business.

The Press: Death of a Master Machinist (Dec. 21, 1970):

Cartoonist Goldberg achieved fame for a series of wildly complicated inventions that today can be seen as a prediction of the world’s foundering in technology. Goldberg’s contraptions used owls and trumpets to nominate people for political office, pistols and crows to feed an infant and rock its cradle. There was even a Hitler-kicking machine that gave the Führer his comeuppance via a cat, a mouse and a stripteaser. Goldberg constructed chains of causality that could be as illogical as life itself.

Technology: In Case You Tuned In Late (Dec. 21, 1987):

Steven Minskoff, 28, a Manhattan real estate executive and a card-carrying member of the TV generation, thought he had seen and heard it all, from Moonlighting on a 35-in. screen to MTV in surround-sound stereo. Then he saw a store demonstration of Panasonic’s new “picture in picture” VCR system, which lets viewers watch two or more programs on the same TV screen. As a salesman tapped on a remote control, new stations began appearing, one at a time, until the screen was filled with nine equal-size panels, each showing a different channel. “My mouth dropped,” says Minskoff. “It totally blew me away.”

Look, Ma, No Cable! (Dec. 21, 1992):

The new system, developed by a New Jersey firm called CellularVision, has been operating in Brooklyn since July. It uses microwave signals of such high frequency that they can bounce off buildings and still be received by a window-mounted antenna no bigger than a magazine. The system, which could be available throughout New York City and in other major TV markets by mid-1994, can deliver as many channels as cable TV without the expense of having to wire up each individual home — a prospect that could threaten the virtual monopoly that many cable companies currently enjoy.

Let’s Go to the Tape (Dec. 21, 1998):

When three blatant officiating blunders led to losses for the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers in recent weeks, the whole playoff picture was torn from its frame. The NFL politburo announced that instant replay, in use from 1986 to 1991, may be revived for the playoffs.

Her Way and Mine (Dec. 21, 1998):

For the home user, there are basically two ways to buy a computer: my way and my mom’s way. Since this is my column, I’ll tell you my way first. As the tech columnist for the nation’s pre-eminent newsweekly, I naturally need the biggest, fastest, scariest computer in the land. And since my company is buying, damn the expense. I require video and 3-D cards to run the coolest games…er, spreadsheets; at least 96 megabytes of RAM so I can keep half a dozen programs open at once; a 17-in. monitor so I can see it all and a 10-gigabyte hard drive to store it. Also, stereo speakers with a subwoofer that rumbles like the voice of God, just to annoy my cats.

More tech history here…