March 11, 2014 AT 6:00 am

Time travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of using it. ~Anonymous


1811 – Urbain Le Verrier, French mathematician and one of the discoverers of Neptune, is born.

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Le Verrier’s most famous achievement is his prediction of the existence of the then unknown planet Neptune, using only mathematics and astronomical observations of the known planet Uranus. Encouraged by physicist Arago, Director of the Paris Observatory, Le Verrier was intensely engaged for months in complex calculations to explain small but systematic discrepancies between Uranus’s observed orbit and the one predicted from the laws of gravity of Newton. At the same time, but unknown to Le Verrier, similar calculations were made by John Couch Adams in England. Le Verrier announced his final predicted position for Uranus’s unseen perturbing planet publicly to the French Academy on 31 August 1846, two days before Adams’s final solution was privately mailed to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Le Verrier transmitted his own prediction by 18 September in a letter to Johann Galle of the Berlin Observatory. The letter arrived five days later, and the planet was found with the Berlin Fraunhofer refractor that same evening, 23 September 1846, by Galle and Heinrich d’Arrest within 1° of the predicted location near the boundary between Capricorn and Aquarius.

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1890 – Vannevar Bush, American engineer, inventor and science administrator is born.

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Vannevar Bush was an American engineer, inventor, and science administrator, whose most important contribution was as head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during World War II, through which almost all wartime military R&D was carried out, including initiation and early administration of the Manhattan Project. His office was considered one of the key factors in winning the war. He is also known in engineering for his work on analog computers, for founding Raytheon, and for the memex, an adjustable microfilm viewer with a structure analogous to that of the World Wide Web. In 1945, Bush published As We May Think in which he predicted that “wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified”. The memex influenced generations of computer scientists, who drew inspiration from its vision of the future.

For his master’s thesis, Bush invented and patented a “profile tracer”, a mapping device for assisting surveyors. It was the first of a string of inventions. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1919, and founded the company now known as Raytheon in 1922. Starting in 1927, Bush constructed a differential analyzer, an analog computer with some digital components that could solve differential equations with as many as 18 independent variables. An offshoot of the work at MIT by Bush and others was the beginning of digital circuit design theory. Bush became Vice President of MIT and Dean of the MIT School of Engineering in 1932, and president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1938.

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1915 – J.C.R. Licklider, one of the most important figures in computing history is born.

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Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider, known simply as J.C.R. or “Lick” was an American psychologist and computer scientist who is considered one of the most important figures in computer science and general computing history.

He is particularly remembered for being one of the first to foresee modern-style interactive computing, and its application to all manner of activities; and also as an Internet pioneer, with an early vision of a worldwide computer network long before it was built. He did much to actually initiate all that through his funding of research which led to a great deal of it, including today’s canonical graphical user interface, and the ARPANET, the direct predecessor to the Internet.

He has been called “computing’s Johnny Appleseed”, for having planted the seeds of computing in the digital age; Robert Taylor, founder of Xerox PARC’s Computer Science Laboratory and Digital Equipment Corporation’s Systems Research Center, noted that “most of the significant advances in computer technology—including the work that my group did at Xerox PARC—were simply extrapolations of Lick’s vision. They were not really new visions of their own. So he was really the father of it all”.

For people who only know today’s computerized, information-rich world, the change from what came before, and thus his impact on the world (since his ideas, and the work of people he sponsored, has led, directly and indirectly, to much of it), is probably hard to truly fathom. This quotation from the full-length biography of him called The Dream Machine, gives some sense of it:

“More than a decade will pass before personal computers emerge from the garages of Silicon Valley, and a full thirty years before the Internet explosion of the 1990s. The word computer still has an ominous tone, conjuring up the image of a huge, intimidating device hidden away in an overlit, air-conditioned basement, relentlessly processing punch cards for some large institution: them.

“Yet, sitting in a nondescript office in McNamara’s Pentagon, a quiet…civilian is already planning the revolution that will change forever the way computers are perceived. Somehow, the occupant of that office…has seen a future in which computers will empower individuals, instead of forcing them into rigid conformity. He is almost alone in his conviction that computers can become not just superfast calculating machines, but joyful machines: tools that will serve as new media of expression, inspirations to creativity, and gateways to a vast world of online information.”

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1986 – NFL adopts instant replay for the first time.

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In American and Canadian football, instant replay is a method of reviewing a play using cameras at various angles to determine the accuracy of the initial call of the officials. An instant replay can take place in the event of a close or otherwise controversial call, either at the request of a team’s head coach (with limitations) or the officials themselves.

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1997 – Ashes of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry are launched into space

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On March 11, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft — carrying portions of the cremated remains of Roddenberry, of Timothy Leary and of 22 other individuals — was launched into Earth orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket from near the Canary Islands. On May 20, 2002, the spacecraft’s orbit deteriorated and it disintegrated in the atmosphere. Another flight to launch more of his ashes into deep space along with those of Majel (Barrett) Roddenberry, his widow who died in 2008, is planned for launch in 2014.

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2010 – @ MAKE – A Maker Business: Adafruit Industries how it’s made – an open source hardware company in NYC

Check out this throwback video from Adafruit’s younger days!

A lot of readers are likely familiar with Adafruit Industries, supplier and maker of many kits found in the Maker Shed. In addition to my role here at MAKE, as senior editor, I also work with Limor (Ladyada), helping her with the open source hardware kit business. I’ll have a few articles about general things we do around here to keep the ship afloat and charting new waters, but I thought I’d start this “Maker Business” article with an overview of how it all works and how we use many many web tools/services. One of the most asked questions I get from makers is “what shopping cart do you use?” The short answer is Zencart, and while I think it doesn’t actually matter what you use when you start out, this is what we’re using at Adafruit. A recent milestone, we just shipped our 50,000th order. We mostly create and sell open source hardware, most of the tools we use are open source — I’ve never seen an article detailing “everything” a business uses online, so here’s one. I think you’ll enjoy it. Let’s take a look…

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