Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008: first black man nominated for US presidency by a major political party

After winning enough of the Democratic Party's presidential primaries to secure the nomination, on August 27, 2008 Illinois Senator Barak Obama became the party's official candidate for president at the national convention in Denver.

The roll-call vote took place in the late afternoon Wednesday -- the first time in at least 50 years that Democrats have not scheduled their roll call on prime-time television -- as Democrats sought to avoid drawing attention to the lingering resentments between Clinton and Obama delegates.

As planned, it fell to Clinton and the New York delegation to put Obama over the top. He was declared the party’s nominee at 4:47 p.m. Mountain time after Clinton moved that the roll call be suspended and that Obama be declared the party’s nominee by acclamation.

Obama’s nomination came 120 years after Frederick Douglass became the first African-American to have his name entered in nomination at a major party convention. Douglass received one vote at the Republican convention in Chicago in 1888.

Making the moment even more striking was the historical nature of Hilary Clinton’s candidacy. She was the third woman whose name has been entered as a candidate for president at a major party convention. (info from The New York Times)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2005: US soda sales fell for the first time in 20 years

The next generation may not be the Pepsi generation — or the Coke generation, for that matter.

For years, soda has been the quintessential American drink, considered the perfect thirst quencher, morning pick-me-up or accompaniment to lunch or supper.

But that is slowly changing.

As Americans look for greater variety in their drinks and strive for healthier diets, consumption of soda — with its 250 calories and 67 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle — is slipping.

Data released by Beverage Digest, the industry trade publication, shows that for the first time in 20 years, the number of cases of soda sold in the United States declined. Case volume in 2005 was down 0.7 percent, to 10.2 billion cases.

Coke's flagship brand, Coca-Cola Classic, was down 2 percent, and original Pepsi from PepsiCo was down 3.2 percent.

In recent years, soda has come under increasing fire from critics who see it as little more than liquid candy and blame it for contributing to America's looming problem of childhood obesity. Results of a study link soda to weight gain among teenagers.

While soft drinks are still the country's most heavily consumed beverage, the category is losing ground to bottled water, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade and energy drinks like Red Bull and Full Throttle.

Even diet sodas, once a booming category, have slacked off. Diet Pepsi's case volume was down by 1.9 percent in 2005 and Diet Coke's was virtually unchanged, up only 0.1 percent, according to Beverage Digest.

In 2001, Pepsi bought the South Beach Beverage Company, adding energy drinks and teas to its product lineup, and Quaker Oats, which owns Gatorade and a variety of food brands. As a result, Pepsi's percentage of total revenue coming from carbonated soft drinks is considerably less than Coca-Cola's. Coke, on the other hand, continued to promote carbonated soft drinks. The company says it believes that, despite the recent industry downturn, its carbonated soft drink business can still grow in the United States. In recent remarks to investors, Coke's chief executive, E. Neville Isdell, emphasized the current growth of Coke's flagship soda brand in markets like China and Russia.

Coke has, however, also diversified into drinks like bottled water, energy drinks, sports drinks, tea and refrigerated juices, but it is not the market leader in any of these areas and, in several cases, the company was a latecomer in the market.

John Faucher, an analyst at J. P. Morgan Chase, said that soda's declining popularity was not just because of changing health trends and attempts to cut calories, but also because of wandering taste buds. "A lot of this is about variety," he said. "Consumers want new exciting beverages."

While bottled water is an indisputably healthy beverage choice, the same cannot be said of the thriving energy drink category, which has as many calories and sugar grams as soda, and an extra dose of caffeine.

Some consumers do, however, consider sports drinks to be healthier, though opinions are mixed. Pepsi includes Gatorade in its collection of healthier product and awards it a green "Smart Spot" logo. Gatorade and Powerade both have half the sugar and calories as soda.

But Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital Boston, said that if consumers were drinking large amounts of sports drinks because they considered them healthier, they could wind up consuming the same number of calories. "For anything except marathon-type activity, the body's need for water can be satisfied by water," Dr. Ludwig said.

Dr. Ludwig is one of the authors of a study published in the journal Pediatrics showing a direct correlation between the consumption of soda and other sweetened beverages and weight gain in teenagers. The study was of 100 teenagers, ages 13 to 18, each of whom had been previously consuming roughly 350 calories of sweetened beverages a day. (info from The New York Times)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1963: cans first pop their tops

Metal cans have been used for storing foods and drinks since 1810. The first tin cans were so thick they had to be hammered open. As cans became thinner, it became possible to invent dedicated can openers, and dozens of different types were developed and sold.

All of the openers had a fundamental problem: they're useless if they're still in the kitchen while the thirsty people are in a park, stadium or boat.

In 1959, Ermal Fraze was at a picnic in Ohio, and had forgotten an opener for the canned beverages. He improvised an opener, and started thinking of ways to eliminate the need for a can opener in the future. Others had tried to make a can with a built-in opener, but they didn't work well.

Fraze concentrated on a lever attached to a rivet at the center of the top of a round can. Fraze’s first version used a lever that pierced a hole in the can but resulted in sharp, sometimes dangerous edges. Later he created the familiar pull-tab version, which had a ring attached at the rivet for pulling, and which would come off completely. He received a patent in 1963 and sold it to Alcoa.

Iron City Beer was the first drink to use the pop-top can design, and its sales zoomed. Other beverage companies became interested, and by 1965, nearly 75 percent of U.S. breweries were using them.

In the mid-1970's, outcry from environmentalists led to the design of cans with non-removable tabs, created first by the Continental Can Co. (info from MIT and; photo from Texas A&M)

Monday, August 25, 2008

2052: first openly gay US president

On November 9, 2052, Dr. Hassan McCain, grandson of the failed 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, was elected president of the United States.

Unlike his Republican grandfather, Hassan McCain was the candidate of the Democratic Party.

He was a battlefield surgeon in the War in Georgia, a US senator, and also served as vice president under president Malia Obama, daughter of president Barack Obama who had defeated John McCain in 2008.

Hassan McCain, whose mother is black, is the second biracial American president as well as the first openly gay president. He is the son of Jack McCain and archaeologist Alicia Mfula, who was born in Sudan. He married Lawrence Takei in 2044, shortly after the 31st Amendment of the US Constitution was passed forbidding states to block marriage based on sexual orientation. The couple has two adopted children who live in the White House.

Friday, August 22, 2008

1971: end of military draft in the US

The United States has had mandatory military service for men during wartimes. During the unpopular War in Vietnam where were many anti-draft protests, including burnings of draft cards. The most recent draft ended in 1971. Since that time the US has relied on all-volunterer armed forces.

However, all US males between the ages of 18 and 25 are supposed to be registered with the Selective Service System, which administers military conscription for the purpose of having information available about potential soldiers in the event of war.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed by Congress giving the President the power to draft men for military service. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was the first peacetime conscription in United States history. The original Act was allowed to expire in 1947 because it was thought that a sufficient number of volunteers would enlist for the nation's defense. The number of volunteers was not enough, however, and a new draft act was passed in 1948. Between 1948 and 1967 several draft laws were enacted.

In 1975 President Gerald Ford signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act, eliminating the registration requirement for all 18-25 year old male citizens.

Then in 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act, retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service registration requirement for all 18-26 year old male citizens born on or after January 1, 1960. Only men born between March 29, 1957, and December 31, 1959, were completely exempt from Selective Service registration.

If the agency were to mobilize and conduct a draft, a lottery would be held in full view of the public. This would be covered by the media. First, all days of the year are placed into a capsule at random. Second, the numbers 1-365 (1-366 for lotteries held with respect to a leap year) are placed into a second capsule. These two capsules are certified for procedure, sealed in a drum, and stored.

In the event of a draft, the drums are taken out of storage and inspected to make sure they have not been tampered with. The lottery then takes place, and each date is paired with a number at random. For example, if January 16 is picked from the "date" capsule and the number 59 picked from the "number" capsule, all men of age 20 born on January 16 will be the 59th group to receive induction notices. This process continues until all dates are matched with a number.

Should all dates be used, the Selective Service will then conscript men at the age of 21, then 22, 23, 24, and 25. Men ages 18 and 19 are not likely to be inducted to the system. Once all dates are paired, the dates will be sent to Selective Service System's Data Management Center.

The issue of women being exempted was addressed and approved in 1981 by the United States Supreme Court in Rostker v. Goldberg, with the Court holding "The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress' decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them." (info from Wikipedia)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

1951: CONELRAD established
1963: CONELRAD ended

President Truman established the CONELRAD (CONtrol of ELectronic RADiation) system in 1951 to provide emergency information to the public and to prevent Soviet bombers from homing in on their targets by using commercial radio stations as navigation beacons.

Under this first national alerting system, in the event of a Soviet attack on the United States, all commercial radio stations would cease normal operation

Instead, selected CONELRAD stations would broadcast on either 604kHz or 1240kHz to inform the public about emergency measures.

As part of the system it was obligatory for all radios sold after 1953 to have the CONELRAD frequencies of 640 and 1240 kHz marked with small triangles on the dial. The triangles were referred to as CD marks, for Civil Defense. The marks on the radio dial were used to make it easy to find the frequencies.

This requirement was dropped when the CONELRAD system was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System in 1963 which transmitted bulletins over conventional radio stations.

Additionally, by the early 1960's Soviet missiles had replaced bombers that needed radio stations to locate US targets, and made the CONELRAD system obsolete. (info from The Federation of American Scientists)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1901: Marconi sent a wireless signal across the Atlantic

Marchese Guglielmo Marconi (1874 - 1937) was an Italian inventor, best known for his development of a radiotelegraph system, which served as the foundation for the establishment of numerous affiliated companies worldwide. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun, "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy". Later in life, Marconi was an active Italian Fascist and an apologist for their ideology such as the attack by Italian forces in Ethiopia.

During his early years, Marconi had an interest in science and electricity. One of the scientific developments during this era came from Heinrich Hertz, who, beginning in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation—now generally known as "radio waves", at the time more commonly called "Hertzian waves" or "aetheric waves". Hertz's death in 1894 brought published reviews of his earlier discoveries, and a renewed interest by Marconi.

He studied the subject under Augusto Righi, a University of Bologna physicist who had done research on Hertz's work. Marconi began to conduct experiments, building much of his own equipment in his home in Pontecchio, Italy.

His goal was to use radio waves to create a practical system of "wireless telegraphy" —- the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires. This was not a new idea—numerous investigators had been exploring wireless telegraph technologies for over 50 years, but none had proven commercially successful. Marconi did not discover any new and revolutionary principle in his wireless telegraph system, but rather he assembled and improved ideas and adapted them to his system.

In 1899 Marconi sent a signal 32 over the English Channel.

In 1901 Marconi bridged the Atlantic, a feat which caught the world's attention when the Morse Code letter 'S' was transmitted from Poldhu, in Cornwall, England and received by Marconi himself at St. John's, Newfoundland, who recorded the historic event in his pocket book simply "Sigs at 12.20, 1.10 & 2.20".

Marconi's original transmitters used high voltage spark gaps to generate "Hertzian Waves." The first experimental sets used induction coils with vibrating contact current interrupters to generate the high voltages.

In the way of development after Marconi's high voltage spark gap came the use of high voltage transformers to generate the spark gap voltage. The ultimate came in the powerful transmitters such as those at the US Navy's station at Arlington, Virginia. Here a 500 Hz generator, a step up transformer, and a rotary spark gap was used used to create the high voltage. Some of these produced a deafening noise created by the spark. Spark transmitters were often placed in acoustically insulated rooms to deaden the sound. (info from Amateur Radio History and Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

1901: first vacuum cleaner

In 1876, Melville Bissell revolutionized home care by making the need for beating carpets less frequent. He owned a china shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and made the first popular and successful carpet sweeper by putting rotary brushes in a small canister with a push handle. Bissell's invention was spurred by his own need: bits of packing-crate straw became imbedded in his carpet. The Bissell carpet sweeper picked up both straw and dust and contained them in the canister for later disposal.

On the other side of the Atlantic a British company called Ewbank dominated the market. By 1880, Ewbank sweepers were found in many homes including the palaces of Britain's royal family.

Unfortunately, carpet sweepers lacked vacuum suction. They were effective to a certain point, but could not pull dust and dirt from deep within carpet pile. Inventor Hubert Cecil Booth saw a demonstration in London of an American machine that blew compressed air through carpeting; this produced a cloud of dust (proving how much was trapped inside the carpet), but the same dust only settled back into the carpet.

Americans had also experimented with suction devices since about 1859, but only a few factory cleaners reached the marketplace. Booth saw the future in suction. He proved this to friends in two startling demonstrations. In one, he placed a handkerchief on the carpet and sucked on the handkerchief with his mouth. The underside of the cloth was filled with dirt. Even more startling, Booth was so eager to prove his thinking to friends that he knelt in front of a chair in a restaurant and sucked on the chair covering. Coughing and spluttering, he spat the extracted dirt into a hankie.

Booth’s first vacuum cleaner, called "puffin Billy," was made of a piston pump. It did not contain any brushes; all the cleaning was done by suction through long tubes with nozzles on the ends. It was a large machine, mounted in a horse-drawn van that was pulled through the streets. The vans of the British Vacuum Cleaning Company (BVCC) were bright red, and uniformed operators would haul hose off the van and route it through the windows of a building to reach the rooms inside. Booth was harassed by complaints about the noise of his machines and was fined for frightening horses. The BVCC's most prestigious engagement was cleaning the carpets in Westminster Abbey in London before the 1901 coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

The coronation cleaning led to a demonstration at Buckingham Palace, which had a system installed after the royal family saw the dirt Booth was able to suction out of the palace. Booth's vacuum system, however, was not suitable for individual homeowners. Some large buildings had Booth's machine installed in the basement with a network of tubes fitted into the walls of the rooms with sockets in the walls. Short lengths of tubing with nozzles were connected to the sockets, and this central cleaning system sucked the dust into a container in the basement.

Efforts to make smaller vacuum cleaners were slow to develop. Booth made a smaller version call the Trolley Vac in 1906, but it was very expensive and still weighed 100 lb Other cleaners included the Griffith (also debuting in 1906) and the Davies device, patented in 1909, which required a two-man operating crew, fine for wealthy households but not the average home.

James Spangler, like Bissell, suffered from dust allergy and asthma. In 1907, He built an electric-powered vacuum cleaner in Ohio. Spangler made a box of wood and tin with a broom handle to push it and a pillow case to hold the dust. Spangler's innovation was to connect the motor to a fan disc and a rotating brush, combining the best of Bissell's brush sweeper with the suction of a powered vacuum cleaner to pull more dust out of carpets.

Spangler himself did not have the money to promote the cleaner, but his relative, William H. "Boss" Hoover, a maker of leather goods, quickly saw the advantages of Spangler's machine. The first Hoover vacuum was made in 1908 and weighed only 40 lb. The machines sold very well door-to-door because housekeepers could see the action on their own carpeting. Hoover quickly built a large retailing operation that spread to Britain by 1913; to this day, vacuum cleaning in England is called "hovering." (photo from Ciclomatic, info from

Monday, August 18, 2008

2008: first Olympic athlete to win 14 gold medals

Last week I wrote about swimmer Michael Phelps winning his eleventh gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Well, now he has 14.

As expected, Sunday morning Phelps won his eighth gold medal in Beijing. Phelps and teammates Aaron Piersol, Brendan Hansen and Jason Lezak won the 4X100 meter medley relay with a world record time of 3:29.34 minutes.

Phelps has 16 career medals, second only to former Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina (18). His 14 career gold medals is an all-time record. During the 1980 Moscow games, Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin won eight overall medals. But no one until Phelps had won that many gold in one Olympics.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008: first Olympic athlete to win 12 gold medals

Two days ago I wrote about swimmer Michael Phelps winning his eleventh gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Well, now he has twelve.

Friday morning Phelps won his sixth gold medal in Beijing and set his sixth world record, one of 21 set by swimmers in Beijing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1950: first girl to play Little League baseball

During the summer of 1950, as first baseman Tubby Johnston, with short hair tucked under her cap, 12-year-old Kathryn Massar and her brother Tommy tried out for the Kings Dairy Little League team in Corning, NY.

"They didn't know I was a girl, and my brother didn't say anything," she said. "If I had told them my real name, they wouldn't have let me play. So I told them my name was Tubby, from the male character in the cartoon strip Little Lulu.

"I played a couple of weeks and then I talked to my coach." I said: "I really need to tell you something. I'm not a boy. I'm a girl." He said, 'That's O.K., you're a darned good player.' So I ended up playing the whole season at first base and became sort of a drawing card, because everybody wanted to see a girl play."

Because of her age, Massar's Little League career ended after that season. But her participation produced the Tubby Rule prohibiting girls from playing in Little League. It wasn't changed until 1974.

Massar's sports career did not end there, however. A coach from nearby Elmira spotted her talent and persuaded her to play for a girls' fast-pitch softball team. She also played softball and basketball in high school, in addition to tennis and swimming.

She forgot about her place in Little League history until 1974, when her twin sister phoned and told her about a 12-year-old who was credited with being the first girl in Little League.

"So I called Williamsport (where the Little League World Series is held) to just set the record straight and told them I had played 20 years earlier," she said. "I sent them clippings and a picture from The Corning Leader and they said, 'Well, it looks like you were the one.'"

Recognition still eluded her when the Little League decided to celebrate what it said was the 25th anniversary of the first girl to play in the sport. Once again, another name surfaced until a researcher, Lance Van Auken, discovered Kathryn's earlier letters in an old file cabinet in the league office.

Kathryn Massar has already had her honor certified in a new book about the history of Little League and also with an appearance on the television program I've Got a Secret. (info from The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008: first Olympic athlete to win 11 gold medals

Michael Phelps swam into history as the winningest Olympic athlete ever with his 11th career gold medal -- and fifth world record of the Beijing Games.

A day after making his mark alongside Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis with gold No. 9, Phelps claimed the record all to himself when he won the 200-meter butterfly Wednesday morning. It was his 10th career gold medal. Phelps won his fifth gold of games an hour later, leading the US team in an 800-meter freestyle relay that also set a new world record. He had three more chances to stretch his gold medal lead before he leaves China.

In the fly, his signature stroke, Phelps was second at the first flip, then pushed it into another gear, his long arms gobbling up huge chunks of water as he literally sailed along atop the surface. He touched the wall in 1 minutes, 52.03 seconds, breaking his mark of 1:52.09 from last year's world championships.

Phelps rubbed his eyes and said climbing from the pool, "I can't see anything." A pair of leaky goggles kept him from even seeing the wall as he finished. Still, it was another gold and another record, taking Phelps halfway to his goal of beating Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single games. "My goggles kept filling up with water during the race," he said. "I wanted a world record, I wanted 1:51 or better, but in the circumstances, not too bad I guess."

Everyone wanted to get a look at history, including the US men's basketball team. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were among those cheering on Phelps from poolside seats. James posed for pictures with Phelps' mother. (info & photo from The Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

1900: First American woman Olympic champ
(and she didn't know it)

Historically, golf's association with the Olympic movement has been decidedly bizarre. The First Olympics with golf were in 1900, and the last were in 1904. There have been talks about bringing it back for about 25 years but nothing has come of it so far.

The Games of 1900 were held in Paris. The previous year Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French army, a Jew, had been convicted on a charge of treason. It was a bum rap and France was riven by the Dreyfus Affair.

With world attention focused on France for the games, the government wanted to demonstrate itself to be untainted by anti-Semitism. It dismissed Olympic game organizer Baron Pierre de Coubertin and his committee, some of whom were believed to be royalists and anti-Semitic, and handed responsibility to the Paris Exposition Company.

A contemporary historian remarked of the new organizers that "their intelligent appreciation of the task before them remains yet to be disclosed." The Olympics were doomed to chaos.

In 1904, Peggy Abbott, an art student and member of the Chicago Golf Club, was visiting France with her mother and both of them entered an international golf tournament at Compiegne.

Peggy won the nine-hole event with a score of 47. Her mother finished in seventh place. Such was the farcical organization that they understood this was the ladies' championship of Paris and went to their graves without realizing that Peggy had in fact become America's first woman Olympic champion. (info from Golf Digest)

Monday, August 11, 2008

2008: last Olympics with special opening ceremony

The 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony was held at the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. The spectacular four-hour ceremony of the 29th Olympiad of the modern era was directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou and was noted for its focus on ancient Chinese culture, and for its creativity and use of technology.

The final ascent to the torch featured Olympic gymnast Li Ning, who appeared to run through air around the top ring of the stadium. Featuring more than 15,000 performers, the ceremony was said to have cost over $300 million to produce. Weather modification technology was used in an attempt to prevent rain during the Ceremony. A total of 1104 rockets were launched to keep rain clouds from entering Beijing.

Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the XXIX Olympiad, called the ceremony "a grand, unprecedented success."

The 2008 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony was estimated to have a worldwide TV audience of over 4 billion. According to the Nielsen Media Research, the Ceremony was also the most watched Olympic Opening Ceremony ever held in a non-US city by American audiences. This was despite the fact that NBC did not televise the ceremony in the US until 12 hours later on time delay, and some Americans ended up watching clips of it earlier on YouTube and other online video websites.

The ceremony was so spectacular that in the 200 years since 2008, no other country has dared compete with China's effort, and Olympic openings since then have consisted merely of sedate parades of athletes, short speeches and conventional flame lighting.

Friday, August 8, 2008

2000: first US president elected by one vote

The presidential election on November 7, 2000 was one of the closest presidential elections in the history of the US. It was a contest between Democrat Al Gore, the Vice President, and Republican George W. Bush, Governor of Texas.

On election night, news media twice prematurely declared a winner in Florida based on exit polls, before deciding the race was too close to call.

Both candidates needed Florida's electoral votes to win the presidency. A month of court challenges and recounts folllowed, until the US Supreme Court halted recounts by ruling for Bush by a one vote majority.

Bush was certified as the winner in Florida by a margin of 537 votes, defeating Gore, who received more votes than Bush nationwide. It was the third time in American history that a candidate won the the Electoral College vote without winning the popular vote. (info from Wikipedia)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

2006: Nixon no longer worst president since WW2

President George W. Bush was named the worst president in the last 61 years by American voters -- with nearly twice the negative rating of Richard Nixon -- in a poll released by Quinnipiac University on Jun 1, 2006.

Bush was named by 34 percent of voters, followed by Richard Nixon at 17 percent and Bill Clinton at 16 percent, according to the poll. Leading the list for best President since 1945 is Ronald Reagan with 28 percent, followed by Clinton with 25 percent.

President Bush was ranked worst by 56 percent of Democrats, 35 percent of independent voters and 7 percent of Republicans, the University poll found. Best ranking for Reagan comes from 56 percent of Republicans, 7 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independent voters. Among voters 18 - 29 years old, Clinton leads the "best" list with 40 percent.

"Democrats just plain don't like President Bush. His father, the 41st President, was voted out of the White House after one term. Nixon quit under fire. But most Democrats think Bush 43 wins the worst-president race," said Maurice Carroll, Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"Kennedy and Truman get big Democratic votes, especially among Baby Boomers (45 - 64 years old) and seniors (over 65), but recent memory counts," Carroll said. "Democrats say Clinton's the best and Republicans say he's the worst. Republicans don't think much of Jimmy Carter either. There's no contest for the GOP favorite: It's the Gipper."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

1956: first computer with a hard drive

In 1956, IBM introduced the 305 RAMAC computer, which was the first computer to include a disk drive. Prior to this, computers stored data with core memory, tape, or drums. The magnetic disk provided more storage in less space.

The 350 Disk File consisted of a stack of fifty 24" discs. The capacity of the entire disk file was about 4.4 MB, which was an enormous capacity for 1956. IBM leased the 350 Disk File for $35,000 per year. Now you can get a TeraByte hard drive (with nearly 250,000 times the capacity of the original IBM drive) for less than $250 -- down $150 from a couple of years ago. (info from CEDmagic)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

1924: first pictures sent by wire

By a new process of transmitting pictures by electricity, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company sent fifteen photographs over telephone wire from Cleveland to New York City in two hours in 1924.

The Internet is usually faster.

The photo Shows Calvin Coolidge, US president at the time. We're not sure if his photo was transmitted by AT&T, but it would have been a logical choice. (info from The New York Times)

Monday, August 4, 2008

1905: first gas station in the US

Apparently, the first places that sold gasoline were drugstores.

Henry Ford's mass-production of cars lowered prices and greatly increased car sales, and the need for filling stations.

The world's first gas station was built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1905 at 412 S. Theresa Avenue. The second gas station was constructed in 1907 by Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) in Seattle, Washington. (info from Wikipedia)

Friday, August 1, 2008

1890: first woman rabbi in the US

Rachel “Ray” Frank was the first woman student at the Hebrew College in Cincinnati and the first Jewish woman in America to preach formally from a pulpit on Yom Kippur. She delivered the sermon in Spokane, Washington in 1890.

She delivered an opening prayer and paper on "Woman in the Synagogue" at the Jewish Women's Congress, at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and was invited to lead a Chicago congregation but declined the offer.

Rachel Frank was the daughter of Leah and Bernard Frank and was born in 1861 in San Francisco. Her parents were liberal Orthodox Jews. Her father was a peddler and an Indian agent, who claimed to be a descendant from the eighth century Jewish sage, the Vilna Gaon.

She graduated from Sacramento High School in 1879 and moved to Ruby Hill, Nevada, where she began to teach school.

She took some courses in philosophy at the University of California-Berkeley and started teaching at the Sabbath School of Oakland’s First Hebrew Congregation. When the rabbi and the principal resigned, she was appointed as the new principal.

She became a correspondent for several newspapers in the San Francisco area. In 1900 she was sent to visit several booming towns in the Northwest area. In one of these towns, she was asked to be the “lady preacher” for the Jewish community.

She started delivering sermons to many Jewish congregations, groups and organizations on the Pacific Coast. She raised many questions about women’s traditional role in the Jewish community and promoted unity of Orthodox and Reform groups.

When the Jewish Women’s Congress was organized in 1893 in Chicago, Rachel Frank was asked to be their spiritual leader. She delivered the opening and closing benedictions and spoke in favor of women’s emancipation.

Rachel Frank and Samuel Litman were married in 1901. He worked as a translator and later took a position at the University of California and Berkeley teaching marketing and merchandising.

Rachel Frank Litman died in 1948. She left a legacy of bringing people together and creating an enthusiasm for Judaism. She will be remembered as the “Girl Rabbi of the Golden West” and as the first Jewish woman to deliver a sermon from the pulpit. (info from the New York Times & Florida Atlantic Universities. Illustration from the Times)