history stories

 
We all dream of having the revolutionary idea that makes us successful. In fact, the number of patents filed each year almost doubles every ten years to almost half a million in 2010 alone. Unfortunately, being first to market with a new technology product, even a great product, doesn't necessarily guarantee success. For your enjoyment, we've compiled a list of "successful" technology firsts that weren't quite so successful in their original incarnation. Whether it was poor marketing, some supporting technology just wasn't "there" yet, or something unforeseen, you have to admire these brave first attempts. The lessons taught by these technological firsts is all the more apt on this, the day of the iPod's 10 birthday, considering the iPod itself followed in the footsteps of another, now forgotten MP3 player.
 
Today has been proclaimed Black Turtleneck Friday as an homage to Steve Jobs, timed to coincide with today's launch of the iPhone 4S. I've washed my black turtleneck and am wearing it as I test the 4S. Silly, perhaps, but it's my way, our way, a way, to acknowledge our appreciation and respect. I'm not the only one who feels we've lost a singular presence in our world. Jobs' visage graces the covers of nearly every major national periodical — Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg Business Week, Fortune, The Economist, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, even People, somewhat ironic considered how guarded Jobs was about his personal life. I can't remember the last time a non-politician or non-performer garnered such widespread regard from the news and business press. But the world has a short attention span. Jobs is venerated today, but fickle history will be the final judge of Jobs' memory.
 
The news of the death of Steve Jobs hit the tech world hard, but it may have hit fans of Apple products even harder. As the news trickled out across the globe, spanning various time zones, Apple lovers spontaneously began to congregate at Apple stores in a number of countries in an amazing display of respect for the visionary business leader.
 
Sniff! Sniff! I smell failure. Tech failure. I smell — sniff, sniff — the picture fading at Kodak. BlackBerry fans ready to don black. Acer about to be broken. Motorola's cellphone business filled with static. Digg digging its own grave. Netflix jettisoning its DVD business from the streaming ship. While this picture is admittedly overly grim, I know a little about tech flameouts — I was part of two of them. One was as an owner/founder of E/Town, a one-time competitor with CNET, but which died from a number of ills on Valentine's Day 2001; another was as sports editor (a former life) for WOW!, Compuserve's ill-advised Prodigy-like online family service, in 1996. (More on Prodigy in a bit.) In the meantime, you could fill Arlington many times over with the number of companies that have flopped spectacularly, many way too soon. I'm not going to examine the whys, though one could easily fire off a half dozen common causes for tech company collapses: over-expansion too soon misguided "improvements" or changes founder CEOs ill-equipped to manage a large company an established company unable to adapt to new technologies or too big to compete with agile new competitors a product produced either before its time or too late the loss of a charismatic founder Here are some sad stories of a few of my own "favorite" — used bittersweet — tech flops whose demises I've covered in the past.
 
For NASA and space fans alike, the Space Shuttle program could not be winding down at a headier time. The landing of Atlantis this morning marks the end of an era, and comes the same day as one of NASA's early milestones 50 years ago exactly: Virgil "Gus" Grissom's suborbital voyage aboard the Liberty Bell 7 — the second launch for Project Mercury, NASA's earliest manned spaceflight program. Yesterday also happened to be the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and just this May was the 50th anniversary of the first manned NASA spaceflight ever — also part of Project Mercury. So, yeah: heady times. Gus Grissom was the second American to go up into space, and the first to do it twice. He was an active influence on all of NASA's initial manned spaceflight programs, starting with his controversial Mercury flight, then on to Gemini and, finally, Apollo, where Gus Grissom would make the ultimate sacrifice. It should be stated here — and it's no slight to the man — that while this article focuses primarily on Grissom and includes interviews with people who worked in the space program, it's also about the untold thousands who go unmentioned. As Apollo programmer Homer Ahr told us over the phone, "We wanted to fly a successful mission, and sooner or later when you get people to discuss it from that vantage point, egos tended to go away." It was a team effort, through and through. With that in mind, join us as we take a look back at Grissom's contribution to our space program by way of his three landmark spacecraft, and the fierce controversy that threatened to tarnish an amazing legacy.
 
Today is the 65th anniversary of the modern bikini. Or actually, it was yesterday. We spent a lot of time (like, seriously a lot of time) yesterday doing serious research for this piece in order to provide you with the best possible bikini content, and it just sort of happened that we looked up and all of a sudden it was tomorrow. Oops.
 
In the early 1980s I attended a BASIC programming contest in Philadelphia with some fellow "whiz kid" friends. For those of you who came up after that era, it was a colloquial term for computer geeks in the '80s. Our coding for the contest was on Apple IIe machines, which I remember fondly. At the end of the contest, we gathered in the lecture hall auditorium for the awards ceremony. In the forefront, set out on display podiums like queen's jewels were something we had never seen before: Macintosh computers. Unlike today, there had been no websites with leaked photos and we had only vague news of what this was from the magazines of the period. One thing was certain, we were in awe. Three of these "gems" (Mac 128s, pictured above) were for us to try, at the end of the awards presentation we were each allowed to briefly give one of them a test drive. I opened up Mac Paint, I dragged and dropped, and I clicked on things for the very first time. I was in love.

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