history stories

 
In the early 1880s, recording sound was a brand new thing. It was so brand new that people like Alexander Graham Bell and his buddies were still experimentin' with the best way to make it work. The Smithsonian has some of these trial-and-error recordings, and using 3D optical scanners, they've been able to play them back for the first time in over a century.
 
Now booking, now booking! Trips to the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn! Come one, come all, and reserve your trip into space today! At least, that's what you could have done at New York City's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History back in 1950. That begs the question: if you could book an interplanetary flight today, where would you go? I'm still partial to the Red Planet, myself, though there are some interstellar options that are looking better every day.
 
On Saturday, November 19, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City will welcome a new special exhibit to its halls, titled "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration." Before you read any further, you should know this isn't just any ordinary space exhibit. Beyond Planet Earth isn't a collection of relics from the space race and a history of America's efforts to explore the vastness surrounding Earth. It's got that, sure, but what the exhibit is really about is where we're going: both in the near-term, and as far out as 500 years from now. More than that, it's either the first — or certainly one of the few — major exhibits that presents space exploration as a global effort, and one that will become more international as humanity reaches out into the stars. Beyond Planet Earth doesn't brush NASA under the carpet by any means, but the exploration of space is a human endeavor, and one that's adding new nations and corporations to its roster all the time. Read on to find out what you can expect to see beyond the cradle.
 
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.

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