history stories

On Monday, May 16, NASA is planning to send Space Shuttle Endeavour up into orbit on its last voyage ever. Endeavour, the fleet's youngest shuttle, comes from a family of six: two of which were lost during missions, two retired and the last, Atlantis, is scheduled for a final launch in June. The Space Shuttle program is one filled with the highest of highs and lowest possible lows. Saturday, May 14, also happens to be the 38th anniversary of the launch of Skylab, America's first space station, which deorbited in 1979 and disintegrated in Earth's atmosphere. In short, it's a pretty complex time for America's space program, with each day full of reminders of the heights the country soared to, and the nervous transfer of manned space exploration from a national effort to the private sector. For the last 30 years, NASA's Space Shuttle has served U.S. interests in orbit. You can see the fleet's greatest hits in the gallery below. Each image comes from the flight mentioned, complete with the mission's badge, which were unique to each flight.
50 years ago today, Alan Shepard, America's first astronaut, and the then-newly-formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (or NASA to you and me) achieved an important milestone for the U.S. space program: America's first manned spaceflight. The effort is often talked about in terms of the people involved, or the spacecraft that made it possible. Alan Shepard, for instance, is rightfully regarded as a national hero, and the humble Redstone rocket that carried him into sub-orbit is an iconic reminder of that first flight. There's a crucial component that also played a massive role, however, a young technology at the time that rarely gets its due considering how important it was: the computer.
30 years ago today, Xerox launched what's generally considered to be the world's first commercially available computer mouse. Arguably, the mouse ushered in the era of personal computing, since it made it easy and intuitive for people without computer experience to click around and get stuff done. That 30 year old mouse is very different from what we're used to nowadays, though, and here's a look back at how mousing technology has evolved, from bowling balls of the past to mind control of the future.
Today, it's hard to think of computers as more than a collection of advanced microchips and the like — processors, RAM, flash storage and graphics cards, for example. Like a river, the flow of technology that has led us to the modern computing architecture we use today came from some several often overlooked sources — the proverbial "stones that divert the river." These are the unsung heroes of our technological past, with a few predictions sprinkled in there for good measure. Click on the gallery below to get this journey started.
IBM isn't a name that you hear being kicked around very regularly these days, at least not in the consumer market, but they have a long and rich history of enabling many of the technologies that you know and love. This documentary covers IBM's culture, some of their past highlights, and their future. If you like tech, it's a must-see.