HISTORY OF THE IBM PC: 40 YEARS AGO
40 years ago this week, the IBM PC was released.
August 12, 1981, IBM announced its first “personal computer,” though it had previously been famous for its IBM System/370 mainframe computer. I operated one of these mainframes in a raised-floor data center back in the early ’80s.
The PC was officially called the IBM Model 5150 and sported a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor. It had been in development for a year in a secret “skunkworks” lab in Boca Raton, FL, under the direction of Bill Lowe.
It cost $1,565 and was targeted at both consumers and professional users, especially students (who could afford it) and business users. In today’s dollars, it would have cost $4,455.
Back in the day, I watched someone who knew how to use a VisiCalc spreadsheet built out a pricing forecast for me on the “green screen.” It was amazing.
Did it catch on? It exceeded IBM’s expectations by over 800%! IBM was shipping 40,000 PCs a month, which was a lot at that time, with over half going into homes. IBM licensed Charlie Chaplin‘s “The Little Tramp” character for their advertising campaign. (more…)
HISTORY OF WOODSTOCK
August 15 marks the anniversary of the “3 Days of Peace & Music” held in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York, southwest of the village of Woodstock. This outdoor music event, in spite of thundershowers, gave voice to the counterculture youth generation of its time. A documentary film followed it in 1970 and a top-selling soundtrack album.
I’d like to share with you what it was like to be at the Woodstock Rock Festival — the music, the crowds “half a million strong,” the rain, the muddy roads, the traffic jams, the counterculture vibe, the media coverage, the movie film crew, the atmosphere, the awareness of its own importance, the sense of history in the making:
- What it was like to hear Jimi Hendrix electrically and psychedelically reinterpret the national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner.
- To experience the frenetic exuberance of The Who define a new youth anthem with We’re Not Gonna Take It and My Generation.
- What it was like to hear the newly formed supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young say, “This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people, we’re scared s***less!”
- To describe to you what it was like to participate in “peace, love, and rock & roll.”
I’d like to do this, but I wasn’t there. However, I do remember it when it occurred. And of course, who hasn’t seen the 1970 Academy Award-winning documentary movie — edited by a young Martin Scorsese.
Woodstock, the Event
Over fifty years ago, 400,000 Baby Boomers attended one of the defining moments of American post-modernism. While The Beatles may have introduced post-modernism earlier in the ’60s, Woodstock pulled together many distinctively American voices. This music festival was called “An Aquarian Exposition,” though it now may feel more like the “dawning of the aging of Aquarius.”
Here were the performers, 32 different acts performed over the course of the four days, in Yasgur’s field, from Friday to the morning of Monday — with a few of my comments:
HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH
If you’re reading this article to learn the history of Friday the 13th, you’re in luck.
Or perhaps bad luck.
No one knows, with any certainty, when it began or why it’s to be feared. However, there are lots of entertaining speculative theories about the topic.
What is the Fear of Friday the 13th?
- Paraskevidekatriaphobia — is the name of the superstition. The word is constructed from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”)
- Friggatriskaidekaphobia — is the fear of Friday the 13th. The word is made of both Norse and Greek roots: Frigg or Frigga, the name of the wife of the Norse god Odin. Friday gets its name from Frigg. Triskadeka is “thirteen” in Greek (literally: “three” “and” “ten”), and phobia means “fear.”
HISTORY OF INFINITY DAY: AUGUST 8
Infinity Day is also known as Universal & International Infinity Day. It is a commemoration held on the 8th day of the 8th month of each year to celebrate and promote Philosophy and Philosophizing for the ordinary person.
Why 8 is significant:
- 8 planets in the Solar System — since Pluto got demoted.
- 8 is the atomic number of Oxygen.
- 8 is the maximum number of electrons that can occupy a valence shell in atomic physics.
- 8 people were saved in the Flood at the time of Noah.
- 8th day: Jesus was circumcised, as the brit mila is held for Jewish boys.
- 8 is the number of legs a spider or octopus has.
- 8 is 2 cubed.
- 8 follows 7 but stops before 9 making it the only non-zero perfect power that is one less than another perfect power.
- 8 is the basis of the octal system, each digit representing 3 bits. A byte is 8 bits.
- 8 displayed horizontally is the symbol of infinity
What’s in a name? The name of this month wasn’t always August; previously the Romans called it Sextilis. This was back in the days of Romulus in 753 BC when there were originally ten months (… Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.) The Roman Senate, in 8 B.C., decided to honor their first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, by changing the name of the month to Augustus.
Now Augustus wasn’t his name; it was a description of his importance. He was born as Gaius Octavius, though he is known in the history books as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or Octavius to his friends. The title Augustus in Latin comes from augere “to increase” and was granted to him in 27 B.C. by the Roman Senate.
It meant “venerable” or “consecrated,” signifying his religious role in the Roman cultus. We use the term in English to describe someone auspicious, grand, or lordly… or with imperial qualities. The Greek equivalent is Sebaste (Σεβαστή).
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY
Several years ago, at this time of the Summer, on one of my teaching trips to Ireland, I found myself on the west coast, where they have a saying,
“Ahh… west o’ here, the next parish over is Boston.“
This Sunday, the last one in July every year, marks Reek Sunday or Garland Sunday in Ireland. During this event, between 25,000 and 40,000 people will walk the 3-hour round trip up the Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland. It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick and a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland. Over 100,000 people visit Croagh Patrick throughout the year.
The Tradition Behind Reek Sunday
On the summit of this mountain, it is believed that St. Patrick fasted and prayed for 40 days in 441 A.D. The story goes that at the end of this fast, St. Patrick threw a bell down the mountainside and banished all the serpents from Ireland. The fact that snakes never were native to Ireland does not diminish the tradition.
Some believe that the banishing of snakes represents either certain pagan practices or outright evil. In any event, the pilgrimage in honor of St. Patrick goes back to this date over 1,500 years ago. (more…)
188 years ago today, on July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire. It was authored by William Wilberforce.
August 24 marks the birthday of British statesman and England’s greatest abolitionist William Wilberforce. He was a man well known to the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution and became not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, but also a writer of such popularity (in his own day) as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century. As I mentioned in my first article on the History of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s mentor was the song’s author John Newton. The popular film “Amazing Grace” tells, in brief, the life of Wilberforce.
William Wilberforce was born in 1759 to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament bills for both the abolition of the slave trade as well as the emancipation of enslaved people in the British Empire, almost 200 years ago.
HISTORY OF THE OLYMPICS
While the modern Olympic Games go back to 1896, the ancient Olympic Games reach back as far as 776 B.C. and beyond. Though historians hang the beginning on that date, it seems the Games had been going on for several centuries before the 8th century B.C. Held originally in Olympia, Greece — a sister city of my town of Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center — the games were dedicated to Zeus, father of the Olympian gods, and the site was one of the most important religious centers in Greece.
The ancient Games were more religious in nature than sporting. For five days during the first full moon in August, religious worship included the sacrifice of hundreds of oxen, grand processions, temple adornment, and banquets to honor the Olympian gods. Over time, this changed as commerce took an increasingly larger part along with the greater emphasis on athletic competitions. (more…)
HISTORY OF THE 1ST MOON LANDING: APOLLO 11
Fifty-two years ago today, at 3:17 Eastern Time, July 20, 1969, the first human stepped out of the Apollo 11 lunar module onto the moon. With the immortal words of the 38-year-old Neil Armstrong:
“That’s one small step for (a) man,
one giant leap for mankind.”
…the first man in history began an excursion on the moon that lasted over two and a half hours.
Five hundred million people watched it on television. Everyone I knew watched it.
Moon Landing: The Mission
Eight years previously, in May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his special State of the Union message had uttered these galvanizing words:
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Space… the final frontier… her mission…” It was spoken first in September of 1966. But John Kennedy’s 29-word statement five years earlier first captured the sense of “mission” more clearly and memorably than Americans had commonly heard before.
The Apollo mission would send two Americans to the moon’s surface and return them safely.
HISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY
Each year on July 14, Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille in Paris on this date in 1789, an important date in the French Revolution. Also known as French National Day, it features feasting, fireworks, public dancing, and an address by the French President.
However, the center of this celebration is the largest and oldest European military parade along the Avenue of the Champs-Élysées. This wide boulevard runs through Paris and is called la plus belle avenue du monde. Lined by high-end shops and eateries, as well as the Arch of Triumph in the middle, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful avenue in the world that I’ve walked along.
Unlike last year, when Coronavirus prohibited the parade, this year, it will resume. Bastille Day is celebrated across the globe wherever French ex-patriots, people of French ancestry, and Francophiles live.
HISTORY OF FRENCH FRIES: NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY
Today is National French Fry Day. While no one knows who began this celebration, placing in on July 13 is significant in that the important French holiday is the next day, July 14, for Bastille Day.
History of French Fries
Some French people might call the delectable potato confection Belgian Fries, and there is evidence that they may have originated there.
One story is that the phrase “French Fried Potatoes” first appeared in English in 1856 in the cookbook Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren.
Another story, which is more likely, is that they were first called “French Fries” by American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I. After first tasting them, the Yanks called them “French” fries as it was the official language of their fellow Belgian soldiers.
A Belgian journalist claims that a 1781 family manuscript tells of deep-fried potatoes in the Spanish-Netherlands (now Belgium) before the 1680s. The fact that potatoes did not arrive in that area until around 1735 makes this a hot potato. Eating potatoes for food was popularized in France by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who wore potato blossoms in their buttonholes and hair.
Potatoes are not native to Europe, but came from the New World, when Spanish conquistadors brought them back from Peru in the early 15th century. This is why J.R.R. Tolkien, at the suggestion of his careful readers, removed them from his mid-60s versions of his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, but the movies did not.
HISTORY OF JOHN CALVIN
On July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France, was born Jean Cauvin, known to us as John Calvin. Of all the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, none were more significant in forming biblical theology or ecclesiastic thought than this one man. Calvin’s teaching and tradition penetrated more of the world than any of the other Protestant traditions.
He would most influence the worldview of Western Europe, the UK, and the Americas up until the 20th-century. His organization of the church government in Geneva would influence the church polity of Presbyterianism. His theology would influence the Congregational (Puritan) as well as German and Dutch Reformed Churches. Though they did not fellowship with Calvinistic churches, some Baptists and Unitarians often contained aspects of his theology.
John Calvin’s Influence on America
Many of the ideas incorporated into the American Constitution were done so by men inspired by John Calvin. He had a healthy view of the depravity of man, the need for checks and balances in government, the division of powers, and provision for the rightful and orderly succession of rulers. Founding Father James Madison was strongly influenced by the Scottish Presbyterian (Calvinist) Reverend John Witherspoon, the only clergy signer of the Declaration of Independence.