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This Day in Computer History: December 16

written by: Pipedreamergrey•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/20/2008

Today marks the anniversary of the signing of two significant pieces of legislation, the No Electronic Theft Act and the CAN-SPAM Act. Read more in "This Day in Computer History", a chronology of notable events in the computer, ecommerce, and software industries on this day in history.

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    This Day in Computer History


    Bell Laboratories' William B. Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain patented the history-changing point-contact transistor, which would one day surplant the vacuum tube and lead to the development of modern transistors.


    IMSAI 8080 IMS Associates, Inc. released the IMSAI 8080 computer kit, one of the first consumer computers, featuring a 2.0 MHz Intel 8080A chipset, up to 64 KB RAM, an optional cassette drive, and the CP/M operating system. IMS would sell between seventeen and twenty thousand units. Price: $931 (assembled) or $599 (kit).


    Microsoft settled its long-running lawsuit with software developer Seattle Computer Products (SCP) out of court by purchasing seven licensing agreements at a price of $925,000.


    Twenty-five year-old Kevin Mitnick was charged with lifting a million dollars of software off the computers of DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) and causing four million dollars in damages while hacking into the system. Mitnic was held without bail and prevented from using the jail telephone for fear that he might continue his hacking spree. The prosecutor assigned the case released a statement to the press in which he explained that, “This thing was so massive, we’re just running around trying to figure out what he did. [...] This person, we believe, was very, very dangerous, and he needs to be detained and kept away from a computer." The landmark case was the first in history under which a person was prosecuted for gaining access to an interstate computer network for criminal purposes in the U.S.


    Hewlett-Packard released version 9.03 of its proprietary HP-UX Unix operating system.


    Microsoft released version 3 of its Visual FoxPro database programming language for Windows.


    Adobe Systems released version 6.5 of its PageMaker desktop publishing program for Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0. Price: $895 (New) or $99 (Upgrade).

    IBM and Motorola jointly announced the discontinuation of development of NT-based PowerPC systems.

    Intel announced that it was developing the ASCI Red supercomputer for the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories. The system, once completed, would feature 9,624 Pentium processors capable of performing a trillion operations per second working in parallel. Commissioned for fifty million dollars, ASCI Red would be used to simulate atmospheric phenomena (including weather) and nuclear weapon performance.


    Microsoft appealed Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's preliminary injunction requiring the company to offer computer manufacturers a version of its operating systems without Internet Explorer.

    President Clinton signed the “No Electronic Theft Act" into law, making it a criminal act to trade or distribute copyrighted material with a total retail value of more than a thousand dollars inside any 180-day period and extended the statue of limitations on such violations to five years. Senator Orrin Hatch commented that the “bill plugs the ‘LaMacchia Loophole‘ in criminal copyright enforcement," referring to the failed prosecution of MIT student David LaMacchia due to his lack of commercial motive.


    Iomega released its Clik storage drives, which featured 40 MB disks roughly the shape of a traditional floppy disk. After a lawsuit, the device would be renamed the PocketZip.


    President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law, making the spammers liable for up to $250 per spam message sent. It also made falsifying email headers or failing to provide opt-out instructions finable.


    Desktop Light Linux 0.5 (DeLi Linux) was released. The system was design for older computers, and it had minimal hardware requirements, needing only a 386 processor, 400 MB of hard drive space, and 8 MB RAM.

    The iTunes music service sold its two hundred millionth song to Ryan Alekman of Belchertown, Massachusetts. The song was off The Complete U2 album.

    Microsoft acquired antispyware application developer GIANT Company Software, Inc.

    Symantec and Veritas Software jointly announced that they would merge in a deal valued at approximately $13.5 billion. It would be the largest single acquisition in the history of the software industry.


    Google launched a version of its Gmail webmail service for mobile devices.

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