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This Day in Computer History: December 24

written by: Pipedreamergrey•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/25/2008

Today marks the anniversary of the announcement that the patent on the GIF format would be enforced, sending ripples through the software community. 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


    Thomas Edison applied for a patent on a new type of phonograph that used a tin foil cylinder to record and play sound. The device was the first to feature the ability to read write data.


    Fidonet In his FidoNews newsletter, Tom Jennings, founder of the FidoNet network for bulletin board systems, announced that the network had transmitted a message between continents for the first time. This first intercontinental message had been sent from Jakarta, Indonesia and received in St. Louis, Missouri. Messages had already been passed over the FidoNet network internationally, between the U.S. and Canada, just after the network's founding.


    CompuServe and Unisys announced that companies developing software that used the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) would have to henceforth license the technology. After years of using the format free of financial entanglements, software developers would respond to the announcement with a combination of anger and panic. Many open source software projects that couldn't afford to license technologies were forced to remove GIF-compatible features. Many large commercial developers threatened to discontinue its use in protest. As a result, the League for Programming Freedom was formed to protest the abrupt enforcement of the old GIF patents. The organization would be best known for its “Burn All GIFs" campaign. Another result of the announcement was the development of the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format, which was specificially designed for internet graphics.


    Hayes Microcomputer Products, one of the oldest manufacturers of computer modems in the U.S., announced its merger with Access Beyond, another major manufacturer of modems and terminal servers for internet service providers. The resulting company, Hayes Communications, would take both companies public, but in October of the following year, the new company's stock value would plummet from a combined value of twelve dollars a share to only pennies, forcing it to liquidate its assets to meet its financial obligations.


    Government contractor Exigent International released a statement announcing that a hacker had accessed systems at the United States Naval Research Laboratory and stolen source code for the Navy's proprietary satellite control system, OS/COMET, which acts as an interface between ground control and U.S. satellite systems. The incident was one of the most prominent hacks of recent years.


    Ruby Version 1.6.8 of the Ruby programming language was released.


    Version 1.0 of FoX Linux was released in Lite and PRO editions. This first stable version was a free Italian distribution based on the Fedora Core and optimized for i686 architecture.