What happened today in Computer History: August 21

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This Day in Computer History


William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri receives four patents for the first successful “Calculating-Machine.” (US No. 388,116-388,119) He founded the American Arithmometer Corporation with one hundred thousand dollars in capital in 1886 and produced fifty of the devices in the first year alone. By 1904, the company, which will be renamed the Burroughs Corporation, will be the largest adding machine manufacturer in the US.


International Business Machines (IBM) representatives meet with Microsoft to discuss their upcoming IBM PC line. Specifically, IBM wishes Microsoft to develop a programming language for the system. Bill Gates agrees to license the company Microsoft BASIC. IBM expresses its interest in licensing the popular CP/M operating system, which will later lead to talks that will, in turn, lead to Microsoft licensing MS-DOS to IBM.


Gary Kildall of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) meets with Bill Gates of Microsoft again, to talk in general terms about their planned personal computers. IBM asks if Microsoft will develop some programming language interpreters/compilers for it. Bill Gates agrees to supply BASIC and other software development tools. IBM also asks for CP/M, triggering a line of negotiations and business deals that will one day leave Microsoft as undisputed king of the OS market.


Axlon, Inc., a toy company founded by Nolan Bushnell, holds its initial public offering (IPO) of common stock, successfully raising nearly ten million dollars. Axlon will go on to develop a line of toys that bring computer technology into children’s lives, including the Control-Vision video game system and the interactive AG Bear. Bushnell is better known for founding Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s.


Linus Torvalds first informally announces the development of his Linux operating system kernel in the comp.os.minix Usenet newsgroup. The posting reads, in part: “Hello everybody out there using minix - I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since April, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).” At the time of its announcement, the baby kernel didn’t even have a proper name. Torvalds had considered a number of names, settling on “Freax.” However, he never mentioned the name in newsgroups. Eventually, one of his colleagues at the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) dubbed the project “Linux.”


The United States Justice Department begins its investigation of Microsoft as a result of an the 1990 investigation initiated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of collusion between Microsoft and International Business Machines (IBM).


In Dusseldorf, Germany, Atari introduces the Atari Falcon030 Computer System at the Atari Messe (Atari Fair). The system will be discontinued only a year later in order for Atari to consolidate all of its marketing for the release of its Atari Jaguar video game console. During the Falcon’s brief availability, it will be widely derided as being hobbled by a 16-bit data bus woefully inadequate for the system’s 32-bit Motorola 68030 microprocessor. Code-name: Sparrow


United States District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson approves a July 1994 consent decree between Microsoft and the United States Justice Department. Under the decree, Microsoft cannot force computer manufacturers to license other Microsoft products when licensing the Windows operating system; however, Microsoft may continue to develop “integrated” products.


Autodesk, Inc., a leading developer of drafting and engineering software, announces plans to acquire Discreet Logic Inc., a developer and distributor of open-platform digital imaging processing software, for almost US $530 million in stock. Autodesk is best known for AutoCAD, while Discreet is best known for 3D Max and Maya, which are used for media graphics.


The Zappa chess engine, programmed by graduate student Anthony Cozzie of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is declared the winner of the International Computer Games Association’s thirteenth annual World Computer Chess Championship (WCC) for computer chess engines at Reykjavik University in Iceland. The victory of the first-time entrant with no less than a score of 10.5 out of 11 is especially impressive in the face of world-renowned competition from Deep Junior and Shredder, each of which have won the competition multiple times in the past.


Version 1.4.0 of the Java Tcl programming language is released.


The domain Suprnova.org, which was home to the Internet’s most popular Bittorrent search engine from late 2002 to December 19, 2004, is relaunched by The Pirate Bay in defiance of Swedish prosecutor Håkan Roswall, who made it clear earlier in the summer that he would press charges against the operators of The Pirate Bay. The relaunched website features the same design with a few behind-the-scenes technological advancements. The act is viewed by many member of the online community as a last bit of bravado in the face of overwhelming government opposition to Pirate Bay’s flagrant disregard of copyright law. However, a year later both domains continue to thrive.