This Day in Computer History: September 17

Written by:  Pipedreamergrey • Edited by: Christian Cawley
Published Sep 17, 2008
• Related Guides: Linux Kernel | Computer History | New York City

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most overblown virus scares in history and the first release of the Linux kernel. Read about these events and more in "This Day in Computer History", a chronology of notable events in the computer, ecommerce, and software industries on this day in history.

This Day in Computer History


RCA (Radio Corporation of America) withdrew from the computer market and lost US$490 million in the process.


The day after he was forced to resign from Apple Computer, Steven Jobs circulated his letter of resignation among several major media outlets. It also became public knowledge that five other Apple employees had left with him, though their venture, NeXT computer, didn't enter the public eye until 1988.

Former Atari marketing manager Donald Kingsborough announced plans to launch a robotic talking toy bear based on the same animatronic technology that Disneyland employs in their attractions. The 2.5 pound toy bear, Teddy Ruxpin, would sell for between $60 and $80. Upon its release it would become the first common household robotic toy.


The Washington Post published an article on a computer virus, “that springs to life destructively on Friday the 13th is on the loose.” The news spread through the media, getting completely blown out of proportion. The virus, later dubbed the “DataCrime” virus, formats the first eight tracks of cylinder 0 of infected computers, effectively rendering the system's hard drive useless. The danger posed by the virus ultimately proved to be ridiculously overblown when only fifty incidents were reported in Europe and only seven incidents were reported in the whole of the United States.


Power at AT&T switching stations across New York City failed. Their back-up power systems failed. Then, the switching station's automatic warning systems failed. The subsequent phone crash affected New York City's airports: Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark. More than five hundred flights were canceled and five hundred more were delayed, leaving some eighty-five thousand passengers, including the FCC Chairman, stranded. In The Hacker Crackdown, Bruse Sterling will write, “This horrifying event was particularly ironic, as attacks on airport computers by hackers had long been a standard nightmare scenario, much trumpeted by computer- security experts who feared the computer underground. There had even been a Hollywood thriller about sinister hackers ruining airport computers - Die Hard II.”

The first version of the Linux kernel, version 0.01, was released to the Internet by Linus Torvalds, a computer science student at the University of Helsinki. The source code of the kernel was 64KB large.


Apple Computer recalled sixty thousand PowerBooks due to a number of defects, including three incidents in which an electrical short melted a hole through the case. Apple's share price closed down $1.25 at $47 following the announcement of the recall.


Two doctoral computer science students from the University of California, Berkeley, David Wagner and Ian Goldberg, crack the pseudo-random number generator incorporated into the SSL of Netscape Navigator.


Motorola introduced the StarMax line of Power Macintosh clones, featuring a version of Apple’s Tanzania motherboard and either a PowerPC 603e or 604e processor.


IBM licensed the PalmPilot design from 3Com.


Twenty-eight year old Aaron Blosser harnessed over 2,585 computers at the US West Regional Bell Operating Company to search for Mersenne prime numbers during their idle time. The combined processing power of the systems ran approximately 10.63 years of processing time in the course of the search. “I’ve worked on this (math) problem for a long time,” Blosser said later. “When I started working at US West, all that computational power was just too tempting for me.” While Blosser intended for the software he installed to run in the background, he misconfigured the system, flooding it with processor hungry tasks, disrupting the systems processing and drawing the attention of employers.


The French finance ministry announced the investigation of complaints regarding Microsoft's business practice, but assures the public that it hasn't yet found any grounds to bring an antitrust trial.


Netscape Communicator 4.75 was released.


Twenty-one year old Samir Rana ("Torner") of London was arrested on the allegation of being a principal member of the notorious hacking group “Fluffy Bunny,” which was responsible for launching a string of DDoS attacks on high-traffic, high exposure sites around the web. It would later be revealed that Scotland Yard had what amounted to an open-and-shut case against Rana. In his web persona, Rana had announced each attack, posted photos of himself to the group's website, and had been caught with evidence that included the stuffed rabbit used in the photos used to deface websites.


AOL officially announced that it will refocus its business on advertising, moving away from mainly providing Internet service.

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