January 19: This Day in Innovation – Some Days a Lot of Stuff Happens


Charles Wilkes circumnavigates Antartica and claims a chunk that later became known as Wilkes Land for the United States. The Australians also claim the land as part of the Australian Antarctic Territory. At the time, however, Wilkes was an explorer commanding the United States Exploring Expedition. According to Wikipedia, “The naming is in recognition of Wilkes’ discovery of the continental margin over a distance of 2,400 km (1,500 miles) of coast, thus providing substantial proof that Antarctica is a continent.”

1883 — Electricity

The first electric-lighting system using overhead wires began in Rosselle, N.J. This was part of Edison’s stream of innovations in that period. It followed his patenting a system for electricity distribution in 1880, and the founding of the Edison Illuminating Company the same year.

1915 — Neon & War

George Claude, considered at one point the “Edison of France,” patents the neon discharge tube for its first use in advertising. His accomplishments included pioneering research in to the liquefaction of gasses. Born in 1870, he lived until 1960, and was witness to huge upheavals in Europe in his life. Claude cast his lot with the Nazis during their occupation of France and was stripped of all his honors after Liberation.

Meanwhile, in innovation we can do without, German Zeppelins bomb Britain, and kill 20, in the first major aerial bombardment of a civilian target.

1935 — Tighty Whities

Coopers, later known as Jockey, sells the world’s first briefs in Chicago. They proved to be some popular they moved 30,000 in three months.

1937 — Air-Speed Record

Howard Hughes sets an air-speed record from LA to Newark, N.J., in 7 hours 28 minutes and beating his own record by just under two hours. Another person with a very interesting life, Hughes was one of the wealthiest people alive at the time and was an investor, aerospace engineer, movie maker and philanthropist. Hughes was also designer of the “Spruce Goose,” which was the world’s largest flying boat and slated for use in WW II as a transport plane.

1983 — GUI & Mouse

The world’s first PC using a graphical user interface and mouse was announced commercially. Although the concept was developed at Xerox’s legendary PARC, Apple Lisa was the first to commercialize the concept.

1986 — First PC Virus

In more innovation we can do without, a couple of brothers in Pakistan, Basit Farooq and Amjad Farooq Alvi, released the first PC virus in to the wild. Dubbed Brain, the virus was allegedly designed to prevent others from copying medical software they made. In fairness, they were not hard to track down since they put their names and phone numbers in the software.

Reaction was swift and overwhelming, however, because phone calls started flooding in from abroad, the brothers were “stunned and tried to explain to the outraged callers that their motivation had not been malicious,” according to Wikipedia.

Image, via Wikipedia, of Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” is from US Federal Aviation Administration, and, as a work of the U.S. federal government, is in the public domain.