In Pictures: 2013’s geekiest 25th anniversaries

A look back at the most memorable tech-related happenings of 1988

  • IBM’s AS/400 Code-named “Silver Lake” and developed at IBM’s facility in Rochester, Minn., the AS/400 midrange computer family was introduced on June 21, 1988. It was renamed eServer iSeries in 2000.

  • A Brief History of Time First published in 1988, Stephen Hawking’s popular-science book "A Brief History of Time" has sold more than 10 million copies.

  • Doppler Radar From the National Weather Service site: “The radar used by the National Weather Service is called the WSR-88D, which stands for Weather Surveillance Radar - 1988 Doppler (the prototype radar was built in 1988). As its name suggests, the WSR-88D is a Doppler radar, meaning it can detect motions toward or away from the radar as well as the location of precipitation areas. "This ability to detect motion has greatly improved the meteorologist's ability to peer inside thunderstorms and determine if there is rotation in the cloud, often a precursor to the development of tornadoes."

  • Timex Indiglo From the Smithsonian Institution site: “Timex received the patent for the Indiglo® nightlight in 1988. The nightlight's bluish green light illuminates the entire dial of the watch evenly at the push of a button. The dial is coated with a compound of zinc sulfide mixed with copper, a substance which becomes luminescent when an electrical charge is applied. This layer is sandwiched between two conductive layers which act as electrodes. When the button is pushed, energy is supplied by the battery across the two electrodes, which in turn lights up the dial.”

  • Huawei Now a source of competition for U.S. vendors and security concerns for the U.S. government, Chinese networking vendor Huawei was founded in 1988 by an ex-military officer.

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 I could pretend that I was cool enough to have been into this show, but I wasn’t, so here’s how it’s described by IMDb: “In the not too distant future, a man and his robots are trapped on the Satellite of love, where evil scientists force them to sit through the worst movies ever made.” It ran for 11 years and won a bunch of awards. This fan site has a “Today’s Riff” feature that seems like fun.

  • “Climate change” Although he didn’t coin the term on the spot, NASA scientist James Hansen was instrumental in bringing “climate change” into the American lexicon when he testified before a Senate committee in June of 1988.

  • Oncomouse No, not a computer peripheral. The Oncomouse, also known as the Harvard mouse, is a genetically modified lab animal that carries a specific gene called an activated oncogene. In 1988, its “inventors” were granted a patent. That patent expired in 2005.

  • Eudora email client Developed in 1988 by Steve Dorner at the Computer Services Organization of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Eudora e-mail client was named after American author Eudora Welty, who wrote the popular short story “Why I Live at the P.O.” Development of the commercial version stopped in 2006, but Eudora OSE (Open Source Edition) 1.0 was released last September.

  • Space shuttle flights resume NASA’s space shuttle program had been grounded since the Challenger disaster of Jan. 28, 1986. From the NASA website: "On 29 September 1988, NASA Headquarters's officials were excited at the prospect of a successful return-to-flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. At 11:37 a.m., Discovery lifted off the launch pad and quickly accelerated out of sight to the relieved applause and yells of approval of the tens of thousands of spectators who gathered to wish the crew and NASA well. As the craft climbed into the blue sky, many members of the launch control team were filled with emotion, some moved to tears."

  • Apple sues Microsoft and HP This was The Great GUI Lawsuit of 1988. Apple alleged that Microsoft and HP ripped off the “look and feel” of Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. Four years later Apple had nothing but legal bills to show for the effort.

  • The Onion The Onion – self-proclaimed and undisputed as “America’s Finest News Source” – was founded by Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1988.

  • The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 Whatever your opinion of the 1987 “borking” of rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, the disclosure of his video rental habits at his confirmation hearing (left) led Congress to pass The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988. Theoretically, this means that what transpires between you and and the media rental service of your choice should stay private.

  • Business Software Alliance Depending on your point of view: The Business Software Alliance is a trade organization that represents software manufacturers and is dedicated to eradicating piracy and copyright infringement. Or it’s a trade organization representing software makers that strong-arms small businesses and exaggerates the scale of software piracy. Either way, it was founded 25 years ago.

  • Plutonium-238 NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, left Earth last year carrying 8 pounds of Plutonium-238, which Curiosity, like many a space probe before it, uses to convert heat into electricity. The United States stopped making Plutonium-238 in 1988 and supplies have dwindled to dangerously low levels, endangering future space exploration

  • Microsoft passes Lotus There was a time when Lotus Development Corp. was the No. 1 software maker in the world. That time ended in 1988, when Lotus was surpassed by Microsoft.

  • Stand and Deliver From IMDb: “Jaime Escalante is a mathematics teacher in a school in a Hispanic neighborhood. Convinced that his students have potential, he adopts unconventional teaching methods to help gang members and no-hopers pass the rigorous Advanced Placement exam in calculus.”

  • Human-powered flight record From a Wired story about the latest attempt to break the 25-year-old record: "A team from MIT set the current world record in 1988 with its Daedalus, pedaled from the Greek Island of Crete to the island of Santorini. But in actuality, the pilot ended up about 20 feet short of the beach on Santorini, landing in the water after a small thermal updraft from the beach lifted a wing and turned the aircraft back over the water, where the pilot landed before swimming to shore."

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