This Day in History (19-May-2001) – Apple Inc. Opens its First Retail Store

On Saturday, May 19, 2001, Apple Inc. opened its first retail store in the US, at Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia. Steve Jobs, the then CEO had hosted a press event earlier that week at the Tysons Corner Center mall announcing the opening of 25 retail stores in 2001. The other retail store that Apple launched on the same day was at Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California. According to Jobs, the retail stores were designed to give Apple customers an amazing experience. He said “The Apple stores offer an amazing new way to buy a computer. Rather than just hear about megahertz and megabytes, customers can now learn and experience the things they can actually do with a computer, like make movies, burn custom music CDs, and publish their digital photos on a personal website.

Upon launch, the Apple retail stores carried every Apple product and over 300 third-party software titles to be bought off-the-rack. The store salespeople were demonstrated Macs powered with applications such as iTunes and iMovie. The newly launched Mac OS X operating system was available for customers to experience firsthand. All the Macs on display were connected to the Internet.

On May 19, over 500 fans lined up at about 4 am EDT to be among the first customers. By the time the store opened at 10 am, they had started to chant “Apple, Apple, Apple”. On the opening day, security guards kept a close watch over the people entering the store since local regulations limited store capacity to 80 people. In the first two days, the Apple retail stores welcomed over 7700 people and recorded the sales of over $599,000 worth of merchandise. On the opening day, Apple customers found the following message in their shopping bags, “This store is our way of personally introducing you to the Apple way of life. At Apple, we are committed to building a community where knowledge can be shared freely.”

In that age of uncertainty, many thought Apple’s dip into retail waters was an act of supreme foolishness. But as Apple is wont, they did it anyway. The choice turned out to be a wise one indeed.


This Day in History (30-Apr-1993) – CERN announces World Wide Web protocols developed by Tim Berners-Lee will be free to the public

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 what is today known as the Internet. At the time, Tim was a software engineer at CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Many scientists participated in experiments at CERN for extended periods of time, then returned to their laboratories around the world. These scientists were eager to exchange data and results, but had difficulties doing so. Tim understood this need, and understood the unrealized potential of millions of computers connected together through the Internet. Tim documented what was to become the World Wide Web with the submission of a proposal to his management at CERN, in late 1989. Tim’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. However, Tim persevered.

By October of 1990, he had specified the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web; HTML, URL, HTTP. Tim also wrote the first Web page editor/browser (“WorldWideWeb”) and the first Web server (“httpd“). By the end of 1990, the first Web page was served. By 1991, people outside of CERN joined the new Web community. Very important to the growth of the Web, CERN announced in April 1993 that the World Wide Web technology would be available for anyone to use on a royalty-free basis.

Since that time, the Web has changed the world. It has arguably become the most powerful communication medium the world has ever known. The Web has changed the way we teach and learn, buy and sell, inform and are informed, agree and disagree, share and collaborate, meet and love, and tackle problems ranging from putting food on our tables to curing cancer. Tim Berners-Lee and others realized that for the Web to reach its full potential, the underlying technologies must become global standards, implemented in the same way around the world. Therefore, in 1994, Tim founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a place for stakeholders to reach consensus around the specification and guidelines to ensure that the Web works for everyone and that it evolves in a responsible manner.


This Day in History (27-Apr-1981) – Xerox PARC Introduces the Mouse

Douglas Engelbart, filed the patent in 1967 of his technology, which provided the tool needed to navigate graphics-filled computer screens with a simple motion of the hand. It consisted of a wooden shell, circuit board and two metal wheels that came into contact with the surface it was being used on.Because his patent for the mouse expired before it became widely used with personal computers in the mid-1980s, Engelbart garnered neither widespread recognition nor royalties for his invention. It was a few years later in 1972 that Bill English developed the design further by inventing what is known as the “Ball Mouse” that we know today. The ball replaced the wheels and was capable of monitoring movement in any diection. The ball came into contact with two rollers that in turn spun wheels with graduations on them that could be turned into electrical pulses representing direction and speed. On April 27, 1981, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) changed the way people interacted with machines forever by introducing the mouse as part of the 8010 Star Information System workstation.

An optical mouse was developed in around 1980, eliminating the ball which often became dirty from rolling round the desktop, negatively affecting its operation. The term “mouse” wouldn’t become a part of the modern lexicon when Apple made it standard equipment with its original Macintosh, which debuted in 1984. The emergence of the Microsoft Windows operating system and Web browsers hastened the mouse’s pervasiveness throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century.

Logitech claims to have manufactured one billion mice, which “speaks volumes for the success of this pointing device and the dominance of the graphical user interface of which it is an integral part,” Gartner Blog Network analyst Steve Prentice blogged in December 2008. His prediction: the mouse is an endangered species with less than five years before it joins the ranks of the green screen, punch cards and other computer technologies now honorably retired to technology museums after years of faithful service on desktops everywhere.


This Day in History (4-Apr-1975) – Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen

Childhood friends, Paul Allen and Bill Gates were total computer geeks in an age when any access to computers was hard to come by. Allen and Gates skipped classes to live and breathe in their school’s computer room. Eventually, they hacked the school’s computer but instead of expulsion, the duo were offered unlimited computer time in exchange for helping to improve the computer’s performance. Bill Gates and Paul Allen even ran their own small company called Traf-O-Data and sold a computer to the city of Seattle for counting city traffic.

In 1973, Bill Gates left Seattle to attend Harvard University as a pre-law student. However, Gate’s first love never left him, as he spent most of his time in Harvard’s computer center where he kept improving his programming skills. Soon Paul Allen moved to Boston as well, pressuring Gates to quit Harvard so that the team could work full-time together on their projects. Bill Gates quit Harvard.

In January 1975, Paul Allen read an article about the Altair 8800 microcomputer in Popular Electronics magazine.  Bill Gates called MITS, the makers of the Altair, and offered his and Paul Allen’s services to write a version of the new BASIC programming language for the Altair. In eight weeks, Allen and Gates were able to demonstrate their program to MITS, who agreed to distribute and market the product under the name of Altair BASIC.

The Altair deal inspired Gates and Allen to form their own software company, and Microsoft was started on April 4, 1975, with Bill Gates as the first CEO. In July 1975, Bill Gates used the name “Micro-soft” (the combination of the words microprocessor and software) in a letter to Paul Allen to refer to their partnership. The name was registered. By 1978, Microsoft excced $1m sell. Microsoft rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by Microsoft Windows. As of now, Microsoft is market dominant in both the PC-compatible operating system and office software suite markets. In November, 2014, Microsoft became the 2nd most valuable company by market capitalization, behind only Apple Inc. with total market value over $410B.



This Day in History (14-Mar-1994) – Linux 1.0.0 released

Linux is the first truly free Unix-like operating system. The underlying GNU  Project was launched in 1983 by Richard Stallman originally to develop a Unix-compatible operating system called GNU (Gnu’s Not Unix), intended to be entirely free software. Many programs and utilities were contributed by developers around the world, and by 1991 most of the components of the system were ready. Still missing was the kernel.  In 1991, Torvalds was a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland where he had been using Minix, a non-free Unix-like system, and began writing his own kernel. He started by developing device drivers and hard-drive access, and by September had a basic design that he called Version 0.01.  This kernel, which is called Linux, was afterwards combined with the GNU system to produce a complete free operating system.

In October 1991, Torvalds sent a posting to the comp.os.minix newsgroup announcing the release of Version 0.02, a basic version that still needed Minix to operate, but which attracted considerable interest nevertheless. The kernel was then rapidly improved by Torvalds and a growing number of volunteers communicating over the Internet, and by December a functional, stand-alone Unix-like Linux system was released as Version 0.11. The Linux kernel received contributions from thousands of programmers. On 14 March 1994, Linux 1.0.0 was released. The Linux kernel has received contributions from nearly 12,000 programmers from more than 1,200 companies.

Linux kernel has since been ported to more computer hardware platforms than any other operating system. It is a leading operating system on servers and other big iron systems such as mainframe computers and supercomputers. As of November 2014, more than 97% of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers run some variant of Linux, including the top 80.

Linux also runs on embedded systems (devices where the operating system is typically built into the firmware and highly tailored to the system) such as mobile phones, tablet computers, network routers, building automation controls, televisions and video game consoles; the Android system in wide use on mobile devices is built on the Linux kernel.