This Day in History (10-Feb-1996) – The IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeats chess champion Garry Kasparov for the first time

Feng-hsiung Hsu & Murray Campbell, graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University initiated a chess playing machine called Chiptest. IBM hired them in 1989  and the first version of such computer named Deep Thought was released in 1994 to play against Kosporov. In a two game match Kosporov easily defeated the computer. Scientist further upgraded the computer as Deep Blue which  was an IBM RISC System/6000 Scalable Power Parallel System. It had 32 processors dedicated to calculation, each processor connected to 6 chess specific processors. It could calculate 100 million chess positions per second.

In February 1996, Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue met for the first time in a best of six-games match. The match was organized by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to mark the 50th birthday of the first computer. The hardware was installed at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York, with a connection to Philadelphia via the Internet. After only the first game played on 10 February 1996, Deep Blue made history by defeating Kasparov. Deep Blue’s victory marked the first time that a current world champion had ever been beaten by a computer opponent under regular tournament conditions. But Kasparov would not go down so easily. The world champion, known for his tenacity and his ferocious will to win, took the game two. Games three and four, although tightly contested, ended up in draws. Then, in game five, Kasparov again changed tactics mid-game to defeat Deep Blue. Kasparov won the final game totally outplaying the computer and took the match by a score of 4 – 2.

Deep Blue was further upgraded to 8 chess specific processors and capacity to calculate 2 million moves per second. In 1997 the rematch was organized at Equitable Center in New York.  The chess grandmaster won the first game, Deep Blue took the next one, and the two players drew the three following games. Game 6 ended the match with a crushing defeat of the champion by Deep Blue. The match’s outcome made headlines worldwide, and helped a broad audience better understand high-powered computing. In the second game which Deep Blue won, it seems a software bug led to a move which Kosparov could not interpret and lost the game.



This Day in History (6-Feb-1935) – “Monopoly” board game goes on sale for 1st time

The earliest known version of Monopoly, known as The Landlord’s Game, was designed by an American, Elizabeth Magie, and first patented in 1904.  A series of board games were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land.  In Indianapolis Ruth Hoskins learned the landlord’s  game, and took it back to Atlantic City.  She made a new board with Atlantic City street names, and taught it to a group of local Quakers. One of the Quakers took the game to Philadelphia where Charles Darrow learned the game. After learning the game, Darrow then began to distribute the game himself as Monopoly. Darrow initially made the sets of the Monopoly game by hand when drew the designs with a drafting pen on round pieces of oil cloth, and then his son and his wife helped fill in the spaces with colors and make the title deed cards and the Chance cards and Community Chest cards. After the demand increased, Darrow contacted a printing company.

Darrow’s game board designs included the famous black locomotives on the railroad spaces, the car on “Free Parking”, the red arrow for “Go”, the faucet on “Water Works”, the light bulb on “Electric Company”, and the question marks on the “Chance” spaces. Darrow received a copyright on his game in 1933. He brought the game to Parker Brothers at the height of the Great Depression. The game was rejected in 1934 citing it to be too complex. However Darrow returned to Parker Brothers in 1935, when he could no longer keep up with the growing demand for his game and this time they accepted Monopoly.

More than 275 million games have been sold worldwide and it’s available in 111 countries, in 43 languages. Since 1935, more than one billion people have played the game. The longest MONOPOLY game in history lasted for 70 straight days. The most expensive version of the game was produced by celebrated San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell. Valued at $2 million, the set features a 23-carat gold board and diamond-studded dice. Digital version of MONOPOLY has launches on seven platforms in 27 countries, and is localized into 20 languages with nearly 10 million worldwide mobile phone game downloads.



This Day in History (16-May-1866) – Charles Elmer Hires invents root beer

Root beer has its origins in what is referred to as small beers. Small beers are a collection of local beverages (some alcoholic, some not) made during colonial times in America from a variety of herbs, barks, and roots that commonly included: birch beer, sarsparilla beer, ginger beer and root beer. Charles Hires was a Philadelphia pharmacist. While on his honeymoon in New Jersey , he had some herbal tea that he really liked (the honeymoon was probably just on his parent’s farm in Roadstown). When he was back in Philadelphia, he experimented until he had something similar like herbal tea.

Charles began selling a dry version of the tea mixture. It was a dry extract in a packet, that you mixed at home with sugar, yeast and water to make up a gallonful of root beer yourself. You boiled the extract in water, strained it, then added sugar and yeast, let it ferment, then bottled it. At the same time Charles also began working on a liquid version of the same tea. The result of was a combination of over twenty-five herbs, berries and roots that Charles Hires used to flavor a carbonated soda water drink. Charles realized the word “beer” would appeal more to men than “tea.”  The Charles Hires’ version of a root beer beverage was first introduced to the public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibition.

Charles had taken out a patent for the term “root beer” in 1879, but lost it the same year when Congress ruled that generic terms in the dictionary couldn’t be patented. Charles decided sales would be ever better if it were sold already brewed, so he started selling it that way, as a concentrated liquid extract that you then made it from at home; you still had to boil it, but it was less messy. It was sold as Root Beer Extract in glass bottles, on which the wording “Makes Five Gallons of a Delicious Drink” was embossed in raised glass letters. The Charles E Hires Company was established in 1890. In 1893 Charles first sold and distributed bottled root beer. Charles Hires and his family certainly contributed greatly to the popularity of modern root beer. The Hires Root Beer Company is now owned by Cadbury-Schweppes.


This Day in History (9-Mar-1858) – Albert Potts of Philadelphia patents the street mailbox

Before 1847, everyone had to take his or her letters to the post office, pay the postage, and have the postmaster mark each item “paid.” After the introduction of stamps, people wanted a more convenient place to drop-off their mail than the post office. In the 1850s, the Post Office Department began installing collection mailboxes outside of post offices and on street corners in large cities. People can drop their letters in these mailboxes throughout the day, and the postal service collects the accumulated mail at specific times, usually marked on the box. As an alternative to the official Post Office Department, private mail carriers offered courier services and had drop boxes in large cities.

On this day in 1858, Philadelphia iron products manufacturer Albert Potts patented his design for a lamppost mounted collection mailbox. His box was designed to be mounted to a lamppost so people could drop their letters into the box instead of making a special trip to the post office to mail their letters. Potts called his invention a “new and Improved combination of Letter-Box and Lamp-Post for Municipalities.” The bulk of Potts’ brief patent description details how the mailbox should be attached to the lamppost. His hope was not only that the US Post Office Department use these new collection boxes (which they did), but that cities would purchase his company’s lampposts to match (that part of his plan was less successful).

Potts noted that this new type of collection unit would “afford greater facilities to the inhabitants of large cities for the depositing of letters, and … enable the carriers to collect, or the citizens to deposit therein, at any period of time.” The Potts mailbox was the first of the postal system’s street collection mailboxes, but was, even in 1858, too small for the job. Over the next few decades dozens of inventors and designers patented a variety of “new and improved” collection mailboxes, from overwrought, baroque-inspired ornate structures to boxes fitted with complex machinery for customer’s or carrier’s “ease of use.” Few designs made postal officials’ final cut, but they tended to have one thing in common – simpler in design and use.