This week in tech history

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  • A look back on the biggest things that happened this week throughout the history of tech.

    18 December, 1998

    You’ve Got Mail

    The Warner Brothers motion picture You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was released on this date in 1998. While mostly regarded by some as a classic romantic comedy, the movie was full of technology symbolism ahead of its time.

    The film’s title used the popular notification sound used by AOL for an incoming email, showing just how quickly the Internet became mainstream with e-mail and on-line dating was starting to gain traction in the general population. At the time, AOL was the face of the Internet to many.

    The technology used by the main characters was also noteworthy, with Tom Hank’s character – a corporate business man using a Windows-based PC, whilst Meg Ryan’s character – a book shop owner used a Macintosh Powerbook. In the 90’s Windows PC’s were typically used for business, and Macintosh’s were for ‘creative’ people.  


    19 December, 1974

    Altair 8800 goes on sales

    Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, otherwise known as MITS, began selling the Altair 8800 microcomputer kit. Not a personal computer we would likely recognise today, MITS was still one of the most important computers in history, inspiring the first generation of entrepreneurs that created the personal computer industry. After appearing on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975, MITS surpassed its own expectations, selling over 5,000 units by August of the same year. Excited by the future possibility of small computers being used in the home, Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC programming language for the Altair, which was their first software product that formed the basis of their future company, Microsoft.

    December 20, 1996

    Apple announces plans to buy NeXT

    Apple Computer Inc. announced their plans to buy Steve Jobs company NeXT, a move which surprised many at the time. The purchase was officially completed a short couple of months after, on 4 February in 1997, with the purchase have brought the core technology that formed the foundation of the future Mac OS X operating system, which itself is the foundation of the iOS operating system.


    21 December, 1937

    Snow White premieres

    80 years ago, on this date Walt Disney premiers the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White was the first full-length animated feature film, which took 3 years and nearly $1.5 million to produce – an incredible amount for a film particularly in the 1930’s. Walk Disney even had to mortgage his house to help finance the film.


    22 December, 1882

    The Christmas Tree lights up

    Associate of Thomas Edison, Edward Johnson wired his Christmas Tree with electric light using small bulbs, forming the first set of electric Christmas Tree lights in history, with 80 red, white and blue bulbs. Prior to this creation, people would have decorated their trees with wax candles.

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