2011's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries

Our 5th annual stroll down the techie side of Memory Lane

25 Geek Anniversaries

Five years makes an official franchise, no? Either way, what follows is this year's edition of our annual collection of the year's "geekiest anniversaries."

This text version is offered for those of you don't care for slideshows. All the pretty - and in some cases iconic - photos can be found here.

2010's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries

2009's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries

2008's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries

2007's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries

This year's 25:                   

 'Hacker's Manifesto' published

Also known as "The Conscience of a Hacker," this essay about early hacker culture was penned by Loyd (The Mentor) Blankenship and first appeared Jan. 8, 1986 in the ezine Phrack.  An excerpt: "Damn kids.  They're all alike. But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker?  Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him? I am a hacker, enter my world..." It would be quoted in the 1995 movie Hackers.

 "Bueller ... Bueller ... Bueller"

Ferris Bueller doesn't get his day off from school in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" without knowing his way around a computer. We pick up the scene where his mother is on the phone with Principal Ed Rooney and is being told that her darling son has been absent nine times this semester.

Katie Bueller: I don't remember him being sick nine times.

Ed Rooney: That's probably because he wasn't sick. He was skipping school. Wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs. Bueller. It's a fool's paradise. He is just leading you down the primrose path.

Katie Bueller: I can't believe it.

Ed Rooney: I've got it right here in front of me. He has missed nine days...

[His computer screen begins counting down from nine to two. Ferris is at home looking at the same screen]

Ferris: I asked for a car, I got a computer. How's that for being born under a bad sign?

First PC virus spreads

The handiwork of a couple of Pakistani computer store operators, Brain was the first virus to target MS-DOS and the IBM PC. Here's the message that would be found in infected boot sectors: "Welcome to the Dungeon © 1986 Brain & Amjads (pvt) Ltd VIRUS_SHOE RECORD V9.0 Dedicated to the dynamic memories of millions of viruses who are no longer with us today - Thanks GOODNESS!! BEWARE OF THE er..VIRUS : this program is catching program follows after these messages....$#@%$@!!"

Challenger disaster kills 7

NASA officials didn't heed the warnings of their engineers, so seven astronauts lost their lives, and O-ring entered the lexicon. From Wikipedia: "NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the (solid rocket boosters) contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors."

Pixar Animation Studios opens

From the company's Web site: (1986) "The computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, Ltd. Is purchased by Steve Jobs for $10 million and established as an independent company christened 'Pixar.' Ed Catmull, who had been with Lucasfilm since 1979 as the vice president of that division, is named co-founder and chief technical officer of Pixar." Pixar was bought by the Walt Disney Company in 2006.

Catastrophe engulfs Chernobyl 

The explosions and fire that began on April 26 killed about 50 people, but that was the least of this nuclear power plant disaster in Pripyat, Ukraine. More than 4,000 would die in the aftermath and at least 350,000 were forced to resettle. Traces of radioactive deposits were detected throughout the northern hemisphere.

 'Captain Midnight' pwns HBO

Just after midnight on April 27, 1986, John MacDougall, a satellite TV dealer in Ocala, Florida, hijacked HBO's satellite signal in order to broadcast his own protest over rates being charged dish owners. The message read: "GOODEVENING HBO ... FROM CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT ... $12.95/MONTH?  ... NO WAY! ... [SHOWTIME/MOVIE CHANNEL BEWARE!]" The stunt preempted HBO's showing of "The Falcon and the Snowman" for four-and-a-half minutes, earned "Captain Midnight" worldwide notoriety, and eventually cost MacDougall a fine of $5,000 and a year's probation.

LISTSERV debuts

From the Web site of L-Soft, the company that sells commercial LISTSERV: "The story of LISTSERV began in Paris, France, when a young engineering student, Eric Thomas, wrote the first version of LISTSERV. ... Before its invention, all email lists had to be administered manually.  Mail templates were added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to create automatic responses to specific commands and to customize administrative messages."

 'Star Trek IV' released

 "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" was released on Nov. 26, 1986. This is a list of geeky anniversaries.

Rutan Voyager takes flight

Departing California's Edwards Air Force Base on Dec. 14, 1986, the Rutan Model 76 Voyager required 9 days and three minutes to become the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or taking on fuel. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager were the pilots.

Spy magazine debuts

Spy magazine lasted only 12 years, but left an enormous legacy. From a 2006 article in Metropolis: "Spy's ideas are indeed everywhere. Its icons of cutout heads and choice phrases to assist in skewering celebrities (Donald Trump was presciently the 'short-fingered vulgarian') have been aped in everything from news magazines to late-night talk shows. Its practice of dredging up revealing documents to incriminate or embarrass public figures (including a nude shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger and an image of his father's Nazi party membership card) has found a powerful successor in the investigative Web site The Smoking Gun."

IMAP delivers

The Internet Message Access Protocol enables an e-mail client to access e-mail on a remote mail server without having to download the messages to a local hard drive. IMAP was developed by Mark Crispin at Stanford University in 1986 and approved as a proposed standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1994.

First disposable camera tossed

From the Web site When We Were Kids: "The disposable camera was first developed by Fujifilm in 1986. Their Utsurun-Desu ("It takes pictures") or QuickSnap line used 35 mm film, while Eastman Kodak's 1987 Fling was based on 110 film. Kodak released a 35 mm version in 1988, and in 1989 renamed the 35 mm version the FunSaver and discontinued the 110 mm Fling." It's unclear when they first appeared on a wedding reception table.

IBM ships its first laptop

Called the IBM PC Convertible, Big Blue's first laptop weighed a hefty 13 pounds and carried a price tag of $2,000. It contained an Intel 80c88 CPU running at 4.77 MHz, 256K of RAM (expandable to 640K), dual 3.5-inch floppy drives - a first for IBM computers -- and a monochrome CGA-compatible LCD screen.

Microsoft goes public

Bill Gates became one of the world's youngest billionaires on March 13, 1986 when the company completed an initial public stock offering that saw shares going for $21 apiece. When all the beans were counted, some 12,000 Microsoft employees had been made millionaires.

IETF established

The Internet Engineering Task Force was formed on Jan. 16, 1986, with Mike Corrigan, head of the Defense Data Network program, as its first chair. Here's what Brian Carpenter, then chair of the IETF and a distinguished engineer with IBM, told Network World upon the organization's 20th anniversary:

"Despite all kinds of centrifugal forces, the Internet's technology has stayed reasonably unified and coherent during the tremendous growth of the last 20 years, the enormous changes in underlying transmission technology and the era of telecommunications liberalization. The [IETF's] real achievement has been keeping focus on the unifying ideas, such as the end-to-end principle. The IETF didn't invent those unifying ideas, but it's used them in its protocol development work, blended with pragmatism.''

Gone in a flash

That's what Eastman Kodak's instant camera business was on Jan. 9, 1986 after the company lost an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States on a patent dispute with rival Polaroid. According to a story in the New York Times: "Polaroid began its suit six days after Kodak introduced its first instant-picture camera in April 1976. The instant photography market peaked in 1978 as consumers began to switch to new easy-to-use 35-millimeter cameras."

Seeds of the Super Soaker

From the Web site SkoolDays: "(Aerospace engineer Lonnie) Johnson named his first prototype the Pneumatic Water Gun, and he patented it in 1986. Because it proved so expensive to make, the gun's manufacture would wait a few years until he sat down with executives from the Larami toy company. The newly named and slightly altered Power Drencher was patented in 1988, and in 1990, the water gun that was capable of firing up to fifty feet away hit the shelves. Three years later, the Drencher was re-named the Super Soaker, and this was the name that stuck."

E-filing taxes begins

The Internal Revenue Service first allowed the E-filing of tax returns in 1986 as a cost-cutting measure and last year nearly three of every four returns were delivered to the IRS electronically. 

Soviets launch Mir

Launched Feb. 19 1986, completed in 1996 and relegated to history on March 21, 2001, the Soviet (and later Russian) space station Mir set a number of records for human space flight. As described on NASA's Web site: "The space station Mir circle(d) the Earth in an orbit with inclination 51.6 degrees, perigee 350 km and apogee 400 km. It consists of six main modules: the Mir core module and the scientific modules known as Kvant, Kvant-2, Kristall, Priroda, and Spectr. (The names of the scientific modules translate as Quantum, Crystal, Nature, and Spectrum, respectively.)"

 'The Wizard' ruled

Starring 3-foot-11 David Rappaport as Simon McKay, "The Wizard" lasted but one season. Blogger Ben Wilson summarizes: "C'moooooon. You know you remember The Wizard. 1986? Dwarf? Toymaker? The CIA? Yeah, I thought you did! Good to know I'm not the only one. That show was pretty awesome. Little dude toymaker gets called up by the government each episode to craft some sort of robot dog or RC helicopter or rocket-powered pogo stick. When I was 8 years old, that was my five-year plan right there, save for the dwarfism."

Apple intros Macintosh Plus

From EveryMac.com: "The Apple Macintosh Plus features an 8 MHz 68000 processor, 1 MB of RAM, and an 800k disk drive in a beige all-in-one case with a 9" monochrome display. The Macintosh Plus was the first Macintosh to have a double-density 800k disk drive, a SCSI port to allow external expansion, and RAM slots to allow the RAM to be expanded beyond the pre-installed limit." ... That'll be $2,600, please.

Unisys is born

Forming what was at the time the world's second largest computer company, Burroughs Corp. acquires Sperry for $4.8 billion. From Wikipedia: "Unisys has a deep heritage in the technology industry. The company traces its roots back to the founding of American Arithmometer Company (later Burroughs Corporation) in 1886 and the Sperry Gyroscope Company in 1910. Unisys predecessor companies also include the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which invented the world's first large-scale digital computer, the ENIAC, at the University of Pennsylvania."

 'Captain EO' to the rescue

Billed as the first "4D" movie for its melding of 3D cinema and in-theater special effects, "Captain EO" starred Michael Jackson, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Rusty Leorande. It was shown at Disney through the 1990s and returned for an encore last year. From IMDB: "Captain EO and his rugged crew set out on a mission to deliver a special gift to a wicked queen who lives on a dark, desolate world. Getting there is half the fun, especially when the good captain starts boogying and the special effects start flying." The 17-minute film was said to cost $30 million.

Network World publishes first issue

What? It's our list; you expect us to leave this one out?

Until next year.

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