This year's 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries

A look back at the most memorable tech-related happenings of 1992.

010917blog geekiest primary
Network World

This is the eleventh year I’ve compiled this particular collection of trivia, which will come in handy someday if I’m ever on Jeopardy and the category is 1980s/1990s technology and related stuff.  

A big year for such stuff, 1992 saw the release of Linux under GNU, the sending of the first SMS message, IBM trotting out the ThinkPad and Simon, which was the first mobile phone to include PDA features (smartphone). The year also saw the launch of iconic videogame franchises Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat. And, perhaps worst of all, Microsoft unleashed upon the world the scourge that is PowerPoint. Here’s the full list:

IBM debuts ThinkPad

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 2 Raymangold

Known for its minimalist design, the ThinkPad laptop was launched by IBM in 1992 and became a  workplace staple for Big Blue before it sold the line to Lenovo in 2005. For years the ThinkPad was the only laptop allowed aboard the International Space Station and there are reportedly some still in use up there. I am typing on a practically new Earth-bound model right now.

The Hitchhiker’s last ride

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 3 Pan Books, UK; Harmony Books, michael hughes

Published in 1992, the fifth and final book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Mostly Harmless was also the last book written by Douglas Adams. The author died in May 2001.

Adobe co-founder kidnapped

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 4 Reuters

A pair of gunmen kidnapped Adobe Systems co-founder Chuck Geschke on May 26, 1992 as the business executive arrived at his workplace. A $650,000 ransom was paid, after which Geschke was freed. The kidnappers were caught, tried, convicted and sentenced to lifetime prison sentences. In 2009, Geschke, along with co-founder John Warnock, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Pope ‘pardons’ Galileo

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 5 Wikipedia

Pope John Paul II, acknowledging that Galileo got a bad rap back in 1615 when his thoughts about the Sun as center of the solar system were ruled "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture," issued a formal expression of regret in behalf of the Catholic Church on Oct. 31, 1992.

A new means of messaging: SMS

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 6 Florian Fuchs

Formally known as Short Message Service, the first SMS text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992 via the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom. It read: “Merry Christmas.”

Computer scientist Grace Hopper dies

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 8 United States Navy

A computer scientist and Navy rear admiral, Grace Hopper was among the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. She died Jan. 1, 1992 at the age of 85.  Last year Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Nintendo revs up Super Mario Kart

010917blog geekiest nintendo Nintendo

The first game of the Mario Kart franchise, Super Mario Kart arrived in the U.S. on Aug. 27, 1992. This edition ultimately would become the third best-selling game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was re-released for the Wii in 2009.

Fight against global warming heats up

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 10 Thinkstock, UN

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was hammered out at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in early June 1992. The treaty did not set binding limits relative to climate change but instead outlined mechanisms by which such limits would be set. It was ratified by all 50 U.S. states and signed by 197 parties, including all members of the United Nations. Also in 1992, the World Meteorological Organization reported a record level of ozone depletion in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Palm, Inc. founded

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 11 Letdorf

Palm, Inc., maker of the first commercially successful PDA – the Palm Pilot – was founded in 1992 by Jeff Hawkins. The company was acquired by U.S. Robotics in 1995.

Microsoft releases Windows 3.1

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 12 Microsoft

Code-named Janus, Windows 3.1 was released on April 6, 1992  and touted for having improved system stability, greater support for multimedia and workgroup networking. The company claimed to have shipped 10 million copies of Windows 3.1 in the first four months of the year. Official support for the OS ended on Dec. 31, 2001.

Internet Society formed

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 13 Internet Society, Thinkstock

The Internet Society was officially formed on Jan. 1, 1992, with Vint Cerf as president of the Board of Trustees. From the organization’s website: “The Internet Society engages in a wide spectrum of Internet issues, including policy, governance, technology, and development. We establish and promote principles that are intended to persuade governments to make decisions that are right for their citizens and each nation’s future.”

Linux released under GNU

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 14 Flickr/Alex Dawson

On Jan. 5, 1992, Linus Torvalds wrote in the release notes of Linux v0.12: “The Linux copyright will change: I've had a couple of requests to make it compatible with the GNU copyleft, removing the ‘you may not distribute it for money’ condition. I agree. I propose that the copyright be changed so that it confirms to GNU - pending approval of the persons who have helped write code. I assume this is going to be no problem for anybody: If you have grievances ("I wrote that code assuming the copyright would stay the same") mail me. Otherwise The GNU copyleft takes effect as of the first of February.”

Richard Dawkins on viruses and memes

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 15 Reuters/CHRIS KEANE

A provocative essay written by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and delivered publicly in November 1992, “Viruses of the Mind” contends that religion can be seen as a meme, the concept and word Dawkins coined in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins sees religious customs spreading in the same manner as a computer virus.

AT&T Videophone costs a bundle

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 17

Determined to bring the picturephone to a mass market, AT&T in 1992 touted its VideoPhone 2500, which at a price of $1,500 was more or less out of the reach of its intended audience. Only about 30,000 were sold over three years.

‘Wayne’s World, Wayne’s world, excellent’

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 18 Paramount Pictures

“Party on, Garth.”

“Party on, Wayne.”

Released Feb. 14, 1992, the movie grossed $183 million.

Simon says smartphone

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 19 Bcos47

The word smartphone wouldn’t enter the lexicon for another three years, but the Simon Personal Communicator from IBM was the first device to combine mobile phone and PDA features into a single device. A prototype was shown at COMDEX in Las Vegas on Nov. 23, 1992.

MIME standard defined

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 20 Thinkstock

You know what the acro MIME stands for, right? No? That would be Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, as anyone who covered the e-mail beat in the 1990s could tell you. It lets email do a lot more stuff, most notably accept non-text attachments such as images, audio and video.

NetApp founded

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 21 LPS.1

David Hitz, James Lau and Michael Malcolm founded storage and data management giant NetApp in 1992. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., NetApp today is a $5 billion company and ranks in the NASDAQ 100.

Starbucks goes public

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 22 Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

On July 2, 1992, Seattle-based Starbucks conducted an initial public stock offering, thus ensuring future generations handy access to Wi-Fi when the power goes out at home … or whenever. At the time of the IPO, Starbucks had 140 locations. Today there 11,100 in the U.S. alone.

Sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov dies

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 23 New York World-Telegram & Sun

Among the most accomplished and prolific writers of his time, Isaac Asimov was best known for his works of science fiction and popular science, but also wrote mysteries, fantasy and non-fiction. He died April 6, 1992 at age 72.

IBM and Microsoft ‘divorce’

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 24 Thinkstock, IBM, Microsoft

IBM and Microsoft on June 27, 1992 announced they had reached an agreement ending a long-running dispute over their previously cooperative developments of their respective operating systems. Timetables and caveats aside, the “divorce” agreement stipulated that the companies would move forward independently with future iterations of OS/2 and Windows.

Cartoon Network debuts

010917blog geekiest cartoon Cartoon Network

The Cartoon Network came to life on Oct. 2, 1992, ensuring all us around-the-clock access to our favorites from the past and present. Today Cartoon Network is collaborating with Google to encourage the very young to get involved in computer coding.

Mortal Kombat spawns ratings system

010917blog geekiest mortal Midway Games,

Midway Games in 1992 released Mortal Kombat, the first title in what would prove to be an enduring and controversial arcade fighting game series. What made the game controversial – and sparked a Senate hearing the following year – was that the violence looked so realistic. Congress gave the video game industry a year to establish its own ratings system or have one foisted upon it by the government, a threat that resulted in the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

CDs are No. 1! CDs are No. 1!

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 7 Thinkstock

Since revolutionizing the way we listened to music in the early 1980s, compact discs – CDs – had been gaining in popularity, so much so that by 1992 sales of CDs had for the first time exceeded those of audiocassettes. If you’d grown up listening to 8-track trapes, this was a big deal.

The Lawnmower man hits theaters

2017s 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries 16 New Line Cinema

From IMdB: “A scientist performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener. He puts the gardener on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he becomes brilliant. But at this point the gardener has a few ideas of his own on how the research should continue, and the scientist begins losing control of his experiments.” Panned by critics, the film was notable for the legal dispute it spawned between author Stephen King and New Line Cinema, with King contending the movie bore little resemblance to the story of his it was supposed to be based upon. The movie makers eventually prevailed. 

Geekiest through the years

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