December 2, 1991
Apple releases version 1.0 of QuickTime, a multimedia extension for playing color video, transforming the capabilities of personal computers. Before QuickTime, only specialized computers could play color video. QuickTime allowed anyone with a personal computer to do so and it changed the history of computing – in more ways than one. It was the patent infringement battle over QuickTime that led to the now-famous truce between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in 1997 that helped Apple survive long enough to transform itself in the 2000’s.
November 1, 1999
The domain name business.com sells for $7.5 million. At the time, it was the most expensive domain name sold in history and still ranks in the top 10 all-time most expensive domain names.
America Online launches a new subscription plan offering their subscribers unlimited dial-up Internet access for $19.95/month. Previously, AOL charged $9.95/month for 5 hours of usage. The new plan brought in over one million new customers to AOL within weeks and daily usage doubled among subscribers (to a whole 32 minutes per day!). This huge increase in usage overloads AOL’s infrastructure with the result being that many of their subscribers could not access the service. Class action lawsuits were filed by angry subscribers who could no longer access the service they were paying for. Regardless of their trouble, by offering unlimited Internet access for a reasonable fee, AOL helped facilitate increased adoption of Internet usage among a public still becoming acclimated to the “Information Superhighway”.
Michael Hart, founder of what is now known as Project Gutenberg, launches the project by making his first posting, the Declaration of Independence. Now known as the father of eBooks, earlier in the year Hart had been given an operator’s account on a mainframe at the University of Illinois, where he was a student. Having been given highly valuable computer time when few people had such opportunity, he decided to begin a project that would digitize and electronically preserve public domain books and texts and make them freely available. The Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois just happened to be one of the first 15 nodes on the early ARPANet, the beginning of the modern Internet. The ability to for anyone connected to this network to download information was a major inspiration for Hart to begin Project Gutenberg.
Book retailer Barnes and Noble releases their first Nook e-reader to compete with the highly successful Amazon Kindle, released two years earlier.
IBM delivers the first two IBM 7090 mainframe computers. One of the first commercially produced fully-transistorized computers, the 7090 and the later 7094 were notable for being used by NASA to control the Mercury and Gemini space flights along with many other significant scientific and government applications in the 1960’s. Some 7090’s were even used through the 1970’s into the 1980’s.
Atari introduces their first product, Pong, which would become the world’s first commercially successful video game. The popularity of Pong sparked the beginning of the video game industry with Atari being the leader in both arcade and home video gaming industries through the early 1980’s.
Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, 57 units of the first commercial instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95, go on sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston. Producing sepia toned photographs in about one minute, the Model 95 became a hit almost as quickly. Polaroid believed that 57 units would be enough last through Christmas. All 57 units and all the film available were sold on the first day. It was simple to use, portable, and the instant gratification that came from the self-developing film made the camera very popular. The name “Land” came from the camera’s inventor, Edwin H. Land, who was also the company’s founder. Nearly one million Model 95’s were produced, setting the stage for Polaroid’s flagship product line, making the company’s name synonymous with instant film and the cameras that used them. True black-and-white instant film was released in 1950, but Polaroid didn’t create color film until 1963. Polaroid produced their instant film cameras until 2008.
November 26, 1996
United States Patent 5,579,430 is granted to the Fraunhofer Institut in Germany for a “digital encoding process”, the technology used in MEPG Audio Layer III, more commonly known as MP3. MP3 technology paved the way for the digital music industry by creating a high-quality format that was compressible so that many songs could fit on the relatively small data storage devices of the time. Fraunhofer had started work on compressing music as far back as 1977, began work on what would become MP3 in 1987, and was awarded a patent in Germany in 1989.