On this day:
1915 – Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.
Inspired by Geissler tubes and by Daniel McFarlan Moore’s invention of a nitrogen-based light (the “Moore tube”), Claude developed neon tube lighting to exploit the neon that was produced as a byproduct of his air liquefaction business. These were all “glow discharge” tubes that generate light when an electric current is passed through the rarefied gas within the tube. Claude’s first public demonstration of a large neon light was at the Paris Motor Show (Salon de l’Automobile et du Cycle), 3–18 December 1910. Claude’s first patent filing for his technologies in France was on 7 March 1910. Claude himself wrote in 1913 that, in addition to a source of neon gas, there were two principal inventions that made neon lighting practicable. First were his methods for purifying the neon (or other inert gases such as argon). Claude developed techniques for purifying the inert gases within a completely sealed glass tube, which distinguished neon tube lighting from the Moore tubes; the latter had a device for replenishing the nitrogen or carbon dioxide gases within the tube. The second invention was ultimately crucial for the development of the Claude lighting business; it was a design for minimizing the degradation (by “sputtering”) of the electrodes that transfer electric current from the external power supply to the glowing gases within the sign.
The terms “neon light” and “neon sign” are now often applied to electrical lighting incorporating sealed glass tubes filled with argon, mercury vapor, or other gases instead of neon. In 1915 a U.S. patent was issued to Claude covering the design of the electrodes for neon lights; this patent became the strongest basis for the monopoly held in the U.S. by his company, Claude Neon Lights, through the early 1930s.
In 1923, Georges Claude and his French company Claude Neon, introduced neon gas signs to the United States, by selling two to a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles. Earle C. Anthony purchased the two signs reading “Packard” for $1,250 a piece. Neon lighting quickly became a popular fixture in outdoor advertising. Visible even in daylight, people would stop and stare at the first neon signs for hours, dubbed “liquid fire.”
1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, is announced.
Apple Lisa was a desktop computer developed by Apple, released on January 19, 1983. It was one of the first personal computers to offer a graphical user interface (GUI) in a machine aimed at individual business users. Development of the Lisa began in 1978, and it underwent many changes during the development period before shipping at the very high price of US$9,995 with a 5 MB hard drive. The high price, relatively low performance and unreliable “Twiggy” floppy disks led to poor sales, with only 100,000 units sold.
In 1982, after Steve Jobs was forced out of the Lisa project, he joined the Macintosh project, at that time developing a much more limited machine with a task-switching interface. Jobs redirected the Macintosh team to build a cheaper and better Lisa, releasing it in January 1984 and quickly outstripping Lisa sales. Newer versions of the Lisa were introduced that addressed its faults and lowered its price considerably, but it never really picked up sales compared to the much less expensive Mac. The final revision of the Lisa, the Lisa 2/10, was modified and sold as the Macintosh XL.
Generally considered a failure, the Lisa nevertheless introduced a number of advanced features that would not re-appear on the Macintosh for a number of years. Among these was an operating system which featured protected memory and preemptive multitasking, and a more document-oriented workflow. The hardware itself was also much more advanced with a hard drive and support for up to 2 megabytes (MB) of RAM, expansion slots and a larger higher-resolution display. The Macintosh featured a faster 68000 processor (7.89 MHz) and sound; however, the complexity of the Lisa operating system and its programs overtaxed the 5 MHz Motorola 68000 microprocessor enough that users said it felt sluggish, particularly when scrolling in documents.
1986 – The first IBM PC computer virus is released into the wild. A boot sector virus dubbed (c)Brain, it was created by the Farooq Alvi Brothers in Lahore, Pakistan, reportedly to deter unauthorized copying of the software they had written.
A computer virus is a type of malicious software program (“malware”) that, when executed, replicates by reproducing itself (copying its own source code) or infecting other computer programs by modifying them. Infecting computer programs can include as well, data files, or the “boot” sector of the hard drive. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be “infected” with a computer virus. The term “virus” is also commonly, but erroneously, used to refer to other types of malware. “Malware” encompasses computer viruses along with many other forms of malicious software, such as computer “worms”, ransomware, trojan horses, keyloggers, rootkits, spyware, adware, malicious Browser Helper Object (BHOs) and other malicious software. The majority of active malware threats are actually trojan horse programs or computer worms rather than computer viruses. The term computer virus, coined by Fred Cohen in 1985, is a misnomer. Viruses often perform some type of harmful activity on infected host computers, such as acquisition of hard disk space or central processing unit (CPU) time, accessing private information (e.g., credit card numbers), corrupting data, displaying political or humorous messages on the user’s screen, spamming their e-mail contacts, logging their keystrokes, or even rendering the computer useless. However, not all viruses carry a destructive “payload” or attempt to hide themselves—the defining characteristic of viruses is that they are self-replicating computer programs which install themselves without user consent.
Virus writers use social engineering deceptions and exploit detailed knowledge of security vulnerabilities to gain access to their hosts’ computers and computing resources. The vast majority of viruses target systems running Microsoft Windows, employing a variety of mechanisms to infect new hosts, and often using complex anti-detection/stealth strategies to evade antivirus software. Motives for creating viruses can include seeking profit (e.g., with ransomware), desire to send a political message, personal amusement, to demonstrate that a vulnerability exists in software, for sabotage and denial of service, or simply because they wish to explore cybersecurity issues, artificial life and evolutionary algorithms.
Computer viruses currently cause billions of dollars’ worth of economic damage each year, due to causing system failure, wasting computer resources, corrupting data, increasing maintenance costs, etc. In response, free, open-source antivirus tools have been developed, and an industry of antivirus software has cropped up, selling or freely distributing virus protection to users of various operating systems. As of 2005, even though no currently existing antivirus software was able to uncover all computer viruses (especially new ones), computer security researchers are actively searching for new ways to enable antivirus solutions to more effectively detect emerging viruses, before they have already become widely distributed.
Born on this day:
1833 – Alfred Clebsch, German mathematician and academic (d. 1872)
Rudolf Friedrich Alfred Clebsch (19 January 1833 – 7 November 1872) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to algebraic geometry and invariant theory. He attended the University of Königsberg and was habilitated at Berlin. He subsequently taught in Berlin and Karlsruhe. His collaboration with Paul Gordan in Giessen led to the introduction of Clebsch–Gordan coefficients for spherical harmonics, which are now widely used in quantum mechanics.
Together with Carl Neumann at Göttingen, he founded the mathematical research journal Mathematische Annalen in 1868.
In 1883 Adhémar Jean Claude Barré de Saint-Venant translated Clebsch’s work on elasticity into French and published it as Théorie de l’élasticité des Corps Solides.
1948 – Nancy Lynch, American computer scientist and academic
Nancy Ann Lynch (born January 19, 1948) is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering in the EECS department and heads the Theory of Distributed Systems research group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
She is the author of numerous research articles about distributed algorithms and impossibility results, and about formal modeling and validation of distributed systems (see, e.g., input/output automaton). She is the author of the graduate textbook “Distributed Algorithms”. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and an ACM Fellow.
Lynch was born in Brooklyn, and her academic training was in mathematics, at Brooklyn College and MIT, where she received her Ph.D. in 1972 under the supervision of Albert R. Meyer. She served on the math and computer science faculty at several other universities, including Tufts University, the University of Southern California and Georgia Tech, prior to joining the MIT faculty in 1982. Since then, she has been working on applying mathematics to the tasks of understanding and constructing complex distributed systems.
Danese Cooper (born January 19, 1959) is an American programmer, computer scientist and advocate of open source software.
Cooper has managed teams at Symantec and Apple Inc. and for six years served as chief open source “evangelist” for Sun Microsystems before leaving to serve as senior director for open source strategies at Intel. In 2009 she worked as “Open Source Diva” at REvolution Computing (now Revolution Analytics). She is a board member of the Drupal Association and the Open Source Hardware Association. She is a board observer at Mozilla, and serves as a member of the Apache Software Foundation. She was a board member at Open Source Initiative. In February 2014, Cooper joined PayPal as their first Head of Open Source.
Cooper’s major work within the open source area of computer software has garnered her the nickname “Open Source Diva”. She was recruited, while at a sushi bar in Cupertino, to a position at Sun working towards opening the source code to Java. Within six months she quit frustrated by the claims of open source development with Java that Sun made, only to find that little “open sourcing” was taking place. Sun sought to keep Cooper understanding her need to further open source software and re-hired her as their corporate open source officer. Her six years with Sun Microsystems is credited as the key to the company opening up its source code and lending support to Sun’s OpenOffice.org software suite, Oracle Grid Engine, among others. In 2009 she joined REvolution Computing, a “provider of open source predictive analytics solutions”, to work on community outreach amongst developers unfamiliar with the programming language R and general open source strategies. She has also made public speaking appearances discussing open sourcing, speaking at the Malaysian National Computer Confederation Open Source Compatibility Centre, OSCON, gov2.0 Expo, and the Southern California Linux Expo. In 2005 Cooper was a contributing author to Open Sources 2.0: The Continuing Evolution.
In February 2010 Cooper was appointed Chief Technical Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, leading their technical team and developing and executing the Foundation’s technical strategy, along with which she would also be working on outreach with Wikimedia volunteers to expand on development and localizing of software. Cooper credits the open source community in helping her obtain the position at Wikimedia. She left the organization in July 2011.
In June 2011, Cooper started a consultancy, daneseWorks, whose first client was the Gates Foundation’s shared learning collaborative (now called inBloom). She is currently helping numenta/nupic with their open source & machine learning strategy.
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