Little Bits of History

July 15

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2017

2006: Twitter launches. Odeo, a podcasting company, held a daylong brainstorming session with board members. Jack Dorsey, an undergrad student at New York University, brought up the idea of using a SMS service to communicate with a small group. They went with the idea and the original project code name was twttr, a name inspired by Flickr (an image hosting site) and using the five character length of American SMS short codes. At the time, was already registered elsewhere and it would take six months after the launch on this date before the new company could purchase the name and change the name of their service/product to Twitter. Work on the project began on March 21, 2006 with Dorsey’s first tweet. He posted, at 9.50 PM Pacific Standard Time, “just setting up my twttr”.

The first prototype, developed by Dorsey and Florian Weber, was for internal Odeo employees only. The full version became available to the public on this day. In October Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and Dorsey along with some other Odeo staff formed Obvious Corporation and acquired Odeo and its assets which included and in 2007, the product was featured at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) which boosted use by three times. The following month, Twitter spun off as its own company. Part of the original problem was the vague idea of what Twitter actually was.

The SMS concept allows people to post and read “tweets” but there were constraints. The most obvious one was the length permitted for any single tweet – 140 characters. Twitters wasn’t exactly like anything that had gone before. It was listed as a social media and a microblogging site. It was simply a new idea and users began tweeting more and more. Twitter grew dramatically. In 2007, it hosted 400,000 tweets per quarter and by 2008 it had grown to 1,000,000. In February 2010, there were 50 million tweets per day. A year later, 140 million tweets per day were posted.

Twitter held its IPO in 2013 and claimed more than 200 million monthly users and over 500 million tweets daily. Their first day of stock trading began at $26 and ended at $44.90 which valued the company at $31 billion. In January 2016, it was announced that more characters would be added to tweets, but only the first 140 would show and any extras would need to be asked for. While the majority of tweets are “pointless babble” or “conversational” there is great potential for the site to be used for actual news transmission. During the 2016 US Presidential election, Twitter was the largest source of breaking news with 40 million tweets sent by 10 PM Eastern Standard Time. Today, there are about 320 million active users and the company has 25 offices around the world.  They have about 4,000 employees.

Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand. – Amy Jo Martin

There are a lot of pros and cons about social media; it’s just how you choose to handle it and how you have to be prepared for the negatives as well. – Aubrey Peeples

The dark side of social media is that, within seconds, anything can be blown out of proportion and taken out of context. And it’s very difficult not to get swept up in it all. – Nicola Formichetti

What’s interesting about Twitter and the influencers that someone follows – like, say, Shaquille O’Neal – is that they see someone who is using the exact same tools that they have access to, and I think that inspires this hope to be able to really engage with someone like him. – Jack Dorsey

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Treason and Heresy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2015
John Ball's execution

John Ball’s execution

July 15, 1381: John Ball is executed. He was born around 1338 and was an English Lollard priest. This was a religious reform movement led by John Wycliffe, a prominent theologian who was dismissed from the University of Oxford due to his unorthodox preaching. The demands of Western Christianity were supported by many without academic backgrounds, such as John Ball. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, also called Wat Tyler’s Rebellion or the Great Uprising, spread across much of England. The rebels were led by Tyler, Ball, John Wrawe, and William Grindecobbe. The Black Death and years of war had led to a decreased workforce and high taxes on the overworked commoner. Ball preached to these poor commoners.

The “hedge priest” (meaning he wandered from village to village and preached without benefit of having his own parish) spread Wycliffe’s message of social equality. He moved about the country and gained a reputation as an engaging speaker with a message dear to the commoners’ hearts. His radical preaching had already brought him into conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury who had excommunicated him years before. From 1366 on, it was forbidden for him to preach and for others to listen to him. All Ball did was take his preaching outside established churches and preach, in the commoners’ native English rather than church Latin, in the yards outside the buildings. Ball was imprisoned in Maidstone, Kent when the revolt began.

Shortly after the Revolt began, peasants came and helped Ball escape from his prison. He went to an open field at Blackheath, an area southeast of London, and gave a welcome sermon. (See excerpt in quotes below.) After he was done speaking and the rebels dispersed, he was once again taken into custody. He was brought to trial at Coventry and unlike previous times, he was permitted to speak at his trial. He was still found guilty of treason and heresy. He was sentenced to death at the age of 42 or 43.

On this day, with King Richard II in attendance, Ball was hanged, drawn, and quartered. The execution took place at St. Albans. The brutal and excruciating method of execution was saved for those guilty of high treason against the King. After his death, Ball’s head was stuck on a pike and displayed at London Bridge. His quartered corpse was displayed in four different towns, but the names have been lost. Ball gave a voice to the disenfranchised and unheard lower classes at a time when the aristocracy was completely out of touch with the masses. The many poor people were hoping to bring an end to lords’ rights to use them as unpaid labor.

When Adam delved and Eve span (Delved meaning dug the fields, and span meaning spun fabric), Who was then the gentleman?

From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men.

For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free.

And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty. – all from John Ball’s sermon at Blackheath

Also on this day: What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.
Mozilla – In 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was established.
Forgotten – In 1910, Alzheimer’s disease was first described.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2014
Alois Alzheimer

Alois Alzheimer

July 15, 1910: The Textbook of Psychiatry is published. Emil Kraepelin’s book was the first to officially name the presenile dementia syndrome after his friend, Alois Alzheimer who first identified the disease. Auguste D, who was 55 when diagnosed, died in 1906 from the condition. During the next few years, eleven similar cases were reported in medical literature and were referring to the disease as Alzheimer’s since he was the first to describe the symptoms and the course of the disease. For most of the 20th century, the diagnosis was reserved for those whose senility began before an expected age. Alzheimer patients were diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65. In 1977, it was noted that the clinical pathology was nearly identical regardless of age of onset with Alzheimer’s and those suffering from “normal” senility. The causation may be different.

Dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the most costly diseases for society in the developed world. The cost of care includes both nursing home admission as well as home health care along with the cost of loss of productivity for both the patient and the caregiver, since care is needed around the clock. The cost of dementia around the world has been estimated to be about $160 billion annually with the cost of Alzheimer’s disease in the US costing about $100 billion each year. The greatest cost is incurred with long-term care provided by professionals – nursing home care. This accounts for about ⅔ of the bill for the US.

The main role of caregiver usually falls to a spouse or child of the patient. Home care is usually preferable for all involved, but the cost is still great both in terms of lost productivity and the toll it takes on the caregiver. Since there is no hope for recovery and the patient inevitably and inexorably declines, there is a psychological cost which compounds the other aspects of care giving, making it one of the reasons that dementia caregivers have such high rates of physical and mental disorders. The personality changes in the patient can include depression, behavioral disturbances, hallucinations, sleep disruption, and social isolation. Without supervision, the patient can wander off and not know how to return home.

Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease and some famous people have been diagnosed with it. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson were both victims of the disease. Actress Rita Hayworth, actor Charlton Heston, authors Terry Pratchett and Iris Murdoch, and Nobel Prize winner Charles Kao were all patients. Many novels and films have been produced using the disease as part of the storyline. Research into ways to safely and effectively treat the disease continues with more than 400 treatments having made it to some stage of testing. To date, there is no cure.

It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone. – Terry Pratchett

No matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is – when you’re dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s, you yourself feel helpless. The parent can’t work, can’t live alone, and is totally dependent, like a toddler. As the disease unfolds, you don’t know what to expect. – Maria Shriver

My father started growing very quiet as Alzheimer’s started claiming more of him. The early stages of Alzheimer’s are the hardest because that person is aware that they’re losing awareness. And I think that that’s why my father started growing more and more quiet. – Patti Davis

I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. – Pat Robertson

Also on this day: What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.
Mozilla – In 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was established.

Vast Wasteland

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2013
Newton N. Minow

Newton N. Minow

July 15, 1976: Tom Iacino coins the term “couch potato.” The name was registered as a trademark in the early 1980s. Robert Armstrong, Tom’s friend and a cartoonist, illustrated a book written by Jack Mingo. The Official Couch Potato Handbook was published by Last Gasp in January 1987. The small book remarkably resembles in appearance the TV Guide of the time. The term’s origins aren’t clearly known. Viewers vegetate in front of the boob tube. They could be called tubers. A favorite snack while watching is the lovely potato chip.

Television programming began in the late 1930s but broadcasting was scarce until after World War II. Early TV sets were radios with a neon tube added. Later improvements in the technology of the sets and more widespread broadcasting led the TV into a place of prominence. Between 1946 and 1954 US TV ownership went from 0.5% of households to 55.7% and by 1960 90% of Americans owned TVs. With more and more people viewing television, society changed in a number of ways. The spread of information was more pervasive. Print media demands a literate audience while the TV does not.

By 1961 TV programming was called a “vast wasteland” by Newton N. Minow and later the machine became known as the “boob tube.” There is a tendency to believe programming reflects the real world with such repercussions as the CSI effect where juries are swayed by what they have seen portrayed on TV police shows. TV shows are said to influence viewers who witness hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal acts including murders and other assaults. The number of advertisements seen by couch potatoes has continued to climb. Also, when you are sitting on the couch and munching entire bags of chips, you aren’t doing anything else.

Sedentary life style changes account for a drop in physical fitness overall and an increase in obesity rates. Strength, stamina, and flexibility wane as the viewer, now armed with at least one remote control, sits and stares at the screen. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30. In 1980, about one-third of Americans were overweight (BMI of 25) or obese and today that number is now at 67%. Not just America, but Europe, Australia, and the Middle East are seeing a rise in the numbers of overweight and obese populations. The couch potato effect is getting ever more widespread.

“I’m a loser on Sunday. Yeah, I’m a couch potato. I get up and try and eat and then back on the couch. And watch anything.” – Adam Garcia

“Are we sitting back like couch potatoes and watching the systemic elimination of all the lines that separate the acceptable and the unacceptable in our culture?” – Joe Lieberman

“If you have a comfortable life then you’re going to become a nice sort of couch potato, and just take it in and be brain dead.” – Eric Khoo

“You can’t go from couch potato to the Olympics. There’s an incredible difference between us as average human beings and these extraordinary performers.” – Debbie Wilson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Newton N. Minow was the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Minow remains a practicing attorney and is the Honorary Consul General of Singapore in Chicago. He remains active in the Democratic party and deals in telecommunications law. Born in 1926, he is 87 years old. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1949 and their Law School in 1950. His “vast wasteland” speech was given on May 9, 1961. In that speech, he admitted that when television is “good” nothing is better. But when it is “bad” there is no redeeming qualities to be found in the wilderness. More often than not, it is bad. As a point of interest, the SS Minnow from Gilligan’s Island was named for Minow as a sign of discontent with his assessment of the medium.

Also on this day: What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.
Mozilla – In 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was established.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2012

Mozilla Foundation

July 15, 2003: AOL Time Warner jettison Netscape Communications Corporation and begins the Mozilla Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit with the mission of providing leadership for the open source Mozilla project. The foundation sets the policies used to govern development, guide the infrastructure, and control trademarks and other intellectual property of the brand. There are two taxable for-profit subsidiaries of the foundation, the Mozilla Corp. and Mozilla Messaging, Inc. The first is in charge of the Firefox web browser, while the second is tasked with maintaining the Thunderbird e-mail client.

The foundation is located in Silicon Valley in Mountain View, California. Open source coding of software means that access of the product’s source materials (usually the source code) is open to the public. As time moved on, there was a need to retool much of the older works, by keeping the source code open for all, there were more people working to improve and bring products forward through the multiple generations or releases of the end product. The results are seen as a collaborative effort and hence hold a better chance to meet the needs of the end users.

Before the Mozilla Foundation came into being, there were years of prior projects. was founded by Netscape and launched on February 23, 1998. Netscape Communications began in 1994 and was once the dominant browser in terms of users. They lost market share to Internet Explore. In the mid-1990s they held 90% of the market and by 2006 their users numbers less than 1% of the market. It was Netscape that developed Secure Sockets Layer Protocols (SSL) for secure online communication. America Online acquired Netscape in 1999.

Mozilla Foundation was begun with a $2 million start-up fund from AOL’s Netscape division. Mitch Kapor was the first head of the board of directors. Today, Mitchell Baker is the Chairman of the Board. Firefox, the open source web browser created by the Mozilla Corporation, hit the markets on November 9, 2004. Today, Firefox holds approximately 20% of the market share for browser use. Internet Explore still hold the lead with about 54% of the market and Chrome (by Google) has about 20%, Safari (Apple) has about 5% and Opera holds 2% of the market. There are a few proprietary or undetectable browsers completing the picture.

The Internet ‘browser’… is the piece of software that puts a message on your computer screen informing you that the Internet is currently busy and you should try again later. – Dave Barry

Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network. – Tim Berners-Lee

We found a way to make things look great to the human eye through the window of a graphical web browser without worrying about what everything looked like under the hood. – Mike Davidson

What we now call the browser is whatever defines the web. What fits in the browser is the World Wide Web and a number of trivial standards to handle that so that the content comes. – Ted Nelson

Also on this day:

What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.

Pacific Aero Products

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2011

Boeing in the early days

July 15, 1916: Pacific Aero Products is incorporated in Seattle, Washington. William Boeing was born in 1881 and purchased a shipyard in Seattle on March 10, 1910. This site would become his first airplane factory. On July 4, 1914, Boeing took his first airplane ride. By this time Donald Douglas, the competition, had already received his Science degree from MIT and would soon join the Glenn L. Martin Co in Los Angeles as their chief engineer. By the beginning of 1916, Boeing began to assemble his first B & W seaplane in his boathouse. By June, the plane was completed and taken for her maiden trip.

On this day, Boeing incorporated his company for $100,000 [about $2.15 million today] and purchased 998 of the 1000 shares available. The Model C  was designed by Tsu Wong with Herb Munter as test pilot. When the plane was found to be lacking, they went back to the shop for revision. By 1918, the Model C was delivered to the Navy as trainers. By June 1918, Pacific Aero Products had received a contract from the Navy to build 50 HS-2Ls, which they started to produce in May. When World War I ended, the contract was cut in half. Donald Douglas designed the Martin MB-1 bomber in this same year.

There are five companies who are credited with charting the course for aviation as we know it today. Boeing Airplane Co., Douglas Aircraft Co., McDonnell aircraft Corp., North American Aviation, and Hughes Aircraft. Boeing and George Conrad Westervelt, a US Navy engineer had begun Pacific Aero Products which underwent the name change to Boeing Aircraft Co. on May 9, 1917. Boeing’s experience in the lumber trade combined with the engineering skill of his partner were instrumental in the design innovations produced by their company.

Today, Boeing is the leading aerospace company. It is also the largest manufacturer of both commercial jetliners and military aircraft. The company also produces munitions, space systems, and computer services. They are headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and employ over 158,000 people in the US and 70 other countries. More than 123,000 of those employees hold college degrees and of those, almost 32,000 have advanced degrees. W. James McNerney, Jr. is the current Chairman and CEO of the company. They revenue for 2010 was $64.306 billion with a profit of $3.307 billion.

“The most beautiful dream that has haunted the heart of man since Icarus is today reality.” – Louis Bleriot

“There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.” – Wilbur Wright

“A commercial aircraft is a vehicle capable of supporting itself aerodynamically and economically at the same time.” – William B. Stout

“Running an airline is like having a baby: fun to conceive, but hell to deliver.” – C. E. Woolman

Also on this day:
What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.

What Does it Say?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2010

Rosetta Stone

July 15, 1799: Pierre-François Bouchard, a captain in the French Army finds a stone near the village of Rosetta in Egypt. Napoleon’s armies had captured the Egyptian Nile Delta the year before. The stone was covered with an inscription in three different scripts. Egyptian hieroglyphs were on top, demotic script [later form of hieroglyphic text] was in the middle, and Greek was third.

By translating the Greek, the stone was found to be an edict from Ptolemy V Epiphanes from March 27, 196 BC. The Greek translation served as a key for interpreting the top two writings. It was not immediately clear how the hieroglyphic symbols were to be translated and it took years of study.

Jean François Champollion began studying the Rosetta Stone mystery at the age of 18 in 1808. It took 14 years to completely decipher the symbols and the results were announced in 1822. He based his work on three brilliant and insightful assumptions. 1) The middle script was the final stage of the ancient language. 2) Hieroglyphs are both ideograms [pictures that represent a concept or thing] and phonograms [pictures that represent sounds]. and 3) Hieroglyphs enclosed in a loop of encircling hieroglyphs were phonetic symbols around the pharaohs’ names.

This writing was used for nearly 3500 years. During most of that time, about 1000 different pictorial symbols were in use at a time. During its last phase [712-332 BC] the number climbed to 6000 symbols. When using a phonetic methodology, no vowels are used, but “determinatives” were added to lesson confusion. Writing was usually from right to left or from top to bottom, but if it was prettier, they could be written opposite. You would know this by looking at which way the animals or people faced. No wonder it took 14 years to translate!

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words. – William Shakespeare

“A limited vocabulary, but one with which you can make numerous combinations, is better than thirty thousand words that only hamper the action of the mind.” – Paul Veléry

“Reading does not make a man wise; it only makes him learned.” – W. Somerset Maugham

“As knowledge increases, wonder deepens.” – Charles Morgan

Also on this day, in 1976 the term “couch potato” was first used.