Little Bits of History

June 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2017

1621: The Old Town Square executions take place in Prague. A Protestant uprising of the Bohemian estates against the Catholic Hapsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire resulted in the Thirty Years’ War. Begun in central Europe in 1618 as a clash among religiously aligned countries, it continued on to become one of the most destructive conflicts in European history involving most of the continent as well as allies outside Europe with 8 million casualties, it was the deadliest European religious war. As the Holy Roman Empire fragmented, leaders of smaller state/nations brought in mercenaries to help them gain independence from both France and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Bohemian estates were Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Upper and Lower Lusatia. They would eventually become Czechoslovakia, Saxony, and Prussia and today they are parts of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland. The Battle of White Mountain, fought on November 8, 1620 pitted the Bohemians against the Holy Roman Empire with help from Spain and the Catholic League. The 15,000 strong Bohemian force was overwhelmed by the 27,000 soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire and allies. The armies met outside Prague and the Bohemian forces were quashed. The loss would affect the Czech lands for the next 300 years. They had been predominantly Protestant prior to the war, and were predominantly Catholic into the 20th century.

The Bohemian portion of the war was essentially over with the loss. On this day, 27 Czech leaders were executed in the town square. Jindřich Matyáš Thurn managed to escape into exile in Sweden where he became a leader and diplomat in the continued resistance to Ferdinand II. Martin Fruwein z Podolí was expected to be executed as well, but died before he could be killed. The 27 men were three noblemen, seven knights, and 17 burghers. Some other leaders of the uprising were able to escape and others had their punishments reduced or were pardoned. Today, there is a monument in the square holding 27 crosses to commemorate the men killed here.

While this portion of the War may have ended, the conflict remained as Ferdinand II tried impose religious uniformity among the lands under his control. The outside world was appalled by Ferdinand’s treatment of Bohemians and atrocities committed during the period. Other countries entered the fray with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden transforming Ferdinand’s wish for religious unity under the Catholic Church into a full scale war. Six days short of thirty years after the beginning of the fighting, with about 8 million dead, the Hapsburg regime was curtailed, Protestants were free to practice, feudalism throughout Europe was in decline, and the Swedish Empire was on the rise.

Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge. – Meir Kahane

I love it when Muslims go to war with each other, as I do when the Christians do, because it shows there’s no such thing as the Christian world and the Islamic world. That’s all crap. – Christopher Hitchens

Alas, nothing reveals man the way war does. Nothing so accentuates in him the beauty and ugliness, the intelligence and foolishness, the brutishness and humanity, the courage and cowardice, the enigma. – Oriana Fallaci

A society that admits misery, a humanity that admits war, seem to me an inferior society and a debased humanity; it is a higher society and a more elevated humanity at which I am aiming – a society without kings, a humanity without barriers. – Victor Hugo

Sidewalk Surfing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2015
Go Skateboarding Day*

Go Skateboarding Day*

June 21, 2004: The first Go Skateboarding Day (GSD) takes place. It was the official holiday initiated by the International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC) to promoted skateboarding. The day involves riding and performing tricks using a skateboard. These are usually made of a specially designed maplewood board (the deck) over which has been laid a polyurethane coating. The surface of the board is often covered with grip tape to help the rider’s feet grip the board. The board rests on two trucks, usually made of an aluminum alloy. These have the ability to swivel and turn. Attached to the trucks are the wheels which are usually made of polyurethane. The wheels are mounted on an axle with two bearings.

The first skateboards were wooden boxes or boards mounted on roller skate wheels. The boxes turned into planks which were similar to the decks used today. In 1944, an American WAC serving in France noticed children riding on boards with roller skates wheels and gliding through Paris in this fashion. By the late 1940s or early 1950s, skateboarding as it is known today had arrived. There is no record of who made the first board and it was likely that several people came up with the idea simultaneously. The first manufactured skateboards were ordered by a surf shop in Los Angeles. Bill Richard, owner of the shop, made a deal with the Chicago Roller Skate Company to produce sets of skate wheels which were attacked to boards for “sidewalk surfing”.

The first trick was the ollie created by Alan “Ollie” Gelfand in 1976. This is where the rider and board leap into the air without the rider using his or her hands. Once this was achieved, skateboarders could balance their boards on any surface and glide. Municipalities did not like the idea and put up many signs declaring “No Skateboarding” which sparked the idea by the IASC. The signs were often marked by graffiti changing the first letter to a G and Go Skateboarding was the eventual result. GSD has been given Special Congressional Recognition by the US Congress for promoting the sport of skateboarding. There are thousands of participants each year with the largest number congregating in New York City.

The IASC was founded in 1995 by Jim Fitzpatrick to promote skateboarding and increase participation. They also have as a mission the educating of communities about the sport. Members include skateboard manufacturers, distributors, skatepark designers, and contest organizers. Another initiative began in 2012 by both the IASC and the Go Skateboarding Foundation (established by the IASC to run the event of GSD). The Just One Board campaign is a non-profit initiative to collect used skateboards and refurbish them for distribution to underprivileged children. They have been able to supply over 1,500 boards to kids who just want to have fun. There is an International Skateboarding Hall of Fame located in Simi Valley, California which honors those who have contributed to sport.

I feel like skateboarding is as much of a sport as a lifestyle, and an art form, so there’s so much that that transcends in terms of music, fashion, and entertainment. – Tony Hawk

For me, skateboarding is a lifestyle. I really don’t know anything different. My life revolves around skating. If I wasn’t a professional skateboarder, I’d still be skating every day. – Ryan Sheckler

Skateboarding teaches you how to take a fall properly. If you try to kickflip down some stairs, it might take you thirty tries – and you just learn how to take a tumble out of it without getting hurt. – Bam Margera

Skateboarding helps a ton with balance, precision, with air awareness… it gets your senses to be spot-on and it’s also a great way to take my mind off things. – Shaun White

Also on this day: Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike went horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship made it into space.
Long – In 1948, the first LP album was demonstrated.
Burnin’ Down the House – In 1734, Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique was executed.

* “Go-skateboarding-day” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Burnin’ Down the House

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2014
Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique

Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique

June 21, 1734: Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique is executed. She was born around 1700 in Madeira in Portugal, one of the important nations plying the lucrative Atlantic slave trade. She was black and was sold to a Flemish man called either Nichus Block or Nicolas Bleeker. He brought her to the New World and she lived in New England before being sold again. This time, she was purchased by an important French businessman from Montreal. Francois Poulin de Francheville brought her north and after his death, she came under the ownership of his widow, Therese de Couagne. Slavery in New England and New France was mostly a domestic issues and not as in the rural South where slaves worked the fields on plantations.

Angélique worked in the Francheville home in Montreal and occasionally helped with the family’s small farm which produced supplies for Francheville’s trading expeditions. Angélique had three children while in Montreal, all dying before their first birthday. Listed as father was Jacques Cesar, a black slave from Madagascar owned by a neighbor of the Francheville family. Angélique became involved with a white indentured servant, Claude Thibault, also employed by the Franchevilles. While the new widow was taking care of business, she asked her brother-in-law to keep both slave and servant and the two tried to escape and flee to New England. They were captured and returned within two weeks. Thibault was imprisoned and released on April 8, 1734. Angélique went undisciplined for her escape attempt, probably because her mistress was getting ready to sell her since she couldn’t control her.

After his release from prison, Thibault returned to Francheville’s house to ask for back wages. He was paid, but told to never return. He also learned Angélique had been sold and would be moving to Quebec City. At 7 PM on April 10, 1734, the call went out that a fire was spreading. It was so intense, fire fighters could not approach. High winds helped to spread the fire which consumed 45 houses and the local hospital. Rumors started immediately blaming Angélique for starting the fires. She denied this but was brought to trial regardless. A warrant was also issued for Thibault, but he fled before being arrested.

There was no physical evidence presented against Angélique but everyone “knew” she had started the fire. There was no consensus of how and the prosecutor was near to asking for the use of torture to extract a confession. It was then a five year old testified she had seen Angélique carrying a shovelful of coals up to the attic of the house on the afternoon the fire started. Angélique was found guilty and she was tortured to get the confession of her guilt and find any accomplices. She admitted guilt, but denied any help. She was hung for her crime. Today, there is speculation that Angélique was indeed innocent while others believe she set the fire that destroyed most of Old Montreal.

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. – Malcolm X

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. – William Shakespeare

All things truly wicked start from innocence. – Ernest Hemingway

Once you start asking questions, innocence is gone. – Mary Astor

Also on this day: Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship makes it into space.
Long – In 1948, the first LP album was demonstrated.

Manchester Baby

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2013
Manchester Baby

Manchester Baby

June 21, 1948: The Manchester Baby works. The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), or The Baby, was produced at Victoria University of Manchester. It was the world’s first stored-program computer. Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill fired up the machine and observed the effect. The machine was built to test the Williams Tube (also called the Williams-Kilburn Tube). The cathode ray tube stored 500-1,000 bits of binary data. There are 8 bits to a byte of data and 1,024 bytes in one kilobyte (KB). There are 8,589,934,592 bits in a gigabyte (GB), our normal measurement for storing information today.

The Small Scale machine took up a whole wall of space. It was not built as a functional computer, but only to test the viability of the tube design. There were three programs written for The Baby. The first one was to find the highest proper factor of 218. It took 17 instructions to get to the answer. Baby took 52 minutes and performed 3.5 million operations before arriving at the solution. The device led to the development of the Manchester Mark 1 which in turn directly led to the Ferranti Mark 1, the first commercially available general computer.

Professor Sir F. C. Williams, educated at the University of Manchester and Oxford University, was interested in engineering and worked with electronics. He visited the US and worked with scientists on the ENIAC project. That early computer used cathode ray tubes, but could not store programs. A rebuild of the hardware, sometimes taking days of work, was needed to change the program. Sir Williams concentrated on designing a tube capable of storing data. He returned to Manchester and he and Kilburn developed a tube able to store data over a period of hours, using standard equipment, and housed in a room without harsh temperature restrictions.

Tom Kilburn, a 25-year-old inexperienced scholar, first met Williams during World War II. Kilburn was working with the Telecommunications Research Establishment when he was assigned to work with the older man. After the war, the two continued to work together and finally they developed a specialized tube. They built the SSEM to prove the efficacy and Kilburn wrote the program for the first test. He went on to work with others in creating ever-improved devices leading us into the future – the Age of the Computer.

“… the most exciting time was June 1948 when the first machine worked. Without question. Nothing could ever compare with that.” – Tom Kilburn

“Never let a computer know you’re in a hurry.” – adage

“Computers, huh? I’ve heard it all boils down to just a bunch of ones and zeroes…. I don’t know how that enables me to see naked women, but however it works, God bless you guys.” – Doug Heffernan

“Don’t explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to a virgin.” – Robert A. Heinlein

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Ferranti Mark 1 debuted in February 1951 at the University of Manchester, a month ahead of UNIVAC I arriving at the US Census Bureau. The main improvements of the Mark 1 over its predecessor were the size of the primary and secondary storage as well as a faster multiplier. It also could carry additional instructions. It used a 20-bit word stored as a single line of dots. As electric charges fell to the surface of the Williams tube display, each cathode tube stored 64 rows of dots. Instructions were stored as one word and numbers were stored as two words. Other tubes stored others pieces to the puzzle, including accumulators and registers. There were 4,050 vacuum tubes for the multiplier alone, which was about a quarter of the total number of tubes.

Also on this day: Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship makes it into space.
Long – In 1948, the first LP album was demonstrated.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2012

Long-play record albums

June 21, 1948: Columbia Records holds a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to introduce their new long-play record album. The first sound recorded was done in 1806 by Englishman Thomas Young. He used wax over a rotating drum to record a tuning fork. In 1857 Frenchman Leon Scott de Martinville recorded sounds on a “phonoautograph” but had no way to play the sounds back. Recording of sound was spurred on in America by Alexander Graham Bell. Edison was trying to invent an answering machine when he instead improved the record player in 1877.

Early recordings were made on wax coated cylinders. Charles Tainter made the first lateral-cut record for Volta labs (associated with Bell) in 1881 but there was no way to play them back. Tainter continued to work with Chichester Bell and produced a Graphophone to play their lateral cut cylinders back. Emile Berliner created a seven inch lateral cut disk as well as a Gramophone to play them back in 1888. Columbia Phonograph Co. was founded in 1889. They are the people who found a great way to serve music up, the juke box. By 1890, the longest recordings were lasting four minutes.

Technology continued to expand with the improvements in materials. In 1897, Vulcanite disks replaced Shellac disks (made form a species of beetle). By 1902 the records were reaching ten inches but still had a maximum play time of four minutes. In 1904 someone realized you could flip the record over and have two sides, a popular innovation. In 1925 electrical amplification was used to give a better frequency range for both recording and playback. In 1930 RCA Victor launched the first viable long-play vinyl record on a twelve inch flexible plastic disk, spinning at 33 rpm. It was a failure because there were too few players to use them.

In 1931 stereo sound was produced in both America and Britain. Originally done by using two grooves, the process eventually was able to use a single groove to produce the effect. In 1939 Columbia began using magnetic tapes as well as 78 rpm records. On this day they introduced their vinylite LP 33 rpm microgroove record. These were the first successful album length LPs produced. The format remained the dominant method of recording music until it was overtaken by the Compact Disk in 1988. The latter technology was based on microprocessors and computing advances that took place in the 1970s and 1980s.

America stopped making vinyl and phased out the single but Germany held out and refused. Warner’s never phased out vinyl in Germany. Now America imports it! – Peter Hook

I can assume that the younger generations will no longer know what vinyl was. Maybe some kids will take their CD back to the shop, telling the shop owner they have a faulty disc and if they could please get a new one. – Mike Rutherford

People often forget this – a vinyl album could only contain a maximum of 20 minutes per side! – Ken Hensley

It’s also ironic that in the old days of tape and tape hiss and vinyl records and surface noise, we were always trying to get records louder and louder to overcome that. – T-Bone Burnett

Also on this day:

Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship makes it into space.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2011

SpaceShipOne landing

June 21, 2004: SpaceShipOne is the first privately funded space plane to achieve space flight. Flight 15P took off from Mohave, California at 14:50 UTC [6:50 PDT] and landed again at the Mohave Airport & Spaceport at 15:15 UTC [7:17 PDT]. The flight had a crew of one, Mike Melvill. The mission lasted 24 minutes, was suborbital, and reached an apogee of 62.214 miles and a speed of 2150 mph or Mach 2.9. The taxiing was to begin at 6:30 AM local time, but was slightly delayed.

The White Knight airplane began its taxi at 6:37 and took off at 6:47. After reaching 47,000 feet, SpaceShipOne separated from the airplane at 6:50 and immediately fired its rocket. Shortly after separation and firing the rocket booster, at an altitude of 60,000 feet, the spaceship suddenly rolled about 90 degrees to the left due to wind shear. The pilot attempted to correct it and it then rolled about 90 degrees to the right. Finally leveled out, the climb proceeded. There was a safely system installed to correct the roll and it worked, however the pilot also corrected the roll. The spacecraft’s attitude was a problem throughout the climb and not corrected until the beginning of the re-entry phase.

The rocket burned for 76 seconds. As the rocket stopped firing, the craft was at 180,000 feet. The plan was for the craft to climb to 360,000 feet, but because of the attitude issue, it reached only 328,491 feet or 100.124 km. the boundary of space is at 100 km. While the space craft was high enough to be considered in space, the pilot experienced about 3.5 minutes of weightlessness. Melvill opened a bag of M&Ms and watched them float around the cabin. The next thing on the agenda was to return to Earth.

SpaceShipOne was about 22 miles south of its planned re-entry zone. Melvill managed to correct for this using a backup trim system. Deceleration of 5.0 g was achieved during descent. At 57,000 feet, a gliding configuration was assumed and the craft landed safely. After this success, it was immediately awarded the $10 million Ansari X Prize and the craft was retired. Building of SpaceShipOne was undertaken by Paul Allen [of Microsoft fame] and Scaled Composites [Burt Rutan’s aviation company]. Allen had provided about $25 million of the funding to create the craft. After SpaceShipOne was retired to a museum, it was followed by SpaceShipTwo.

“I am very excited to be supporting one of the world’s most visionary efforts to seek basic answers to some of the fundamental question about our universe and what other civilisations may exist elsewhere.”

“In my own work, I’ve tried to anticipate what’s coming over the horizon, to hasten its arrival, and to apply it to people’s lives in a meaningful way.”

“The best museums and museum exhibits about science or technology give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting, but maybe I could do something here, too.”

“The possible is constantly being redefined, and I care deeply about helping humanity move forward.” – all from Paul Allen

Also on this day:
Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.

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Job Insecurity

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2010

Gathering crowd in Winnipeg

June 21, 1919: At the end of the First World War, Canadian soldiers returned home to find few jobs and almost nonexistent labor regulations. In March 1919 delegates met at Calgary to form a local branch of the “One Big Union,” the premise of which was that all workers should unite in one and only one union. The plan was to hold many general strikes across Canada. The strikes were played out against the background of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia leading many government bodies to react more strongly than they otherwise might have.

In Winnipeg, workers were trying to unionize into two unions – the Building Trade Council and the Metal Trade Council without success. Management refused to negotiate with the Metal Trade Council. And so the workers decided to strike and garnered support from the Trades and Labour Union as well. Cost of living and inflation had risen during World War I. Wages had not risen at the same rate and incomes were no longer stretching as far. The City of Winnipeg denied teamsters, electrical workers, water works staff, and office employees wage increases in April.

On May 15, virtually everyone in Winnipeg, including essential public employees, went on strike. Civil servants – fire and police – returned to duty part way through the strike. Even though the strikers were generally non-violent, the wealthy elite created a committee entitled the “Citizens’ Committee of One Thousand” and stated to federal agents investigating the strike that there was a history of violence.

On this date, most of the local police were fired and replaced with Royal North-West Mounted Police. The strikers were read the Riot Act and Mounties charged. Reading of the Riot Act is a British formality whereby those in charge read a Parliament sanctioned document demanding the crowd disperse. This act was passed in 1715 and it must be read before any overt actions can be taken by authorities. When it is ignored, they are authorized to take other measures to ensure the common good. Or so the theory goes. The Mounties fired into the crowd, killing two and wounding at least 30 more.

“With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed.” – Clarence Seward Darrow

“Now they’re being … associated with the ‘old economy’ aspect of their business — a unionized work force.” – Richard Klugman

“The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are disorder, friction, and malperformance.” – Peter F. Drucker

“It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic modern nation that it have free and independent labor unions.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Also on this day, in 1948 the Manchester Baby is tested and the computer age gets a boost.

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