1985: A Go-Go Year for Geekdom
Our fourth annual compilation of the current year's most notable technology-related 25th anniversaries includes Microsoft's release of Windows 1.0, registration of the first dot-com domain names, the founding of AOL, the publication of Richard Stallman's GNU Manifesto, and the first fatal attack by the Unabomber. (With a couple of not-so-techie odd-balls tossed in for fun.) The press will revisit many of them one by one over the next 12 months, but here they are today, neatly assembled for your perusal.
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AM and FM … from a Watch!
The release of Citizen's AM/FM Watch in 1985 redefines cool. No, really, it was cool back then … in a Dick Tracy kind of way.
Amiga 1000 Arrives
Commodore rents New York's Lincoln Center to debut its Amiga 1000 personal computer, which features 256KB of RAM and a price tag of $1,595. A decade later, Byte magazine called the Amiga 1000 "the first multimedia computer... so far ahead of its time that almost nobody -- including Commodore's marketing department -- could fully articulate what it was all about."
Say Hello to AOL
What remains of AOL will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, even though the brand now seems as distantly quaint as a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks romantic comedy.
Apple Launches LaserWriter
The first laser printer for the Mac, Apple LaserWriter featured a resolution of 300 dpi and speed of 8 ppm. The price tag would be presumed to be a typo today: $6,995.
"Back to the Future" Hits Theaters
Opening July 3, the first of three "Back to the Future" films will be the year's top box office draw. Marty McFly travels to 1955 and brings back $380 million in ticket revenue.
Blockbuster Does Dallas
The first Blockbuster store opens in Dallas on Oct. 26. The first late fee is collected two days afterward.
BT's Red Telephone Boxes Hang It Up … Slowly
Perhaps foretelling the demise of the pay phone, British Telecom announces on Jan. 17 that it will begin phasing out its iconic red telephone kiosks. That phase-out has taken its sweet time since more than 12,500 remain in use from a high of 75,000.
Wall to Wall Buckyballs
Formally known as buckminsterfullerene C60, the buckyball -- a molecule composed entirely of carbon -- is discovered by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley, who will win the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their efforts. Spherical fullerenes look like the large gray object in the image … or a soccer ball.
You Can't Beat the Chess'N Math Assoc.
Yes, this is a Canadian organization but how can it not make this list? The chess club and the math club get together in a marriage made in geek heaven. This year you can send its members silver.
On April 23, the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola's debut, the company commits a product launch that has come to define failure: New Coke. How big of deal was this change? Surveys showed 80% of Americans knew of it within two days. After a firestorm of protest, the original formula returned July 10 as Coke Classic.
Hail the Cray-2
A supercomputer unveiled by Cray Research in 1985, the Cray-2 toppled the same company's X-MP from the top spot on the list of the world's fastest computers. Capable of 1.9 GFLOPS, the Cray-2 would remain champ for five years.
Discovery Channel Debuts
Backed by $5 million from the BBC and American investors, John Hendricks launches The Discovery Channel. Twenty-five years later it's difficult to imagine life without Mythbusters.
First Dot-Com Names Registered
Beginning with Symbolics.com on March 15, the year would see the registration of the first half-dozen dot-com domain names. The other five: BBN.com, Think.com, MCC.com, DEC.com and Northrop.com.
Free Software Movement Takes Root
In March, Richard Stallman publishes his GNU Manifesto in Dr. Dobb's Journal of Software Tools and on Oct. 4 he founds the non-profit Free Software Foundation.
The Return of The Jetsons
Yes, the original Jetsons cartoon was a child of the '60s, but roughly two-thirds of the 75 episodes knocking around syndication were created during the show's second production run, which began in 1985 and ended two years later.
MacGyver Redefines DIY
The series debuted in 1985 and had run its course by 1992. Yet even people who've never seen the show and couldn't pick Richard Dean Anderson out of a lineup today know that MacGyver was the master of making something out of nothing, with that something often as not spelling the difference between life and death.
Meet the MIT Media Lab
From its Web site: "The MIT Media Lab applies an unorthodox research approach to envision the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life — technologies that promise to fundamentally transform our most basic notions of human capabilities." Founded in 1985, you don't get much geekier than the MIT Media Lab.
Jobs Needed One, So … NeXT
Forced out at Apple in September, Steve Jobs founds NeXT, Inc., a maker of computer workstations -- that would not make all that many of them -- before the company was bought by Apple in 1996.
Nintendo Invasion Begins
The Nintendo Entertainment System hits U.S. stores on Oct. 18 after making its American debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in June. Super Mario Bros. is among 18 game titles released that fall.
Ozone Layer Found Lacking over Antarctica
A trio of British Antarctic Survey scientists published a paper in the May issue of Nature in which they described a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Fortunately, the hole was patched by MacGyver and there's nothing to worry about today.
Sinclair C-5 … Seriously?
A battery-assisted recumbent tricycle that tops out at 15 miles per hour. Who wouldn't want one? Well, it was Sir Clive Sinclair's baby and took Great Britain by … only 12,000 were sold.
A Titanic Discovery
Aboard the R/V Knorr and on the Navy's dime, Robert Ballard and his team discover the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic on Sept. 1.
Unabomber Claims First Fatality
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is at his most prolific in 1985, sending four bombs over the course of the year. On Dec. 11, one of them kills Hugh Scrutton, a computer rental store owner, who is Kaczynski's first murder victim.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Developers at Broderbund Software decide there's no better way to learn about geography than through a computer game. Or they just figured the series would make a boatload of money. Right on both counts.
Welcome Windows 1.0
Microsoft releases Windows 1.0 (actually it was Windows 1.01) on Nov. 20, a full two years after the "operating environment" was introduced to industry watchers.
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