Thomas Edison flops, Henry Ford completes his first car, and Apple releases their first consumer product… It all happened This Week in Tech History.
This Week in 1848 – William Young of Baltimore, MD patented a hand-cranked paddle freezer and invented the technique that survives today. It cut the time from hours to minutes and resulted in a uniform and smooth ice cream. And it brought the frozen confection to many more people. Before his invention, making ice cream was a feat of strength. A smaller bowl of cream, milk and sugar was placed in a larger bowl of ice. The ice was salted to make it colder, and a servant beat the mixture until his arms gave out. Then another would take over, then another.
1869 – At the age of 22, Thomas Edison of Boston, MA received a patent for his electric voting machine. At that time, lawmakers voted by simply yelling out “yay” or “nay” and a scribe would tally the votes by hand. Edison hoped to speed up the process with his machine that recorded the ballots of voters with the help of a simple switch and an electric current. This was one of the first patents for Edison who ended up with a total of 2,332 during his lifetime. This was also known as one of his biggest flops, with one lawmaker quoted as saying “If there’s one invention on earth we don’t want down here, that is it.” Thomas Edison is credited with my favorite quote of all time, saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
1896 – Henry Ford completed the Ford Quadricycle, his first gasoline-powered automobile, and gives it a successful test run. This was Ford’s first car and was a simple frame with a gas-powered engine and four bicycle wheels mounted to it. The Quadricycle was steered by a tiller handle, had a two-speed transmission, put out a whopping four horsepower and had a top speed of 20 miles per hour. The original Quadricycle still survives today and is housed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
1971 – The U.S. space probe Mariner 9 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a journey to Mars. Mariner 9 arrived at Mars on November 3, and became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Mariner 9 returned photographs of the entire surface of Mars, including some images that revealed what appear to be riverbeds on the surface, suggesting the presence of water on Mars at some point in the past.
And this week in 1977 – The Apple II, designed by Steve Wozniak went on sale. It was one of the first successful mass-produced personal computers. It was introduced by the two Steves – Jobs and Wozniak – at the West Coast Computer Faire and was the first consumer product sold by Apple Computer. The machine sold for about $1,300 which would be the equivalent of about $5,000 today.