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This Week in Tech History: Tech Giant is Born

A giant in the consumer tech industry is born, Yale patents his first lock and Betamax and VHS go to war. It all happened This Week in Tech History.

Replica of Gorrie’s Invention in Apalacicola, FL

This week in 1851 – Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, FL was granted a patent for mechanical refrigeration. The official title on the patent calls it the improved process for the artificial production of ice. Dr. Gorrie’s basic principle is the one most often used in refrigeration today; namely, cooling caused by the rapid expansion of gases. Before giving up his medical practice to pursue refrigeration, Gorrie’s research involved the study of tropical diseases. His treatment was to cool the air around patients, which required lots of ice, in turn, leading to his invention.

Also happening this week in 1851 – After learning the craft from his father who had been an inventor and lock maker, Linus Yale Jr. of Newport, NY became well known for his patent of the lock and key. Yale would amass 20 different patents, including designs for locks, safes and post office boxes. Many of Yale’s inventions are still in use today. And  If the name Yale sounds familiar, it should. The company he started 151 years ago in 1868 is still one of the top manufacturers of locks today.

1927 – The Hotel Statler in Boston, MA. became the first hotel to install radio service, allowing its guests to listen to classic radio programs. It was a two-channel system, with the guest selecting a channel on the receiver, then either listening with a headset or the radio’s loudspeaker. It cost the hotel $50,000 to install radios in each of its 1,300 rooms – and another $750,000 to install the service in the chain’s six other hotels.

1946 – After opening a radio repair shop a year earlier in the bomb ravaged district of Tokyo, Masaru Ibuka joined with Akio Morita to form a new company. The company, called Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, built Japan’s first tape recorder, called the Type-G. The company changed their name in 1958 to a much simpler, Sony. The name Sony was chosen, as a mixture of two words. The Latin word “sonus” which is the root of sonic and sound and the slang word “sonny” which was popular in America the 1950s. The word was also used in Japan to refer to smart and presentable young men, which the founders considered themselves to be.

1975 – Sony introduced the Betamax videocassette recorder. This also spurned the intense videotape format war, with JVC’s Video Home System, or VHS format. This format war was very similar to the Apple/IBM rivalry, as early on, Sony insisted on keeping their technology proprietary and JVC welcomed a more open-source approach where they would license the technology to competitors. VHS ultimately won the format war, and despite this, Betamax production and sales lasted 41 years until Sony finally pulled the plug in March of 2016.

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Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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