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History of computing

Seventy years ago today, the first electronic computer built specifically for commercial purposes was put to use by the customer that bought it: the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Pentagon papers: the true extent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam

Fifty years ago Sunday, the New York Times began publishing a series of reports culled from a top-secret analysis compiled for the Pentagon regarding the true extent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and in the Vietnam War. The report embarrassed a number of career politicians and leaders. At one point, the series would be shut down for 15 days by a court order.

How George Lucas and Steven Spielberg created Indiana Jones

Forty years ago Saturday, two of America’s most beloved filmmakers – George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – teamed up to revive a style of action film that hadn’t been in vogue since before World War II. Instead of a secret agent or a private detective, the hero was a college professor and archaeologist. And he wasn’t after riches or revenge or a way to travel in space. He hunted for objects to put in a museum.

Carole King plays her first live show at Carnegie Hall

Fifty years ago next week, master songwriter Carole King – who had released her classic solo album “Tapestry” earlier that year – gave her first concert performance in front of a live audience at New York’s Carnegie Hall. That show would be well-received – and, in fact, would be released on CD a quarter-century later. But in order to truly understand King and her work, you need to also consider her songwriting output for other artists in the 1960s.

U2 makes its U.S. TV debut

On this date 40 years ago, the Irish band U2 made its national TV debut in the U.S. on Tom Snyder’s late-night talk show, “Tomorrow.” For many of us, it was our first look at what would soon become one of the biggest acts in rock.

How Henry Ford’s Quadricycle impacted America

125 years ago Friday, Henry Ford introduced what he called a Quadricycle – an early automobile. It didn’t have a steering wheel or rear-view mirrors or turn signals or Bluetooth so he could connect his audio system to his smartphone. Still, his Quadricycle and its descendants would profoundly impact the lives of every American.

The AIDS epidemic

Forty years ago Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on a lung condition found in previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles over the previous months. This paralleled growing rumors of a “gay cancer” that was quietly spreading through the gay communities in New York and San Francisco. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – or AIDS – didn’t yet have a name. But it would soon become a household word.

A Spokane icon: the Steam Plant

Avista – known once upon a time as the Washington Water Power Company – announced last week it was selling the Central Steam Plant it bought 102 years ago to a local developer. Over the past century, the plant went from being a source of heat and electricity for downtown residents and businesses to a high tech commercial and dining hub and an icon of the Spokane skyline.

The massacre in Tulsa

One hundred years ago Monday, arguably the worst racial conflict in U.S. history broke out in Tulsa, Oklahoma – in a section of town called the Greenwood District, where Black folks lived and prospered. Booker T. Washington himself coined a nickname for the area: Black Wall Street. For decades, what happened in Greenwood was referred to as a race riot, but no longer – what happened that day was no riot. It was an attack on the Black community by an armed and organized white mob.

The career of baseball legend Willie Mays

On this Friday, 70 years ago, the man who would become one of the greatest Major League Baseball players of all time, Willie Mays, hit his first home run. What’s more: The 20-year-old slugger for the New York Giants hit that dinger off the all-time left-handed wins leader, Warren Spahn.

Invasion of the cicadas

Over the next few weeks, residents on the East Coast will find themselves tree trunk deep in thousands of loudly chirping cicadas. This is the red-letter year for “Brood X” – that’s the Roman numeral 10, not the letter “X” – which is the largest of the groups of cicadas that emerge once every 17 years. And just how do the cicadas know its been 17 years? Experts don’t know, exactly. The cicadas know. But they’re not talking ...

Birth of the Moon Shot

Sixty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy informed a joint session of Congress of his intention to put an American on the moon before the end of the decade. It seemed like an impossibly brash goal, given how the Soviet Union had beaten the U.S. at putting a satellite and then a man into orbit. But sometimes, it pays to dream big. Here’s how NASA followed through on Kennedy’s promise.

Birth of the Dow Jones Industrial Average

One hundred and twenty-five years ago Wednesday, Wall Street Journal founder and editor Charles Dow and his associate, journalist and statistician Edward Jones, launched a new way of measuring the ups and downs of the stock market. Their Dow Jones Industrial Average index would give investors – as well as newspaper readers around the country – insight into the behavior of Wall Street.

The No. 1 hits from Adele’s second album, ‘21’

On this date 10 years ago, the first single off Adele’s second album, “21,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It would be the first of three consecutive No. 1 singles for the English singer-songwriter.

How Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope paved the way for the movie industry

On this date 130 years ago, the movie industry was born when inventor Thomas Edison demonstrated his Kinetoscope – a device in which you’d drop a dime in order to watch a brief film clip. There was no hot buttered popcorn just yet. There were no trailers or post-credit scenes. And the “movie” was only 3 seconds long. But Edison’s work – and that of other inventors in the U.S. and Europe – would pave the way for James Bond, Pixar, Marvel Avengers and Disney Princesses.

The wives of Henry VIII

History tells us that Henry VIII – the second King of England of the House of Tudor – was skilled in the art of war and at jousting. He made big plans, spent freely and made huge changes in the way his country was ruled. Henry’s tall, athletic looks also made him popular with the ladies. This is despite the fact that he was known to have multiple mistresses and considered wives to be disposable.

How Shrek saved more than just Princess Fiona

The story was a simple one: In a land of real-life fairy tales, a grumpy ogre and a loquacious donkey team up to rescue a princess who’s scheduled to marry the local nobleman. The best part, though, was that Fiona wasn’t the only one rescued in the movie that was released 20 years ago today. Shrek and Donkey also rescued DreamWorks studio.

Changes in American immigration policy

Americans have a love-hate relationship with immigration. We love to talk about when our families moved here and we love the cheap labor provided by immigrants. But we are often suspicious of immigrants, especially during times of war, recession or political upheaval. The Emergency Quota Act – which took effect 100 years ago Wednesday – and the Immigration Act of 1924 – which became law 97 years ago this month – are examples of the winds of change in American immigration policy.

Joe DiMaggio and his 56-game hitting streak

Eighty years ago Saturday, Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees hit a run-scoring single o pitcher Eddie Smith of the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees didn’t score again for the rest of the day, losing 13-1. But DiMaggio’s single began what would become a streak of 56 consecutive games in which “Joltin’ Joe” recorded a hit. The record still stands and is considered by baseball experts to be an unbreakable record.