Monday, November 22, 2010

What were the original system requirements for Windows 1.0?

Microsoft Windows 3.1 working on DOSBox, in Wi...Image via WikipediaMicrosoft's Windows operating system turned 25 last Saturday -- 27 years after the OS was supposed to be released. Windows 1.0 was two years late when it finally debuted on Nov. 20, 1985, and it took only two weeks in the wild before Microsoft had to release a 1.01 bug-fix update. Despite serious limitations and performance issues, Windows nonetheless outlasted its PC graphic user interface competitors, VisiCorp's VisiOn and the GEM interface, the latter of which was adopted by Atari.

What made Windows successful? A number of factors, but primary among them was the availability of third-party apps for the OS and immediate support for color monitors. Of course, it wouldn't be a Windows operating system if these advantages didn't come with a hefty hardware requirement.

What were the original system requirements for Windows 1.0?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In what year did the last of New York's DC electrical power customers to convert to AC service?

Fig. 13 from Nikola Tesla's A New System of Al...Image via WikipediaIn 1882, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company began supplying direct-current electrical power to 59 customers in lower Manhattan, NY -- all of them within a square mile of inventor Thomas Edison's generator plant. This was the glaring drawback of Edison's proprietary DC system: it could not efficiently transmit bulk power over distances of more than a mile. While the "Wizard of Menlo Park" used his considerable fame, money and influence to promote adoption of his DC technology -- and the associated patent royalties Edison enjoyed -- it was a vain effort.

Nikola Tesla's alternating current technology could transmit power efficiently over great distances, eliminating the need for a power station every mile or so down the road. The 1895 debut of Tesla's George Westinghouse-financed Niagara Falls alternating current hydroelectric plant irrevocably demonstrated AC power's practical superiority, and every major consumer electrical utility initiative since has been based around an alternating current infrastructure.

That doesn't mean DC power went away overnight. There were still many vested interests in the DC power industry, and many customers already had DC power appliances and lighting they weren't eager to replace. Thus, many New York residences and businesses remained on DC power decades after AC power became the norm. But the actual longevity of consumer DC power in New York is still startling.

In what year did the last of New York's DC electrical power customers to convert to AC service?


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Shuttle mission STS-2 featured the only all-rookie crew in space shuttle history -- except one of them was already an astronaut. Wait, what?

Mission patch for STS-2 Space Shuttle missionImage via WikipediaOn November 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia launched its second mission -- the first and last shuttle flight with an all-rookie crew. Neither Commander Joe Engle nor Pilot Richard Truly had ever flown in space before mission STS-2; NASA hadn't sent an all-space-novice team into orbit since Skylab 4 in 1973 and has never sent one since.

Before you jump to conclusions, the performance of the STS-2 team is not the reason NASA informally banned subsequent all-rookie spacecraft lineups. While Engle and Truly did violate NASA orders during the mission, their performance was both laudable and daring. And if that seems counter-intuitive, wait until you realize that one of these two NASA rookies already earned his US astronaut wings before he ever entered the space program.

How did NASA send up an all-rookie crew on STS-2 if one of the crew members was already an astronaut?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

'Medieval mysticism explained with lolcats and action figures' ... +19 more must-read links

    lolcat adaptation #1Image by Kevin Steele via Flickr
  1. Medieval mysticism explained with lolcats and action figures
  2. How the Republican Congress will abandon Tea Party ideas and legislate toward the center
  3. Jon Stewart to Reddit: you don't matter
  4. NASA Once Again Auctioning Off Patents Your Tax Dollars Paid For
  5. Blekko, the "Slashtag" search engine is slow, cumbersome, and just plain broken
  6. 15+ Google Chrome extensions for better privacy control
  7. Win Free Comfy Cow Ice Cream for a Year
  8. Larry And Sergey Wanted Steve Jobs To Be Google's First CEO
  9. Pushing back on mediocre professors
  10. Points of control = Rents
  11. Google Suggest Venn Diagrams
  12. Reminder: Despite What You May Have Heard, Happy Birthday Should Be In The Public Domain
  13. Turns Out The Evil Halloween Candy Poisoners Was Just FUD That Got You To Buy Prepackaged Candy
  14. Our Government Can’t Prevent A Digital 9-11: Entrepreneurs Need To Step In
  15. What You Should Know
  16. One in Five Facebook Employees Has No Imagination Whatsoever
  17. Read John Scalzi's Election-Themed Short Story...Free!
  18. The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 014): Interview with Paul Levinson + What are your favorite zombie books, movies or comics and why
  19. Google's 2006 NetScape Moment Recalled
  20. What comes after Facebook

Monday, November 01, 2010

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many weren't put there by the US and USSR?

Surveyor 3 on the moon, photographed by Alan BeanImage via WikipediaThree years ago this week, China's first lunar probe, Chang'e 1, entered orbit around the moon. Roughly 15 months later, Change'e 1 was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface (after recording the most complete and accurate 3D survey of the moon ever made), adding yet another item to the growing list of man-made objects on the moon.

Humanity has been chucking technology at the moon for over 50 years. The first human creation to contact the lunar surface was the Soviet Luna 2 probe in 1959. Since then, a total of 75 man-made objects have achieved lunar touchdown (or impact). Most of those items are of American or Soviet origin, products of the Cold War space race. Twenty years ago, Japan broke the Russo-American duopoly on lunar littering by crashing the orbiter portion of the Hiten probe on the moon. Since then, four more non-US and and non-Soviet/Russian space agencies have placed objects on the moon -- but the rest of the world has a long way to go before it overtakes the American-Russian rivalry in lunar tech-tossing.

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many
weren't put there by the US and USSR?