February 3

The United States launches its first operational weather satellite, ESSA-1. The satellite will provide cloud-cover photography to the National Meteorological Center for analysis. The satellite is equipped with solar cells which charge its sixty-three batteries and two cameras were mounted on opposite sides of its cylindrical body.

Luna 9The unmanned Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 lands safely on the moon in the Ocean of Storms, three days after its launch. It’s the first rocket-assisted soft landing on any celestial body, and it’s the first space craft to successfully transmit photos from the surface of the Moon. It collects valuable data necessary for later manned missions to the Moon, most notably confirming that the surface is solid rather than a dusty quicksand. Upon striking the surface, the Soviet probe ejected a 250lb capsule with the camera that equipped with a revolving mirror system then enabled the spacecraft to take the valuable photos until February 6, when the craft’s batteries ran out.

In his Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter for Altair users, MITS Computer Notes, David Bunnell publishes an article entitled An Open Letter to Hobbyists written by Bill Gates, age 21. In the article, Gates condemns both the open source movement and software piracy, lumping the two together to many people’s indignation. The article draws a great deal of attention in the computer industry, as it makes Gates the first programmer to publicly raise the issue of software piracy. The article accuses hobbyists of stealing software and preventing …good software from being written. He concludes with the article with what will later become the prophetic line, …Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software. The article is precipitated by the piracy of Altair BASIC which Gates and Paul Allen wrote. Read the full text of An Open Letter to Hobbyists online.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen enter into an official partnership agreement.

A Long Beach, California hospital announces the birth of the world’s first baby conceived by embryo transplant.

Mattel announces it is selling its Intellivision business for US$20 million to a group lead by Terrence Valeski, an executive of Mattel Electronics.

The investigation into the Space Shuttle Challenger accident begins.

Microsoft registers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and sends out thirty-eight thousand copies of the company’s fifty-page prospectus in preparation for the company’s first stock offering.

Time magazine reports on consumer frustration over the slow development of software for use in the computer industry. Reporter Philip Elmer-DeWitt complains of the delays in the release of Microsoft’s new Windows operating system, which is still under development far after its promised shelf date. Silicon Valley pundits have coined the term vaporware for such software, according to the magazine article.

Nintendo files an amendment to its January lawsuit against Atari Games, charging patent infringement.

The Chicago Task Force raids the home of Richard Andrews, an alleged computer hacker. Read more in Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown online.

NASA launches the Space Shuttle Discovery on a the first mission of the joint Russian-US Shuttle-Mir program, carrying Sergei K. Krikalev, the first Russian cosmonaut to fly in a US space shuttle. (STS-60) Visit the mission’s official website.

NASA launches the Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission to rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir for the first time ever. (STS-63) Visit the mission’s official website.

Hackers spoof the website of Eastern Avionics to steal credit card numbers.

Red Hat releases version 4.1 (Vanderbilt) of the Red Hat Linux operating system.

Apple Computer announces plans to phase out distribution of computers through major computer retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Computer City, Office Max, and Sears, in order to focus on distribution through the 148 stores of CompUSA. Visit the official website of Apple Computer.

ASCII Entertainment Software announces the creation of a new subsidiary called AGETEC to develop video games and that ASCII Entertainment Europe will be renamed to AGETEC Europe. Visit the official website of AGETEC.

Microsoft agrees to reproduce a video demonstration that was proven flawed by a government attorney in the suit filed by the Justice Department and nineteen states against Microsoft. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson called the video supposedly created to show problems with the government’s modified version of WINDOWS ‘98 very troubling. Mr. David Bois, representing the government, discovered that the video that Microsoft said was produced by one computer, actually displayed different desktop arrangements. The difference indicated that two or more computers were actually used in contradiction to Microsoft’s claim. The discrepancy cast doubt on the validity of the remaining value of the tape.

The Ford Motor Company announces the it will give each of its 350,000 employees a free Hewlett-Packard HP computer and Internet access discounted to US$5 a month. According to Ford Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., The Internet will be the equilavent of the moving assembly line of the 21st Century. Visit the official website of the Ford Motor Company.

Free-PC announces that it will no longer give away free computers or free Internet service. The company has given away about twenty-five thousand computers in the past year.

Microsoft announces that its next consumer-targeted operating system will be named Windows ME, short for Windows Millenium Edition.

Microsoft releases Windows Service Pack 1 (SP1). The release removes Microsoft’s Java virtual machine as per court order following the lawsuit brought against Microsoft by Sun Microsystem.

RunUO Software releases version 1.0.0 or RunUO, an open source Ultima Online server based on Microsoft .NET based. Visit the official RunUO website.

The Nyxem worm begins effecting computers by disabling filesharing and security software, then destroying all files of certain types, including Microsoft Office files. The worm is designed to continue doing so on the third of every month.

Amazon launches casual game download site

A man in Guangzhou had his cell phone explode in his shirt pocket, severing his neck artery. It’s the 9th cell phone explosion story in history (including the hoaxes)

The Rambus patent infringement trial was postponed indefinitely.

Google releases the Chromecast SDK

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