John’s Believe It Or Not… August 12th

In 1981 IBM introduces its first Personal Computer (PC & PC-DOS version 1.0). In 1990 Skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex discovered. In 1961 East Germany begins construction of the Berlin Wall. In 1898 Armistice ends the Spanish-American War. In 1939 The Wizard of Oz movie musical premieres in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Advertisements
John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

Yay! It’s Saturday! Did you know…

* 1981 IBM introduces its first Personal Computer (PC & PC-DOS version 1.0).

The IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, is the original version and progenitor of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It is IBM model number 5150 and was introduced on August 12, 1981. It was created by a team of engineers and designers under the direction of Don Estridge of the IBM Entry Systems Division in Boca Raton, Florida.

The generic term personal computer was in use before 1981, applied as early as 1972 to the Xerox PARC’s Alto, but because of the success of the IBM Personal Computer, the term “PC” came to mean more specifically a desktop microcomputer compatible with IBM’s Personal Computer branded products. Within a short time of the introduction, third-party suppliers of peripheral devices, expansion cards, and software proliferated; the influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market was substantial in standardizing a platform for personal computers. “IBM compatible” became an important criterion for sales growth; after the 1980s, only the Apple Macintosh family kept significant market share without compatibility with the IBM personal computer.

After developing it in 12 months—faster than any other hardware product in company history—IBM announced the Personal Computer on 12 August 1981. Pricing started at US$1,565 (equivalent to $4,123 in 2016) for a configuration with 16K RAM, Color Graphics Adapter, and no disk drives. The company intentionally set prices for it and other configurations that were comparable to those of Apple and other rivals; one analyst stated that IBM “has taken the gloves off”, while the company said, “we suggest [the PC’s price] invites comparison”. Microsoft, Personal Software, and Peachtree Software were among the developers of nine launch titles, including EasyWriter and VisiCalc. In addition to the existing corporate sales force, IBM opened its own Product Center retail stores. After studying Apple’s successful distribution network, the company for the first time sold through others, ComputerLand and Sears Roebuck. Because retail stores receive revenue from repairing computers and providing warranty service, IBM broke a 70-year tradition by permitting and training non-IBM service personnel to fix the PC.

The IBM Personal Computer running DOS 1.0
The IBM Personal Computer running DOS 1.0 (The Vintage Computer)

* 1990 Skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex discovered.

On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.

Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.

In 1992, a long legal battle began over Sue. The U.S. Attorney’s Office claimed Sue’s bones had been seized from federal land and were, therefore, government property. It was eventually found that Williams, a part-Native American and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, had traded his land to the tribe two decades earlier to avoid paying property taxes, and thus his sale of excavation rights to Black Hills had been invalid. In October 1997, Chicago’s Field Museum purchased Sue at public auction at Sotheby’s in New York City for $8.36 million, financed in part by the McDonald’s and Disney corporations.

Sue’s skeleton went on display at the Field Museum in May 2000. The tremendous T.rex skeleton–13 feet high at the hips and 42 feet long from head to toe–is displayed in one of the museum’s main halls. Another exhibit gives viewers a close-up view of Sue’s five foot-long, 2,000-pound skull with its 58 teeth, some as long as a human forearm.

Sue’s extraordinarily well-preserved bones have allowed scientists to determine many things about the life of T.rex. They have determined that the carnivorous dinosaur had an incredible sense of smell, as the olfactory bulbs were each bigger than the cerebrum, the thinking part of the brain. In addition, Sue was the first T.rex skeleton to be discovered with a wishbone, a crucial discovery that provided support for scientists’ theory that birds are a type of living dinosaur. One thing that remains unknown is Sue’s actual gender; to determine this, scientists would have to compare many more T.rex skeletons than the 22 that have been found so far.

Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago
Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago (Professor Olsen @ Large – WordPress.com)

* 1961 East Germany begins construction of the Berlin Wall.

In an effort to stem the tide of refugees attempting to leave East Berlin, the communist government of East Germany begins building the Berlin Wall to divide East and West Berlin. Construction of the wall caused a short-term crisis in U.S.-Soviet bloc relations, and the wall itself came to symbolize the Cold War.

Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, thousands of people from East Berlin crossed over into West Berlin to reunite with families and escape communist repression. In an effort to stop that outflow, the government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin. The U.S. government responded angrily. Commanders of U.S. troops in West Berlin even began to make plans to bulldoze the wall but gave up on the idea when the Soviets moved armored units into position to protect it. The West German government was furious with America’s lack of action, but President John F. Kennedy believed that “A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” In an attempt to reassure the West Germans that the United States was not abandoning them, Kennedy traveled to the Berlin Wall in June 1963, and famously declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner!”). Since the word “Berliner” was commonly referred to as a jelly doughnut throughout most of Germany, Kennedy’s improper use of German grammar was also translated as “I am a jelly doughnut.” However, due to the context of his speech, Kennedy’s intended meaning that he stood together with West Berlin in its rivalry with communist East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic was understood by the German people.

In the years to come, the Berlin Wall became a physical symbol of the Cold War. The stark division between communist East Berlin and democratic West Berlin served as the subject for numerous editorials and speeches in the United States, while the Soviet bloc characterized the wall as a necessary protection against the degrading and immoral influences of decadent Western culture and capitalism. During the lifetime of the wall, nearly 80 people were killed trying to escape from East to West Berlin. In late 1989, with communist governments falling throughout Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall was finally opened and then demolished. For many observers, this action was the signal that the Cold War was finally coming to an end.

East Berlin workers building the Berlin Wall
(History – Washington State University)

* 1898 Armistice ends the Spanish-American War.

The brief and one-sided Spanish-American War comes to an end when Spain formally agrees to a peace protocol on U.S. terms: the cession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Manila in the Philippines to the United States pending a final peace treaty.

The Spanish-American War had its origins in the rebellion against Spanish rule that began in Cuba in 1895. The repressive measures that Spain took to suppress the guerrilla war, such as herding Cuba’s rural population into disease-ridden garrison towns, were graphically portrayed in U.S. newspapers and inflamed public opinion. In January 1898, violence in Havana led U.S. authorities to order the battleship USS Maine to the city’s port to protect American citizens. On February 15, a massive explosion of unknown origin sank the Maine in the Havana harbor, killing 260 of the 400 American crew members aboard. An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March, without much evidence, that the ship was blown up by a mine but did not directly place the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible, and called for a declaration of war.

In April, the U.S. Congress prepared for war, adopting joint congressional resolutions demanding a Spanish withdrawal from Cuba and authorizing President William McKinley to use force. On April 23, President McKinley asked for 125,000 volunteers to fight against Spain. The next day, Spain issued a declaration of war. The United States declared war on April 25. On May 1, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish Pacific fleet at Manila Bay in the first battle of the Spanish-American War. Dewey’s decisive victory cleared the way for the U.S. occupation of Manila in August and the eventual transfer of the Philippines from Spanish to American control.

On the other side of the world, a Spanish fleet docked in Cuba’s Santiago harbor in May after racing across the Atlantic from Spain. A superior U.S. naval force arrived soon after and blockaded the harbor entrance. In June, the U.S. Army Fifth Corps landed in Cuba with the aim of marching to Santiago and launching a coordinated land and sea assault on the Spanish stronghold. Included among the U.S. ground troops were the Theodore Roosevelt-led “Rough Riders,” a collection of Western cowboys and Eastern blue bloods officially known as the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry. On July 1, the Americans won the Battle of San Juan Hill, and the next day they began a siege of Santiago. On July 3, the Spanish fleet was destroyed off Santiago by U.S. warships under Admiral William Sampson, and on July 17 the Spanish surrendered the city–and thus Cuba–to the Americans.

In Puerto Rico, Spanish forces likewise crumbled in the face of superior U.S. forces, and on August 12 an armistice was signed between Spain and the United States. On December 10, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Spanish-American War. The once-proud Spanish empire was virtually dissolved, and the United States gained its first overseas empire. Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the United States, the Philippines were bought for $20 million, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. Philippine insurgents who fought against Spanish rule during the war immediately turned their guns against the new occupiers, and 10 times more U.S. troops died suppressing the Philippines than in defeating Spain.

The Great Naval Battle of Manila Bay
The Great Naval Battle of Manila Bay (history.com)

* 1939 The Wizard of Oz movie musical premieres in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland and featuring words and music by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen, receives its world premiere in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on this day in 1939.

The beloved characters and familiar plot points were mostly all there in the original children’s book, from the Kansas farm girl in shiny slippers transported to Munchkin land by a terrible tornado to the wicked witch, the brainless scarecrow, the heartless tin woodsman and the cowardly lion she encounters once she gets there. But what’s missing, of course, from Frank Baum’s bestselling novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is the music that helped make those characters so beloved and those plot points so familiar. First published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted numerous times for the stage and screen and even set to music prior to 1939. It was that year’s film adaptation, however, that earned Baum’s work a permanent place not only in cinema history but also in music history.

Lyricist Yip Harburg and composer Harold Arlen were both seasoned songwriting professionals before teaming up in 1938 to write the original songs for The Wizard of Oz, though they had worked together very little. Harburg’s best-known credits to date were “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” (1931) and “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (1933), and Arlen’s were “Get Happy” (1929) and “Stormy Weather” (1933). Their first collaboration was on the Broadway musical Hooray For What! (1937), which yielded the now-standard “Down With Love.” The success of The Wizard of Oz, however, would quickly overshadow those earlier accomplishments.

Not only did Judy Garland’s signature song, “Over The Rainbow,” earn Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg the Oscar for Best Song at the 1940 Academy Awards, but it quickly became an indispensable standard in the American Songbook, later being acknowledged as the #1 song on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled in 2001 by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

First and foremost, however, Arlen and Harburg’s songs accomplished their primary goal with flying colors, carrying and deepening the emotional impact of the story in the film for which they were written. As innovative and impressive as the production values of The Wizard of Oz were in 1939, it is impossible to imagine the film earning the place it has in the popular imagination without songs like “The Lollipop Guild,” “If I Only Had A Brain” and “We’re Off To See The Wizard.”

Still picture from the movie The Wizard of Oz
(CBS News)

Today’s Sources: 

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport                         http://www.onthisday.com/

* Wikipedia                                                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Personal_Computer

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… August 12th”

  1. I was just asking my niece yesterday if she remembered a time before the computer and then here you spotlight the first IBM personal computer. Times change quickly, indeed. As for the Wizard of Oz, the bad witch scared me when I first saw it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This historical tidbit does highlight the issue of our relationship with our computers/tablets/cell phones. Prior to all of these devices, we did spend more time interacting with family and friends in a personal way. This hit home one day as Anne and I were dining out and both of us were checking our iPhones from time to time. 🙄

      Like

  2. My goodness…I remember the excitement of my first personal computer – in the 1990s. I’ve never been to the Field Museum, but I love the Am. Museum of Natural History in NY – which has a skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex. I have a great excuse to go there now – grandkids! Thank you for this great posting, John…it was over the rainbow! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember unpacking my first computer. (IBM PC, dual disk drive, 86 k memory, the monitor had 64 shades of gray!) I sat in front of it, had an anxiety attack (very steep learning curve), then after calming down, I switched it ON carefully – afraid I’d break something! No hard drives in those days (80’s). We had to boot up the DOS disk in Drive A, then put the MS Word program disk in Drive A, then save the files to a blank disk in Drive B. It was magic after using a typewriter! Have you been to the Smithsonian? Thanks for your kind words, Gwen!

      Like

  3. Hi John – what we needed was a T rex to smash through the Berlin wall, while it was being filmed in technicolour, and then a yellow brick road could be laid down to connect the two sides.

    Liked by 2 people

I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s