This Week In Tech History: Think Different

Apple_ThinkDifferent_EinsteinSeptember 28, 1997

Apple Computer launched the “Think different” marketing campaign. The campaign’s television commercials featured black-and-white footage of 17 iconic 20th century personalities and a free-verse poem read by Richard Dreyfuss, starting with the words “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. “ These turned out to be the opening lines in the second act of Steve Jobs and Apple.

The campaign’s slogan, “Think different,” was probably a play on the much earlier slogan “THINK,” coined by Thomas J. Watson, Sr.  In the winter of 1911, Watson ordered that signs with just one word–THINK–be put all over the NCR factory in Dayton, Ohio. Later, as CEO of IBM, he told his sales people: “Every man on the selling force of this business today would make two dollars where he now only makes one, if he would but THINK along the right line. ‘I didn’t think’ has cost the world millions of dollars.”


Thomas Watson Sr.

In 2011, Google started publishing Think Quarterly, “to prepare you for what happens next.”


September 29, 1936

Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened his campaign for re-election with a speech to the New York State Democratic Convention. This was the first U.S. presidential campaign in which both parties used radio broadcasts to deliver their messages and present their candidate to a national audience.


September 30, 1915

David Sarnoff, Chief Inspector for The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (and later CEO of RCA and NBC) wrote to his superiors: “I have in mind a plan of development which will make radio a ‘household utility’ in the same sense as the piano or phonograph. The idea is to bring music into the home by wireless. The receiver can be designed in the form of a simple ‘Radio Music Box,’ placed on a table in the parlor or living room.”  Sarnoff may have actually written this memo in 1920, but later claimed it was written before 1916, the year Lee De Forest and others started broadcasting news and transmitting music over the wireless to multiple recipients.

David Sarnoff Photo courtesy of the David Sarnoff Research Center

David Sarnoff
Photo courtesy of the David Sarnoff Research Center

October 4, 1955

The first field trial of a rural telephone system making use of transistors and the Bell Solar Battery was held in Americus, Georgia. Almost one quarter of the world’s population today lives without electricity, and solar-powered mobile phones dominate their long-distance communications.


Bell Labs engineer testing solar battery in 1954

Solar powered Samsung phone

Solar powered Samsung phone

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Data Visualization, 350BC – 1879

data visualization infographic

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The Tech Boom of the 1880s


Vaclav Smil in IEEE Spectrum:

According to the worshippers of the e-world, the late 20th century brought us an unprecedented number of profound inventions. But that is a categorical misunderstanding, as most recent advances have been variations on the microprocessor theme and on the parsing of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Perhaps the most inventive time was the 1880s. Have any two sets of primary inventions and epochal discoveries shaped the modern world more than electricity and internal combustion engines?

Martin Wolf in Foreign Affairs:

Past innovations generated vastly greater unmeasured value than the relatively trivial innovations of today… What we know for the moment is that there is nothing extraordinary in the changes we are now experiencing. We have been here before and on a much larger scale.

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Mobile Phone Evolution

MobilePhoenEvolutionHT: @ValaAfshar

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First Book Dust Jacket

Neues Taschenbuch Von Nürnberg (2 Volumes)

Neues Taschenbuch Von Nürnberg (2 Volumes)

From Biblio Blog: “Prior to the 1820s, most books were issued as unbound sheets or with disposable board covers. Customers would buy the text-blocks and commission bindings themselves–often to match the other titles in their library. For this reason, dust jackets were neither needed nor desired. Instead of a dust jacket, some printers would protect the exterior with a blank page (called by some a “bastard title”).

Besides these temporary boards or blank pages, the earliest version of the dust jacket was a slipcase, or sheath, first seen in the late 18th century. They were essentially small boxes, open on one or both ends, often constructed of pasteboard. The sheaths typically housed literary annuals, gift books, or pocket diaries. Literary annuals were quite popular and during the 1820s, it became common for publishers to print them in sheaths.

According to dust jacket authority, G. Thomas Tanselle, it was likely these sheaths that “gave prominence to the idea of a detachable publisher’s covering.”  Indeed, typographer Ruari McLean asserted that the sheath “can be called the progenitor of the book jacket, since its function was to attract and protect.”

The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

But of course, though forerunners, sheaths were not dust jackets. During the 1820s, publishers began encasing annuals and gift books in a sort of wrapping paper, printed with just enough text to identify the volume. While many book bindings of the period plain, annuals and gift books tended to be more ornate, and publishers sought to protect these books in transit.

In 2009, the Bodleian Library, Oxford discovered what is often cited as the earliest known example of a dust jacket. It was a paper wrapper for a gift book, bound in silk, entitled Friendship’s Offering (1829). The wrapper was intended to completely enclose the book, and in fact, there remain traces of sealing wax from where the paper was secured. Prior to the discovery of this volume, the earliest-known example was another gift book, The Keepsake (1833).

However, it is now considered uncertain whether Friendship’s Offering is the oldest known dust jacket (although it does seem to be the earliest English language example). The German two volume Neues Taschenbuch Von Nürnberg—surviving in multiple copies–seems to precede Friendship’s Offering by over a decade. Published in 1819, the set, encased in plain paper dust jackets, describes many of Nürnberg’s most famous attractions and personalities, including Albrecht Dürer and Peter Vischer.

Leaves Of Grass Including Sands at Seventy...1st Annex, Good-Bye my Fancy...2nd Annex, A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads, and Portrait from Life by Walt Whitman
Leaves Of Grass Including Sands at Seventy…1st Annex, Good-Bye my Fancy…2nd Annex, A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads, and Portrait from Life by Walt Whitman

It is difficult to ascertain when, exactly, paper wrappers first were employed by publishers, since they were intended to be discarded. In fact, the wrappers were frequently destroyed in the process of opening them–think of all the torn wrapping paper on birthdays or Christmas. Nevertheless, examples have survived from 1829 through the early 20th century.

The modern-style dust jacket was first introduced in the 1830s–although possibly earlier (evidence is inconclusive). Featuring flaps, it was a much-improved design. These dust jackets could remain on the book when it was opened, providing protection for volumes even as they were read.

By the 1870s, dust jackets had become common–although in many cases, they were left blank. A letter from Lewis Carroll to his publisher in 1876 provides insight into how dust jackets were viewed in the period. He requested that the publisher print the title of his latest book, The Hunting of the Snark, on the spine of the “paper wrapper” so that the book would remain in “cleaner and more saleable condition.” He goes on to ask that the same be done for his older books, “even those on hand which are already wrapped in plain paper.”

Carroll’s letter is evidence of the next stage of dust jacket evolution. From plain paper, publishers began printing titles on the spine of the jacket–allowing customers to view a book from the shelf and know its contents without opening it or removing the paper. While some dust jackets of the 1870s and 1880s did feature printing on the front, back, and flaps, these practices were not common and were instead specific to each publisher.”

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History of Credit Cards (Video)

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First YouTube Video

First YouTube video, April 23, 2005

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