Today in 1955, Walt Disney jump-started the dreams of every kid who thought fairy tales were only for cartoons when he opened Disneyland, a 160-acre theme park near Anaheim, California. Disney partnered with ABC-TV to complete the park, a cunning strategy that involved televising the limited grand opening and instantly creating a mad desire in children everywhere to explore Frontierland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland. Not only would the park be regularly featured on television, there were also picture books about the destination so children would have something tangible to use when hammering their parents for a special trip.
While there were many problems with that first day, including gas leaks, not enough water fountains and a heat wave to rival this year’s drought, Disney’s vision took hold and the park fixed the problems, added rides and became profitable by its’ second year. Later that was ratcheted up to “insanely profitable,” as Disney now has theme parks dotted around the world.
Celebrate today by dressing up as your favorite character, whether it’s Jafar or Tinker Bell. Just because Comic-Con is over doesn’t mean you can’t liven up the office with some frightening cosplay.
Love Star Trek, Firefly, Fringe, Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica, The Outer Limits or Quantum Leap? Doff your metaphorical chapeau to the program that started it all: Captain Video. Today in 1949 marked the premiere of American television’s first foray into science-fiction, and it became a phenomenal hit. It was the first televised science fiction program to be turned into a movie, and the writers’ list of the TV show is a who’s who of science fiction literature, including Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Sheckley, Isaac Asimov, James Blish and many more.
Captain Video and his Video Rangers protected all that was right and good on the DuMont Network daily for six years. Watching early episodes now can make even the creators of Lost do their best RCA dog impersonations, because padding each episode was footage from old cowboy movies in between the live segments. The Old West clips gave the crew time to quickly set up or move sets, and the cowboys were supposedly “undercover agents” for Captain Video.
The switch between interstellar adventure and a posse on the trail didn’t faze kids of the 1950s, though; it became daily Must-see TV for kids and adults alike. Celebrate by watching an episode below complete with 1950s-era commercials, or head to the Internet Archive and download a few to watch later. It’s trippy, historic fun.
An early color TV, circa 1951. No widescreen, but if your reception was bad, you received an extra ghost of the televised image with every show!
Today in 1951, the CBS network broadcast the first color television show. The variety show included Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Robert Alda with several others, and featured appearances by the chairman of the FCC and the chairman and president of CBS. Only special color-ready TVs could pick up the broadcast, which was sent out to Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore from the network’s New York studio; black-and-white sets couldn’t see the telecast at all.
While this was the first commercial broadcast with 16 sponsors, color television had been in development for a decade. CBS first demonstrated a color system in August 1940, and NBC was secretly developing their own color broadcasts. In fact, NBC supposedly set up a color broadcast from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1943 to Princeton, New Jersey. The show featured a young Jerry Lewis, famed dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Arlene Woods. The telecast went out to a single viewer, but he held more scientific clout than anyone else: Albert Einstein. After the show, the cast was driven to New Jersey to meet their lone audience member. Forget Twitter: this was the first immediate feedback for a television program.
While we don’t know what his reaction was, we do know that he and Lewis discussed the theory of relativity. That moment should have been the first color broadcast!
Today’s lesson: being first doesn’t always make you the winner. Today in 1975, the first VCR went on sale in Japan. It was the Betamax. Never heard of it? Ah, youth. The Betamax was the first, but the VHS format came quickly on its heels and won the tug of war over pricing and availability.
Of course, all those $30 VHS tapes are now stocking the shelves of your local thrift stores and flea markets while Blu-ray, 3D and the next big thing fight for the home viewer’s dollar.
It’s only a matter of time before Feel-A-Round becomes real, so celebrate today by boxing up all those Bob Ross painting videotapes you recorded and making room for your virtual holographically projected life partner.
She’s an actress with an amazing career from the age of four, but in the geek world, she’ll always be Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Happy Birthday, Alyson! Above is a special treat, an interview from 2001.Tweet
Before “Tosh 2.0,” there was “Internet Tonight.” Today in 1998, a new television channel focused solely on computers and the burgeoning Internet culture premiered. While other channels played with shows about computers, usually featuring the sleekest, most expensive things you could buy, ZDTV built a rabid fan base by being practical. “Call for Help” featured the booming voice and endless patience of Leo Laporte walking newbies step by step through their computer problems. “The Screen Savers,” with Laporte and Kate Botello (later replaced by Patrick Norton) catered to the advanced user with demos and interviews of the computing world’s major players. Filling time were shows on computing and finance, gaming, and the future of technology with John C. Dvorak, television’s most entertaining grouch since Oscar. “Big Thinkers,” a truth-in-advertising program if there ever was one, interviewed luminaries like Douglas Adams and Michio Kaku.
The cable channel changed its name to TechTV within a couple of years to entice a larger audience, and was finally sold by former Microsoft exec Paul Allen to G4 Media in 2004, who then eventually stripped out all the practical computer shows and focused solely on gaming.
ZDTV’s demise created a hole in the computing world, one that was filled by Laporte gathering his fellow TechTV hosts and crew and creating a web-based network called This Week in Tech, or TWiT. The spirit of the shows we all loved lives on, joined by new geek-centric shows covering all corners of technology, from the latest iPad to ham radio.
Celebrate today by checking out TWiT and catching up with some of your favorite people, or take a look back with this classic clip from “The Screen Savers,” when a recently freed Kevin Mitnick went back on the Internet live on the air.Tweet
(03/07/2012-Note: We see you out there tripping through the blog stats, RDA fans. Although usually each post expires in three days, we’ve seen enough of you come here looking for a little 70s eye candy with your fave, so this post from RDA’s birthday, Jan. 23, is going back up just for you.)
If you have a stick of gum, a piece of wire and a handy wisecrack, you’ll sail through MacGyver Day, also known as the birthday of Richard Dean Anderson. Before he struck it awesome with the seminal 1980s show, Anderson worked as a street mime, Marineland whale prop and soap opera hottie.
While it’s hard to forget MacGyver, the man who could make anything happen, geeks (and especially geekettes) know him as the sarcastic yet true blue Col. Jack O’Neill from Stargate SG-1. In that show, he was killed, beaten up, exploded, frozen, cloned, invaded by an alien Wikipedia and worst of all, promoted to General.
For a moment even MacGyver couldn’t get him out of, catch the video above of RDA rockin’ in the 1970s.Tweet
Have clueless relatives who wouldn’t know a Browncoat if he stole their pretty floral bonnet? Friends who don’t understand why you cackle hysterically when you talk about how many slots a toaster has? Help them understand your nerdy gift needs with this handy list!
Clip & save for your bizarrely normal friends, or send it as an e-card!
It’s almost 2012, and we still don’t have those jetpacks.
This influential radio show hit the airwaves today in 1932 after the huge success of Phillip Nowlan’s comic strip. How inspirational can death rays be? They lit a spark in a young Ray Bradbury and brought about other heroes such as Flash Gordon.
Guess everyone wanted in on that Wilma Deering/Ardala sandwich, because Buck Rogers went on to star in novels, films, and two television series, including Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which aired from 1979 to 1981 on NBC. Geeks of a certain age still have soft spots in their hearts for Gil Gerard, Erin Gray and even Twiki.
If you want to get back to Buck’s early years, though, you can still listen to episodes of the Buck Rogers radio serial online. It’s a slower pace of action than today’s smash-boom-angst movies, but these episodes are a mind-bending slice of history as you go back in time to hear them go forward in time.