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Tech Trivia. No. 2

How much do you know about the technology you take for granted? Find out in this second installment in our series of Tech Trivia.

What was the first album to be released on CD?

The first system for recording audio digitally on an optical disc was patented by James T. Russell in 1970. His patent was later licensed by Phillips and Sony. Public demos of optical digital audio discs occurred in the late 1970s. In 1982, the first commercial CD (a recording of Claudio Arrau performing Chopin waltzes) was produced. In the same year Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” was released on CD. Early in the new millennium, compact discs had pretty much replaced audio cassettes as standard equipment in new autos. The last year for any U.S. auto to have a factory-installed cassette player was 2010.

How long did it take for the patent for the laser to be approved?

Gordon Gould was 37 when he invented the laser but since he did not understand that the invention did not have to be built before patent approval, he delayed applying for a patent until 1959. In the interval, Gould shared information about his invention with Charles Townes. Townes and Arthur Schawlow filed patents in their own names, touching off an epic patent battle. After waiting nearly three decades, Gould was awarded a patent in 1988. By this time, most of the lasers produced in the U.S. were using his designs. Although late to the party, Gould reaped the benefits of what was then a $500 million annual laser market.

What was SWESS?

A dead man’s switch is intended for emergencies, essentially taking control if an operator of a system is dead or incapacitated. It was used in locomotives, as an example, as a life-saving device to bring a train to a safe stop in case the engineer could no longer function. Special Weapons Emergency Separation Systems (SWESS), however, gave a new twist to the dead man’s switch. Developed for Strategic Air Command bombers in the 1950s, it was designed to automatically release nuclear warheads in certain situations — downing over enemy territory, when experiencing failed controls or in the event of descent below a predetermined altitude. Rather than saving lives, SWESS ultimately aimed to kill as many people as possible.

Generally speaking, how many IT professionals hide their careers to avoid requests for free tech assistance?

While Information Technology (IT) is a broad and diverse field encompassing a wide range of equipment and duties, the IT label is frequently attached to those who work with computers and computer systems. Apparently, the label is something like hanging a “Free Tech Help” sign around one’s neck. According to TEK Systems,

What event in 1998 disabled 90% of pagers?

An especially powerful solar flare forced power companies to reboot their power grids, and its effects even disrupted communication in Antarctica. Weeks afterward, its effects were still wreaking havoc, toppling satellites such as the Equator-S and several of Motorola’s. The most notable failure was that of the Galaxy IV communications satellite, the workhorse handling television and radio feeds and about 90% of the pager transmissions in the U.S.

Where is the world’s largest wind farm project?

When this gigantic undertaking is complete by the end of this decade, it will be the planet’s largest collective wind farm. The first phase of the Gansu Wind Farm, representing the installation of more than 3,500 wind turbines, was completed in 2010 in the Gansu province of China in the desert not far from the city of Jiuquan.

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