Friday, July 1, 2011

Nerdoms Great Firsts

While working at Umpqua Bank, I'm required to do what's call a Motivational Moment (often shorthanded by the associates to many different things including MoMo which is cubicle-adorable, or M&M, which implies that the phrase is Motivational AND Moment). This is essentially just a short 5 minute meeting between the people in the department where they read a quote, play a quick game, or have a team building exercise.

Most commonly, associates use this time to read a short quote or maybe a group of quotes. Since my first occurred yesterday, I decided that I would use it towards my own dark ends and force my peers to listen to short essays that I wrote. What follows is my first (yes, there's a couple of themes in this).
This year has seen a number of firsts for me, not the least of which are my first full month at Umpqua and my first ever Motivational Moment. In order to commemorate this, these are four Famous Firsts. Why four? Mostly because of the alliteration. I'm not going to lie. That and I didn't want to stay up past eleven compiling this.
Back in 1872, former Governor of California Leland Stanford decided it was time to settle a popular debate of the day: did all four hooves of a horse ever completely leave the ground at once while at full gallop? Deciding that he was going to leave nothing to chance, he sought the aid of a British photographer by the name of Eadweard J. Muybridge to prove it scientifically.
Muybridge set up a series of twenty-four cameras along a race track each tied to a trip wire. As the horse ran by, it would break the trip wire, causing the camera to go off. This photographic evidence showed conclusively that a horse's hooves do in fact all leave the ground - thus eternally settling the debate, but Muybridge, however discovered something far more interesting. When all twenty four frames were transposed into a Zoopractiscope - a type of early animation device for still illustrations - the horse appeared to be in motion, giving birth to the first ever motion picture.
In 1933, seeking to create a newsprint tabloid dedicated solely to comic strips, Eastern Color salesperson Maxwell Gaines and sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg worked with Dell Publishing to publish a 36-page one shot magazine titled, Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics. Given to department stores for distribution, the one shot ultimately became the first of the modern-day comic book format.
Between 1620 and 1630, Johannes Kepler - a German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer - wrote a novel which he titled Somnium (or Dream, in Latin). The narrative followed Duracotas, a student of the famed astronomer Tycho Brahe, who is transported to the moon by occult forces. It was a speculative view of how the Earth might appear from the surface of the moon; and showed many early and key understandings about scientific concepts such as gravity and the ideas of environmental protection beyond Earth's atmosphere.
This novel is now considered to be the first "pure-bred" example of Science Fiction, giving rise to the genre that would give us such literary schlock as Timecop, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or any given Ronald Emrich movie, but has also passed on the speculative and introspective genius such as Neuromancer, Do Robot's Dream of Electric Sheep, and Inception.
Currently, I can't seem to go home without either sitting down in front of my Xbox 360 and taking on the roll of Cabalina, an elven mage in the fantastical land of Ferelden, or watching Noah "theSpoonyOne" Antwhiler rant about the games he loves to hate on his blog But when did this ubiquitous facet of escapism start? Back on May 5th, 1951, NIMROD was presented to the Festival of Britain by Ferranti, and was capable of playing the game Nim - a mathematical game of strategy where two players take turns picking up sticks or beads from distinct heaps; the last player to remove the object from play won. While previous computers had been capable of playing games, Nimrod was the first computer ever specifically designed with the intention of playing games.