The (possibly apocryphal) story goes that on this day in 1797, haberdasher John Hetherington walked onto the streets of London wearing the first top hat, which caused so much hubbub that he was arrested and fined for disturbing the peace! Plus: in January 1974, MIT professor James Henry Williams, Jr. built a 35 pound yo-yo made of two bicycle wheels, and dropped it off the side of a 21-story campus building.
I certainly did not expect 2021 to be what it is, but what did people back in the day predict our world would be like now? Entrepreneur Magazine looked back at predictions from a hundred years ago, and some of them were surprisingly close to the mark. Plus: Robert "Buz" Chmielewski, who's had only limited feeling and movement in his hands and fingers for 30 years, is using special gear and the power of his mind to control prosthetics and serve himself dessert.
Today is the birthday of Edwin Perkins, who invented a sweet drink known the world over as Kool-Aid. It's the only drink with a mascot that can smash through walls and shout "OH YEAH!" Plus: it's also the birthday of Elvis Presley, who in 1956 volunteered to be photographed getting the then-new polio shot to encourage mass vaccinations. Another way he used his immense fame as a singer to take care of business.
After yesterday's stunning, discouraging events at the U.S. Capitol, we decided to make today's show a chance to get to know our Capitol building a little better. Here's some of what we learned, though we could do a whole week's worth of shows about the Capitol and the people who have made it what it is.
When Czechoslovakia Split, The Two New Countries Also Split The National Anthem (Cool Weird Awesome 449)
On this day in 1993, two new countries were born out of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic and Slovakia spent months negotiating all of the old country's assets, even which side got which verses of the national anthem. Plus: many of us have tried to learn new skills during our extra time at home. Anna Chojnicka was one of them, and the skill she chose was to make art out of bananas.
Why does NORAD watch Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, while watching for missiles and bombers the rest of the time? It all started when an ad for a Santa Claus hotline accidentally published a military hotline number during the Cold War. Plus: a gag gift known as the "Nothing Box" was maybe one present that wasn't supposed to travel through the skies at Christmastime.
In 1843, British civil servant Henry Cole wanted a way to send holiday greetings to friends, colleagues and loved ones without having to write letter after letter. And that's where commercial Christmas cards began. Plus: did you know that chili pepper plants were once considered just as festive as poinsettias?
It was today in 1913 that the first modern crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper, eventually leading to a craze that cruciverbalists all over the world have been enjoying ever since. Plus: an invention that didn’t last as long as the crossword - though it was designed to.
Ada Lovelace Was The First Computer Programmer, And Almost The First Computer Musician (Cool Weird Awesome 438)
Today's the birthday of Ada Lovelace, known as the first computer programmer. She also dreamed up the idea of generating music through a computer program, so if you've ever made music with a synthesizer, you're following in her footsteps. Plus: today's the anniversary of the day Wyoming passed its first-of-a-kind law guaranteeing women could vote and hold office.
It’s The Birthday Of The Jukebox, The Old-School System For On-Demand Music (Cool Weird Awesome 425)
Today in 1889, inventor Louis Glass moved his "nickel-in-a-slot" into a saloon in San Francisco, beginning the age of the jukebox and giving the generations without smartphones and streaming services the chance to push a button and listen to a song. Plus: Chris Nikic has just become the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon.