The First Time News Was Fit To Print

Image credit: 

Back in July, during my first trip into the New York Times archives, I made one promise: "I plan to run this feature into the ground." Twenty-one volumes and one NPR appearance later, it's safe to say I kept my word.

Here are my ten favorite first mentions uncovered these last six months.

1. Walkman

July 7, 1980

walkman.jpgStereo-to-Go "“ and Only You Can Hear It
Josh Lansing and the young blonde woman had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue the other afternoon, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute....What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town: the Walkman, a portable stereo unit (priced in most stores at $200), consisting of an ultra-light headphone set plugged into a cassette player that weighs in at less than 14 ounces, batteries included. "It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other on the road," explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

2. E-mail

June 9, 1985

When Technology Outpaces Needs
1982computer.jpg Then there is electronic mail, that thoroughly modern offspring of a calcified postal service and a splintered Ma Bell. Currently, the companies promoting this service, nicknamed e-mail, are also offering such added services as a hookup of the subscriber's personal computer to the Telex network and a two-hour delivery of letter-quality documents to many parts of the country. They have all discovered that electronic mail alone cannot at this stage attract enough customers to stem the tide of red ink.
* * * * *
One of its alleged advantages is the so-called store and forward message. A user may send messages at any time and, unlike a telephone connection, e-mail does not require the recipient to be on the other end of the line. Then again, the old-fashioned postal service does not require that the recipient be there at the time of delivery either.

When all is said and done, electronic mail is no more efficient, in the vast majority of cases, than the telephone or the postal service it is supposed to replace. Nor does it have the flexibility to be able to deliver packages such as spare parts, in the manner of another innovation, the overnight express service pioneered by Federal Express.

3. Woody Allen

March 19, 1962

Young Men's Hebrew Association Presents 2nd Jazz Concert
woodyallen.jpeg On the bill were two well-established jazz groups"¦and a relatively unknown comedian, Woody Allen. It was the comedian who walked off with the honors for the evening.

Mr. Allen, who describes himself as "short and unloved," looks like a somewhat unkempt Wally Cox. A monologuist in the Mort Sahl style who ranges over almost every area except politics"¦he wandered off into what he apparently found to be more diverting topics"¦[for example] the problem of getting a divorce in New York ("The Ten Commandments say "˜Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but New York State says you have to").

Mr. Allen's quiet, underplayed style enabled him to get laughs with what might otherwise have been little more than casual remarks.

4. Barack Obama

February 6, 1990

First Black Elected to Head Harvard's Law Review
obama-harvard.jpgThe Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School. The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii. "The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress," Mr. Obama said today in an interview. "It's encouraging."

5. Jerry Seinfeld

March 30, 1979

Funny Finalists Stand Up For Laughs
seinfeld.jpg"The Big Laff Off," 40 stand-up comedians, some of them professionals only in the sense that they had had a few small club dates, most of them amateurs, some of them walk-on novices, performing over six nights in the last two weeks at the city's comedy cabarets, the Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star, and the Improvisation.
* * * * *
The Comic Strip's regular master of ceremonies, Jerry Seinfeld, will be there Monday discussing the complexities of "those little hangers they have for socks" and how embarrassed he is when he has to go to Disneyland, "because all those movable dolls know more than me."

6. Times Square

March 23, 1904

Times Triangle, Times Square: New Names for Long Acre Square Suggested by a Reader of This Newspaper
To the Editor of The New York Times:
times.jpg When the new building of The New York Times shall be completed and become a thing of art and beauty in that section of the city in which it is to stand, why would it not be fitting that the space about the edifice be called "Times Triangle" or "Times Square," though perhaps it may not be a square? It is, it seems, more euphonious than "Long Acre Square," and very soon would become as well known as "Printing House Square" or "Herald Square." No doubt the Board of Aldermen would take up such a suggestion at the proper time and act upon it favorably. Can it not be entertained?

-J.W.C. Corbusier

7. Digital Camera

May 29, 1991

old_camera.jpgKodak Introduces Electronic Camera
The Eastman Kodak Company took its first real step into digital photography by introducing an electronic camera system that can turn a conventional Nikon into a high-tech electronic camera. Kodak's professional digital camera system will sell for about $20,000 and is intended primarily for photojournalists and government surveillance, the company said. The system also marks Kodak's first move into pure electronic photography, where images are captured and created without film.

8. David Bowie

July 11, 1971

Bowie, Bolan, Heron "“ Superstars?
davidbowie.jpgMind and music are a powerful team, too. David Bowie is the most intellectually brilliant man yet to choose the long-playing album as his medium of expression. His best album is Man of Words/Man of Music* (Mercury). It is over a year old and not easy to find in record stores, but it is well worth special-ordering or sending to England for or borrowing from a friend. It is worth any three records now on the charts.

*In 1972, this album was re-released in the United States as 'Space Oddity.'

9. Donald Trump

January 28, 1973

D_Trump.jpgBuilder Looks Back "“ But Moves Ahead
The big change in Fred Trump's operations in recent years is the advent of his son, Donald"¦.Donald, who was graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, joined his father about five years ago. He has what his father calls "drive." He also possesses, in his father's judgment, business acumen. "Donald is the smartest person I know," he remarked admirably. "Everything he touches turns to gold."

10. iPod

October 24, 2001

Apple Introduces What It Calls an Easier to Use Portable Music Player
ipod.jpg Apple Computer introduced a portable music player today and declared that the new gadget, called the iPod, was so much easier to use that it would broaden a nascent market in the way the Macintosh once helped make the personal computer accessible to a more general audience. But while industry analysts said the device appeared to be as consumer friendly as the company said it was, they also pointed to its relatively limited potential audience, around seven million owners of the latest Macintosh computers. Apple said it had not yet decided whether to introduce a version of the music player for computers with the Windows operating system, which is used by more than 90 percent of personal computer users.

And I'll throw in one bonus first mention, because Mr. Sullivan responded on his site.

Andrew Sullivan

April 20, 1983

Weinberger Drops Debate At Oxford
sullivan.jpg Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has withdrawn from a debate on foreign policy at Oxford University after a warning from his British counterpart that his participation "might not be advisable" because of the approach of a general election.

Andrew Sullivan, president of the Oxford Union, which had hoped to stage the debate on May 27, said Mr. Weinberger telephoned last Friday to say he could not take part. The American had agreed some time ago to oppose E.P. Thompson, the leader of the British nuclear disarmament movement, on the motion: "˜'There is no moral difference between the world policies of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.''
* * * * *
Mr. Sullivan, the union president, is a 19-year-old student of history and French who describes himself as a supporter of the Government. He reported that Mr. Weinberger said on Friday that he thought a debate might be an "inappropriate" forum for a person in his position and that he did not want to seem to intervene in the British domestic political process with an election in the offing.

In case you missed an installment, here are all the links. Happy New Year!

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Microsoft, iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, Donald Trump
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly
"¢ Volume XIII: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taxicab, Hippies
"¢ Volume XIV: Digital Watch, Prozac, David Hasselhoff
"¢ Volume XV: George Clooney, Golden Gate Bridge, Toyota Prius
"¢ Volume XVI: Woody Allen, The Titanic, The Beastie Boys
"¢ Volume XVII: New York Edition
"¢ Volume XVIII: Sports Edition
"¢ Volume XIX: TV Edition
"¢ Volume XX: Wrestlemania, Phil Knight, My Two Dads
"¢ Volume XXI: Books on Tape, Condoleezza Rice, Tina Fey
"¢ End of 2007: Greatest Hits
"¢ Volume XXII: John McCain, American Gladiators, Dianetics
"¢ Volume XXIII: Barbara Bush, Sports Illustrated, The Daily Show
"¢ Volume XXIV: "I Have A Dream" speech, Mitt Romney, Game Boy
"¢ Volume XXV: Randy Moss, Regis Philbin, Valentine's Day
"¢ Volume XXVI: Yoko Ono, Universal Health Care, Tom Coughlin
"¢ Volume XXVII: The U.S. Presidential Candidates
"¢ Volume XXVIII: Superdelegates, HD DVD, Spud Webb
"¢ Volume XXIX: Academy Awards Edition
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

T.jpgWant to play along at home? Get complete access to the The New York Times archives by becoming an NYT subscriber.

More from mental_floss...

December 31, 2007 - 4:45am
webby
submit to reddit