The First Time News Was Fit To Print: GM, Cell Phones, The BCS & More


It's time for another edition of The First Time News Was Fit To Print, where we head into the archives of The New York Times and find the first time the paper covered a particular subject. If you have a suggestion for a future installment, leave a comment. Here's what we dug up this week:

General Motors

December 28, 1908

General Motors Co. Start Rumor Anew The announcement last week of the formation, as a New Jersey corporation, of the General Motors Company, supposed to be the much-talked-of holding company which is to absorb all of the producers of low-priced cars in the automobile market, has created quite a flurry of interest. It is said that three-quarters of the stockholders of the Olds Motor Works at Lansing and a proportion of the Buick Motor Company of Flint, Mich., have already assented to a merger plan. * * * The basic idea behind the combination proposals has been the purchase of materials in quantities effecting a considerable saving in the cost of production, the distribution of the field so as to avoid competition in the production of cars of each given price, apportioning to each concern the type which it shall produce, and the limitation of it to that type.

Cellular Phones

May 26, 1982

Bell's Cellular Radio Plans The American Telephone and Telegraph Company informed the Federal Communications Commission today that it intends to stay in the new cellular radio business after its proposed divestiture of the 22 local telephone companies. Cellular radio is a relatively new technology, developed over the past two decades by Bell Labs and others, that will provide an improved form of mobile and portable telephone service. The F.C.C. later this year will approve franchises to offer the new phone service in localities around the country ... Local cellular phone service would be offered and maintained by the local phone companies as regulated businesses, according to present plans. * * * Unlike conventional mobile telephone systems, which have one large sending and receiving antenna, usually near the center of town, cellular systems have multiple antennas, with each serving one small geographic section or cell. As a vehicle moves through the city, its receiver obtains a signal from the closest antenna, handing off the customer from one cell to another as it moves through the streets.

Alternative Energy

April 1, 1963

Resources of U.S. Found Adequate for this Century The United States will have enough natural resources for at least the rest of the century to meet the demands of an increasing population and a rising national economy, it was reported today. The nation, however, may face severe temporary and regional shortages of some resources, such as water and timber, and in the latter part of the century will probably be forced to turn to new sources for many raw materials. * * * Before the end of the century, it seems possible the country's petroleum and natural gas resources "will be sufficiently depleted to bring into play an expanding flow of alternative energy sources." The incipient resources problem of domestic oil and gas, however, will be greatly mitigated, if not offset, by the increasing contribution of nuclear energy, exploitation of the oil shales of the Colorado Plateau and the tar sands of northern Canada, possibly gasification of coal into a high-energy fuel long-range shipment of natural supplies of oil and gas known to exist in the Middle East and North Africa and probably in other parts of the world, thus far only sporadically explored.


June 10, 1998

New System for Rating Top College Team The latest attempt to guarantee a true college football national championship game was unveiled yesterday by the Bowl Championship Series, which concocted a complex formula of ratings that might have been devised by Stephen Hawking. * * * Despite taking six months to create the rating formula, which calls for measures like adjusted deviation of computer rankings and statistical weighting of opponents' strengths of schedules, Roy Kramer, the Southeastern Conference commissioner and coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series, said it is not overly complex. "I don't think it's more complicated than figuring out how a football writer can choose between a No. 9 and a No. 4 team," he said.

David Frost

January 5, 1963

British TV's Claim to Superiority Over U.S. Variety: There's Less of It At 10:50 on Saturday evening BBC "“ the government supported station "“ concludes the week with a satiric revue entitled That Was the Week That Was, with David Frost in charge of the improprieties. * * * After staring at routine programs for eight days it is refreshing to find something as skittish as TWTWTW. The fact that it needles the government on a government station is interesting in itself. But anyone familiar with the satiric brilliance of the stage revue, Beyond the Fringe, knows that TWTWTW is mediocre stuff. Most of it is heavy-handed in an amateur style. Some of it does not get beyond insulting the guests of the program "“ the cheapest method of getting attention on both sides of the Atlantic. The personal insult is no funnier in London that it is in New York. Nor is the general level of British TV higher.

From Previous Installments...

Donald Trump

January 28, 1973

A Builder Looks Back "“ And Moves Forward 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."

Digital Watch

July 21, 1973

A Watch That Takes the Hard Time Out of Telling Time Now there's a new toy for the man with a collection of watches. The digital watch, which is operated by a sort of tiny computer, takes all the guess work out of time reading by flashing the hours and minutes in numerals on its face. * * * * * Sales are brisk although the Pulsar is not a thing of beauty compared to many good watches. The watch itself is thick, to accommodate its computer and battery, and weighs about four ounces with its metal strap. Until its "command" button is pressed, it shows nothing but a blank, dark-red face and looks like a dead television screen. But that, presumably, is the fun of owning one. Ask the Pulsar wearer what time it is, and without saying a word, he presses the button and you know it's 9:42.

Andrew Sullivan

April 20, 1983

Weinberger Drops Debate At Oxford 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. Update: Mr. Sullivan responds.

Sesame Street

May 7, 1969

Rich TV Program Seeks Youngest The most expensive and expansive television show ever beamed at the nation's 12 million preschool children -- who will watch TV more hours before they get to kingergarten than they will spend in six grades of elementary school -- was announced yesterday by National Educational Television. Sesame Street is named to reflect the balance between fantasy and the real-life educational open-a-new-window need of pre-school youngsters "“ particularly members of minority groups in the inner cores of big cities "“ that the show hopes to achieve. * * * * * David Connell, executive producer of the series (he held the same position with the Captain Kangaroo series for eight years), said the new show would follow an informal magazine format, with either three or four permanent hosts yet to be selected. At least one of the hosts will be black.

Pat Sajak

May 8, 1986

As 'Wheel' Goes, So Go TV Profits and Careers Television executives offer various explanations for the wild success of Wheel of Fortune, which gave no particular hint of its extravagant future when it first appeared, seemingly just another word-game show, on NBC's daytime schedule 11 years ago. On the show, contestants win prizes for discerning a hidden phrase by guessing its letters.Some suggest the secret is in the droll humor of the show's host, Pat Sajak, a former television weatherman, or perhaps in the fetching manner in which the hostess, Vanna White, reveals the hidden clues. Roger King, chairman of King Productions, the distributor, maintains it is in the game - simplicity itself. "It can be played by a rocket scientist and by an 8-year-old," he said. It is generally conceded that ''Wheel,'' entering its fourth year in syndication, can't go on as it has forever. But most industry observers maintain that while the show may be nearing its peak, its impact remains huge.

See Also... "¢ Greatest Hits (Walkman, Email, Jerry Seinfeld and more) "¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

See all the previous installments of The First Time News Was Fit To Print.

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