January 17 in nerd history: Betamax goes to court

January 17 in nerd history: Betamax goes to court

Happy Museum Selfie Day! For one day only, it's totally acceptable to carry around one of those selfie sticks, shove your way to the front of the crown in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and go nuts. Tell them we sent ya.

This is The Reset Button from Classic Nerd, resetting your day.

January 17 in Nerd History

Here are five things that happened on January 17th at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.


Birthdays of honor: Muhammad Ali (1942), Betty White (1922), Jim Carrey (1962), Benjamin Franklin (1706), Steve Harvey (1957), James Earl Jones (1931), Zooey Deschanel (1980), Eartha Kitt (1927), Andy Kaufman (1949), Maury Povich (1939), Konstantin Stanislavski (1863), Al Capone (1899).


40 years ago today, the United States Supreme Court made one of the most consequential, controversial, shocking decisions in its history: recording TV shows on your VCR is not illegal.

Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., also known as the Betamax case, came about when movie studios were getting nervous about Sony's new recording technology (those fancy Betamax tapes). They saw people being able to record stuff as a threat and thus argued it was a form of copyright infringement. By merely selling the tapes, Sony was infringing on their ability to make cashola from their IP, the studios argued.

So rather than try to work with legislators on building copyright rules to address the new tech, they sued Sony. And today in 1984, they officially lost — which means you were able to legally record the finale of Seinfeld, only to never actually watch it.

The case still carries legal implications today, as it's been applied in numerous instances regarding recording content with personal devices. Take that, evil movie studios!


In Movies That Time Forgot history, today marks the release of Iron Eagle, a clear attempt to cash in on some of that Top Gun success, hitting theaters in 1986.

In fairness, the only real similarity was that there were jets. In my opinion, the plot of Iron Eagle is much cooler in concept than that Tom Cruise bromance movie. A kid who dreams of becoming a fighter pilot finds out his dad, also a fighter pilot, has been shot down and captured in the Middle East. His only chance at rescue? You guessed it, stealing some F16s and getting Louis Gosset Jr. to help.

While critics panned the movie (the Los Angeles Times called it "preposterous"), it made over $24 million at the box office — enough for a couple of sequels.

Also today in movie releases, Chris Farley proved once again that he could be funny in any damn movie you put him in when Beverly Hills Ninja was released in 1997.

And seems like there was something else... what was it again? Hmmm... oh right, Gone With the Wind saw nationwide release today in 1940. But frankly my reader, I don't give a damn.


Remember how yesterday we talked about the NFL's Cardinals franchise announcing the move from St. Louis to Arizona? Well, today in 1995 all of St. Louis rejoiced when the Los Angeles Rams announced they were moving to the Gateway to the West.

Spoiler alert: It didn't last. But they did have some great teams, including Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf.


Today in 1976 Blondie released their first single, "X Offender".