November 22nd in nerd history: To infinity and beyond

November 22nd in nerd history: To infinity and beyond

Happy National Jukebox Day! In 1889 Louis Glass and William S. Arnold invented the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph, the first known device to play recorded music in exchange for your hard-earned money. All you had to do was stick your ear next to one of the four listening tubes. Now that sounds like a party.

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

November 22 in Nerd History

Here are five things that happened on November 22nd at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.


Birthdays of honor: Rodney Dangerfield (1921), Billie Jean King (1943), James Lee Curtis (1958), Scarlett Johansson (1984), Mark Ruffalo (1967), Mads Mikkelsen (1965), Steven Van Zandt (1950), Terry Gilliam (1940), Mariel Hemingway (1961), Shawn Fanning (1980).


Today in 1967, Mel Brooks had his directorial film debut when The Producers premiered in Pittsburgh, PA — and it very nearly never saw the light of day after that.

Since Mel Brooks wasn't THE Mel Brooks just yet, he didn't have his reputation for making fun of any topic under the sun. So when he came up with the idea for a movie about two Jewish producers who make a play about Nazis, it was pretty damn controversial. For those unfamiliar, the plot centers around a scheme by two theater producers who realize they can make more money with a play that flops compared to a hit, so they come up with a musical that's sure to fail.

After overcoming initial resistance from the studio, the movie premier reportedly went terribly, and it was very nearly shelved. But we owe Peter Sellers a debt of gratitude for saving the film, who saw it and placed an ad in Variety in support of its release.

It would go on to gather a cult following and earn Brooks an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.


Today in 1995 the first movie to completely use computer-generated animation hit theaters — Pixar's Toy Story.

With the voice talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen leading the way, it was a monster hit, netting over $370 million at the worldwide box office and spawning a franchise that is still going strong today.

The tale of toys that come to life when no one else is around is widely recognized as one of the most important moments in modern film history, and the animation actually still stands up pretty darn well.


Today in 1987 one of the more bizarre things you'll hear about happened in Chicago when someone hijacked the signal of two different TV stations. What to do if you've pirated TV signals? Apparently, dress up like Max Headroom.

Known as the Max Headroom signal hijacking, the pirate was first able to take over the signal of WGN-TV during the sports segment. The figure simply swayed in front of what appears to be corrugated metal meant to resemble Max Headroom's typical background.

The next takeover occurred during Doctor Who on the local PBS affiliate (rude), and this time the pirate sort of imitated Max Headroom while rambling about random topics. The broadcast ended after a woman came on screen and spanked the figure with a flyswatter. Yep, that's what I'd do too, given the platform.

An initial investigation and subsequent investigations have never been able to determine who the culprits were.


Today in 1968 Captain Kirk yet again kissed someone — but this time it was Uhura, making it the first televised interracial kiss in history.

But don't read too much into it — Uhura and Kirk aren't secretly in love, they're just doing the bidding of aliens with telekinetic powers, who also make the crew sing and dance.