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December 10 in Tech History

There is a lot we take for granted in the modern world we live. To think that most people have access to a computer or digital communication device, is astounding when you think about where we started. The internet as we know it, is only 22 years old. We don’t have to go that far back to realize the complexity of the technology we use everyday. Just think about where we are going.

Today in technological history, something seemingly frivolous launched, and someone important to science was born. While it is difficult for some to equate these two events, they have both made a strong impression on the world we live today. Because of their efforts, someone like me, who conducts computer repair near anyone who lives in Northeast Ohio, it is possible for someone like me to make a living and support my family.

The frivolous thing that happened today

Today DOOM was launched! If you aren’t familiar with the game, you have heard the term First Person Shooter (FPS) right?  Doom was one of the first. It actually pioneered First Person Shooters. This is how Wikipedia (I’m not in school so I can use it as a source if I want) explains the game:

“In Doom, players assume the role of an unnamed space marine, who became popularly known as “Doomguy“,[2] fighting his way through hordes of invading demons from Hell.[3] With one-third of the game (nine levels) distributed as sharewareDoom was played by an estimated 15–20 million people[4] within two years of its release, popularizing both the business model of online distribution[5] and the mode of gameplay, and spawning a gaming subculture. In addition to popularizing the first-person shooter genre, it pioneered immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming, and support for customized additions and modifications via packaged files in a data archive known as “WADs“. As a sign of its effect on the industry, first-person shooter games from the genre’s boom in the 1990s, helped in no small part by the game’s release, became known simply as “Doom clones“. Its graphic violence, as well as satanic imagery, made Doom the subject of considerable controversy.”

The fact that a Marine was fighting the denizens of hell through the 9 levels caused quite a ruckus. Religious types  ostensibly lost their freaking minds. 

Just like everything in the United States, whatever is proscribed or forbidden becomes the thing we want to do the most. It’s as if we are collectively a big angry child who is tired of being scolded regularly. DOOM was an impossibly popular game. Since a significant portion of the game was shareware (freely distributed to its users) the popularity rose to the highest levels of video game history to that point. Yahoo Games rated DOOM as one the most violent games of all time. The satanic imagery really bothered people. I think the religious were bothered because of the implications of satanism. Why weren’t marines more concerned since they were portrayed as being the heavily armed residents. Virtual reality was also in its early stages, critics of Doom were worried that in time, incredibly realistic killing experiences could be made possible.  I never played the game nor do I play First Person Shooters. I get too caught up gawking at whatever is being rendered that I forget to control it. No Man’s Sky is more my speed. Remember Colombine? Those two murderous were avid Doom players. Knowing that people use a syllogism to justify lumping atrocious acts to videogames, or rock and roll, or television, it is no wonder DOOM was such a hit and that school violence is at an all-time high. As my aunt, Rhoda says, “Those boys are just majoring in the minors.”

And now for the important thing that happened on December 10th:

Walter Henry Zinn was a Canadian-American nuclear physicist who contributed to the U.S. atomic bomb project during World War II and to the development of the nuclear reactor. He collaborated with Leo Szilard, investigating atomic fission. In 1939, they demonstrated that uranium underwent fission when bombarded with neutrons and that part of the mass was converted into energy (given by E = mc²). This work led him to research into the construction of the atomic bomb during WW II. After the war Zinn started the design of an atomic reactor and, in 1951, he built the first breeder reactor. In a breeder reactor, the core is surrounded by a “blanket” of uranium-238 and neutrons from the core convert this into plutonium-239, which can also be used as a fission fuel.

Dr. Zinn, was inspired to research the science behind radiation by their atom smashing research of Neils Bohr. Dr. Bohr showed a new generation of physicists a new way to look at atoms which helped unlock vast amounts of energy . While Dr. Zinn played an invaluable role in furthering our understanding of nuclear energy, (his team is credited for achieving the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942,) unfortunately, like other scientists, his research helped develop the deadliest weapon ever created, the atomic bomb. 

Dr. Zinn, whether kids today know it or not, inspired many kids to follow in his footsteps. Just look at Taylor Wilson, who at 13, built a breeder reactor in his garage. The kid made yellow cake!! While I never knew about Dr. Zinn prior to this post, I think that anyone with a computer repair shop has both DOOM and Dr. Zinn to thank.

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