by Daniel J. Horgan

The Month of May in IT History: Spam, George Lucas, Apple & Steve Jobs

May 01, 20033 mins

2 The first 10 licenses for commercial television are granted on this day in 1941 by the FCC. NBC owns Channel 1, and it broadcasts from the Empire State Building (above). Sixty days later, 4,000 TV sets around New York City are tuned to see NBC’s first telecast, a Brooklyn Dodgers versus Philadelphia Phillies baseball game at Ebbets Field. The Phillies win 6-4.

8 An ocean of junk mail shuts down the computer networks of high-profile spam propagator Cyber Promotions for 20 hours in 1997. The counterattack against the company and CEO Sanford Wallace, a.k.a. the Spam King, is a temporary setback. A year later, Wallace closes shop and becomes a consultant to spam victims.

14 A long time ago (1944), in a Modesto, Calif., suburb (far, far away), film and special effects guru George Lucas is born. Just after his 18th birthday, Lucas’s seat belt snaps and he is ejected from his tumbling vehicle moments before it wraps around a tree at 60 mph. Lucas awakens in the hospital with a vision of a three-part story that later becomes the Star Wars trilogy. The first film opens in 1977.

19 The Justice Department along with 20 states file an antitrust suit against Microsoft in 1998, claiming it uses its Windows desktop dominance to suppress competition. Microsoft denies the charge and fights the suit. A federal judge approves a settlement in 2002.

20 Referred to as the most widespread digital failure ever, the Galaxy 4 telecommunications satellite conks out and causes tens of millions of pagers to go silent in 1998. A majority of the pager market had relied on the Galaxy 4 to run their services. Pager companies scramble to link their services with another satellite.

26 Adobe Systems cofounder and President Charles Geschke is kidnapped in 1992 in broad daylight from the parking lot of the Mountain View, Calif., company. Geschke’s captors set the ransom at $650,000, threatening to kill him and blow up his home if their demands aren’t met. Authorities rescue Geschke four days later, unharmed. He returns immediately to his post at Adobe. Later, the two kidnappers are sent to jail for life.

28 In the first major display of dissent since the Microsoft antitrust filing, Gateway announces in 1998 that it will modify Windows 98 and offer consumers a choice of Web browsers. Microsoft reluctantly grants permission to Gateway to include Netscape Navigator on the desktop.

31 Apple cofounder Steve Jobs loses his job in 1985 as head of the Mac division in a power struggle with CEO John Sculley (above). Ironically, Sculley, a proven PepsiCo leader, had joined the company in 1983 at Jobs’ urging. Sculley remains the Apple CEO until 1993. Three years after that, Jobs returns to Apple and reclaims the CEO spot.

Sources: WNBC, Baseball Almanac, The History Channel,, Ultimate Star Wars Site, CNN, The Center for the Study of Technology and Society,, Silicon Valley Story, Apple