November 19, 2007 -- Amazon releases the original Kindle, priced at $399; it sold out in five and a half hours and remained out of stock for the next five months. While the Kindle was not the first e-reader to hit the market, its features--and its integration with Amazon's vast catalog of titles--made the digital reader another tech must-have. The first-generation Kindle had a 6-inch display, a full keyboard, and 250MB of storage--enough to hold 200 books. Plus, E Ink technology gave the Kindle's screen high visibility and contrast, as well as a wider angle of visibility. Since that beginning, Amazon has released 10 generations of Kindles, including Kindle Voyage, Kindle Touch, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Oasis, and Kindle Fire. Although Amazon does not release sales numbers, the company has said it had sold "tens of millions" of Kindles--and close to half a billion Kindle books--as of 2016.
December 2, 1982 -- Barney Clark, 61, receives the first permanent artificial heart at the University of Utah Medical Center. The Jarvik 7 implanted in Clark was made up of two plastic pumps powered by compressed air. It replaced the familiar heartbeat sound with a click followed by a whoosh. Clark lived for 112 days after the operation, but the heart was not an unalloyed success. Clark never left the hospital, and he was tethered to an external pneumatic compressor at all times. He experienced infections and seizures, and he was frequently disoriented. He ultimately died of circulatory collapse and multi-organ failure, most likely the result of an infection acquired during a blood transfusion. Today, most artificial hearts, or ventricular assist devices (VADs), are used to keep patients alive until a donor heart becomes available. In recent years, however, newer VADs have emerged as a viable long-term solution for patients with late-stage heart failure who are not eligible for heart transplants.
December 5, 1965 -- The first computer science dissertation is presented by Richard L. Wexelblat at the University of Pennsylvania; he becomes the first person to receive a diploma with the designation "computer science." The topic of the dissertation was setting up a computer with a large memory to provide online, real-time assistance in human problem solving. While the Association for Computing Machinery credits Wexelblat with presenting the first dissertation, three other students also completed computer science PhDs at about the same time: Andries van Dam (University of Pennsylvania), Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (the University of Wisconsin), and Irving C. Tang (Washington University in St. Louis). Wexelblat is also credited with coining the scheduling algorithm "Choose two: good, fast, or cheap," although that attribution may be apocryphal.
December 17, 1903 -- The Wright Flyer, piloted by Orville Wright, flies 120 feet in 12 seconds, achieving the first motorized aircraft flight in history. The flight took place in the dunes of Jockey Ridge, near Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville and Wilbur flew more flights that day, the longest lasting 59 seconds and covering a distance of 852 feet. The brothers had been inspired to explore flight by Otto Lilienthal's gliding experiments and Samuel Langley's successful steam-powered, unmanned aircraft flight. Orville and Wilbur, who were engineers and bicycle manufacturers, began their research in earnest in 1899, splitting their time between their Ohio home base and the outer banks of North Carolina, which provided ideal flying conditions. Unlike other flight researchers of their time, they believed that control was the key to safe flight. After the 1903 flight, the brothers continued to hone their designs, eventually selling their airplane to the Army's Aeronautical Division. After resolving patent disputes with competitors seeking to copy their design, Wilbur and Orville formed the Wright Company on November 22, 1909.
December 30, 2004 -- Facebook registers its one millionth user, cementing its dominance of social media. The site, originally called TheFacebook, launched on February 4, 2004; it was originally available only to Harvard students. Over half the student body had registered within a month of the launch. Facebook expanded its reach throughout its first year--first to Columbia, Stanford, and Yale, then to all the Ivy League schools, and finally to most of the universities in the United States and Canada. In September 2006, the site opened to anyone over 13 years old who had a valid email address. By July 2010, Facebook had more than 500 million users; half logged in daily. With almost 2.5 billion active monthly users today, Facebook remains the biggest social media network in the world. Recently, Facebook has struggled with concerns regarding user privacy and misinformation campaigns and has faced calls for government regulation in the United States and Europe.