June 1827 

The First Photograph 


Niepce takes the first photograph after searching for years for an image fixative

Photography, one of the great inventions of the early nineteenth century, was created by a Frenchman, sixty-two-year old Joseph Nicephore Niepce. He and his brother were inventors, developing a boat driven by an internal-combustion engine, the pyrelophore, in 1798. From 1816, Niepce tried to “fix’’ an image produced by a camera obscura, which projects a scene onto a surface using the principle of a  pinhole camera, sometimes with mirrors and lenses. He experimented with silver halide-coated paper and produced an image of a window view, but the negative image vanished when exposed in daylight.

He sought a way of producing a positive image, and in 1822 succeeded in making a contact print of an engraving onto a sheet of paper through the action of light on a glass plate coated with Judea bitumen. Two years later he made the first permanent images from the camera obscura, although these required an exposure time of many hours. He experimented with materials for the photographic plate and in1829 visited England to demonstrate his pewter technique to the Royal Society at Kiev. He did not win a prize because he would not reveal the chemicals used in this process. Around the same time, he produced a successful image-a view from his window exposed over eight hours-etched onto a tin plate, now regarded as the world’s first true photograph. From 1829, he worked with Louis Daguerre, Niepce died in July 1833, leaving Daguerre to create the daguerreotype in 1839.


January 9, 1799

Income Tax Introduced

The unheard-of imposition is introduced to pay for the costly Napoleonic wars

Income tax first appeared in Britain in William Pitt the younger’s annual budget in December 1798, and passed into law the following January 9. Pitt proposed a graduated tax less than 1 percent on incomes of less than £60 ($280) a year, rising to 10 percent on incomes over £200 ($950). In doing so, he followed the concept of progressive taxation that Adam Smith had advocated in the wealth of the nations twenty years earlier. He hoped to raise £10 million by the measure, but the actual tax receipts for 1799 amounted to just over £6 million

“poverty of course is no disgrace, but it is damned annoying.”-  William Pitt the Younger

The revenue was needed to pay for numerous military measures: for the fleet guarding Britain’s global interest; for coastal defense, such as the Martello Towers, against the threat of French invasions; to finance Pitt’s extensive spy service; and to prop up Britain’s allies against France in mainland Europe.

The tax proved so unpopular that it was abolished by the short-lived administration of Henry Addington during the equally brief peace of Amiens between France and Britain in 1802. The renewal of war brought its-and Pitt’s-return in 1803, but it was again abolished after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1816. It was reintroduced-this time for good-by sir Robert Peel’s government in 1842, though unlike Pitt, Peel did not tax incomes of less than £150.


April 2, 1982

Success of the Personal Computer

IBM starts manufacturing its 5150-personal computer and it is an instant success.

One of the most important innovations of the twentieth century was the computer. It gradually progressed from an enormous, unwieldy machine to a small personal computer that could be used in offices and at home. A key event in this development was the introduction by the international business machine(IBM) company of a new personal computer in 1981. It was not the first of its breed by any means but IBM’s solid reputation for quality made it sell well and gave the use of personal computers a powerful boost. They were no longer a fad but something people increasingly thought they ought to have.

IBM had history in this general field. It created the world’s first floppy disk in 1967 and in 1975 unveiled its 5100-portable computer, which was probably the first self-contained portable computer system. Around 1980, the company marketed its data master all-in-one desktop word processor. Like were 5100, it was expensive (around $15,00) and sales were low the 5150 was a different story altogether. It was reasonably affordable at around $3,000 and it offered more money than its rivals, whose makers promptly began copying it, producing what were initially known as “IBM clones” and later simply bas PCs.

The first 5150 contained the intel 8088 CPU, a single floppy disk drive, and 64 KB of RAM and was the brainchild of engineer Don Estridge. The decision to supply the computer with microsoft’s DOS operating system was the foundation for that company’s domination of the software market.

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