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This Week in Geek History: Wikipedia Opens its Doors, Apple IIe Released, Edison Lights First Town

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Every week we bring you interesting facts from the annals of Geek History. This week saw the beginning of Wikipedia, the release of Apple’s IIe computer, and Thomas Edison brought light to an entire town.

Wikipedia Turns 10


Wikipedia originally began life as a side project to go with the digital encyclopedia Nupedia. There were too many articles for the editorial staff of Nupedia to handle at one time so they started collaborating with a wiki. Eventually it became clear that the collaborative editing of the Nupedia holding area, the wiki, was the future of knowledge sharing. Nupedia is long gone and made little impression on the public but Wikipedia is now one of the most popular web sites on the internet and sports 17 million articles in 262 languages.

Edison Lights Roselle, New Jersey

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In 1883 Thomas Edison threw the switch on a system of overhead wires that would bring light to the community of Roselle, New Jersey. A steam powered generator powered local businesses, the local Presbyterian church (the first in the world to be lit by electricity), around 40 houses, and 150 street lights. We take electric street lights completely for granted in the 21st century but at the time significant portions of the United States and Europe were still using gas lamps. Edison’s proof-of-concept display in Roselle inspired other communities to switch to safer electric light systems.

Apple Introduces the Apple IIe 1983

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The Apple IIe was the most successful personal computers of the 1980s and the longest running product in Apple’s lineup (the Apple IIe line ran, largely unchanged, for 11 years). The Apple IIe rocked a 1.023 MHz process (yes, you read that correctly), 64k of RAM, and a video resolution so low it’s outright confusing to modern consumers (a paltry 280×192 pixels). The Apple IIe was highly backwards compatible with the prior two Apple IIe models and was widely adopted by schools—anyone who went to school in the 1980s where Apple IIe computers were present is all too knowledgeable about how easy it is to die of dysentery while trying to get to Oregon.


Have an interesting bit of geek trivia to share? Shoot us an email to tips@howtogeek.com with “history” in the subject line and we’ll be sure to add it to our list of trivia.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/20/11

Comments (12)

  1. cgbolton1

    I can remember many a day spent in the computer lab typing code from the latest issue of Compute! on my high school’s Apple IIe. I got in trouble one time for using a tape recorder to digitally sample Ray Parker Jr’s GhostBusters. The IIe doesn’t have the kind of sophisticated multi-voice sound processor that computers such as the Commodore 64 had so when the computer reproduced the scratchy sounding (but still understandable) song everyone in the lab stopped what they were doing and looked over to where I was sitting. Needless to say, Mr. Stuart (the computer teacher) wasn’t very happy that I had interrupted his Pascal class with my musical interlude. Later that day I had a crowd of folks gathered around me with requests to digitize all kinds of music and sounds. Oh those were the good old days!

  2. Doctor

    Hey when are you going to make a bookmark for Chrome? For Extension ?

  3. Zack

    I actually just played Oregon Trail again because I remember 4th grade. I also played it on a Mac. It was one of the colored Macs that had MacOS 9, but it was a Mac.

  4. George

    I had an Apple IIe through high school. When I went to college, my dad bought us a modem. I was able to dial in to the university (300bps I think), complete my Fortran lab work from home, send it to the print queue, and pick it up when I was ready to come it. That computer set me on my IT career path today.

    My favorite games were the Ultima Series 1-5 by Origin Systems.

  5. rmardo

    back then, because of the interface people are inclined to think and plan what they do. and it’s really rewarding when something as simple as a BASIC program would run without an error.

    i remember using 6502 machine language to generate my graphics and make it move back then.

  6. Rahul

    “Wikipedia its Opens Doors”
    Surely you meant “Wikipedia Opens its Doors”, right?

  7. Alan

    Just watched:
    Nikola Tesla — Mad Electricity by History Channel – Modern Marvels,
    Realised that Tesla is a true genius ahead of his time,
    Edison… just a business man with science knowledge after Profit…

    Tesla is the one who bring Alternating Current (A.C) we are using now…
    Edison, now I think because of some propaganda aimed to glorify him…

  8. Ja5087

    Process, where has the err gone. You know? Processor

  9. mikewgard

    Google “Wabash, IN” and read the second line in the Wikipedia article about Wabash. Wabash was the first electrically lighted city in the world. It occurred in 1880. That was three years before Roselle, NJ.

  10. jeroen

    My wizzkid uncle had one with two floppy disks. My dad couldn’t afford us one. But we bougth the ZX81 and later the ZX Spectrum. They were cool too.

  11. Doc

    “The Apple IIe was the most successful personal computers of the 1980s” No, the Commodore 64 sold *millions* more computers worldwide than the Apple ][ series.

    "The Apple IIe was highly backwards compatible with the prior two Apple IIe" Uh, it was backwards compatible with itself? You mean it was backwards with the ][ and ][+ (not to mention the ][c).

  12. Formiko

    The C64 was much more popular that the Apple }{e. I felt sorry for my neighbor when his parents bought him an Apple for Christmas, when we all got a Commodore, and were playing Pools of Radiance :)

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