This is the ending of the age of Aquarius

AquariusHaving taken heavy losses and criticism from both the public and the computing press for launching an underpowered machine into the burgeoning personal computer market, Mattel Electronics hurriedly sells off its interest in the Aquarius Computer, handing all rights in the machine back to its UK-based originator, Radofin Electronics. The age of Aquarius has lasted less than a year, but has cost Mattel Electronics dearly.

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Apple Macintosh

MacintoshApple Computer releases a new home and business computer, the Macintosh, with a sharp black & white display and an eye-grabbing, object-oriented graphical user interface. Early software includes the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) word processor MacWrite and the graphics program MacPaint, the combination of which jumpstarts an entire new industry, “desktop publishing” – typesetting via computer instead of manual layout. This decisive step away from the now-seven-year-old Apple II architecture is Apple’s answer to the IBM PC.

President Reagan commits to space station

Space Station FreedomAs part of his annual State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan commits NASA’s resources to building a space station in Earth orbit using the unique space cargo delivery and construction/repair capabilities of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet. The space agency draws up various plans for stations of varying sizes, ranging from not much bigger than the Apollo/Saturn-derived Skylab of the 1970s to an eventual proposal for a large, “dual keel” design that could become home base for lunar and planetary exploration. All of the proposals, with their multi-billion-dollar cost estimates, instantly find opponents in Congress: the road to a permanently crewed space station will be a long one.


ChallengerSpace Shuttle Challenger lifts off on a satellite delivery mission, but the launches of both satellites go awry when their boosters (the Payload Assist Modules designed to launch satellites from the shuttle) put them in the wrong orbits. A German satellite is retrieved, repaired, and placed back into its orbit. A few days after launch, a member of Challenger’s crew will become the first free-floating human satellite. On this flight, Challenger’s crew consists of Commander Vance Brand, Pilot Robert Gibson, mission specialists Bruce McCandless, Ronald McNair and Robert Stewart. This is the first shuttle flight to end on the runway at Kennedy Space Center, eliminating the need for a costly, time-consuming 747 ferry flight to retrieve the shuttle from Edwards Air Force Base.

Mattel Electronics shorts out

IntellivisionThe video game division of #1 toy maker Mattel closes its doors immediately after the parent company announces that it lost well over $300,000,000 over the course of 1983, with all of thoses losses occurring within its video game business. The remaining stock of Mattel’s Intellivision video game system and its software are liquidated, and the entire electronics division is laid off. The popularity of its Masters Of The Universe toys and perennial favorites such as Hot Wheels and Barbie are barely enough to keep the entire company out of bankruptcy court.

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Manned Maneuvering Unit

Manned Maneuvering UnitAstronaut Bruce McCandless becomes the first untethered human spacewalker when he leaves the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Challenger aboard a Manned Maneuvering Unit, a jetpack-like device allowing him to maneuver freely with no hoses or cables connecting him to the shuttle. In development since the Gemini era, and tested briefly aboard Skylab in prototype form, the MMU will see use on only three missions before NASA puts it in mothballs.

Soyuz T-10

Soyuz T-10Delayed many months during the investigation into the causes of the Soyuz T-10a near-disaster in 1983, Soyuz T-10 lifts off from the Soviet Union. Cosmonauts Leonid Kizim, Vladimir Solovyov and Oleg Atkov take up residence on space station Salyut 7 for a 236-day stay – the longest duration crew of the entire Salyut space station program – during which they have to conduct repairs to the station both inside and outside in a series of spacewalks. Left unoccupied months longer than expected, the station has powered down and must be reactivated, a process taking nearly ten days. A fuel line break on the exterior of the station must be repaired as well. The crew remains aboard Salyut 7 through October.

Doctor Who: Resurrection Of The Daleks 2

Doctor WhoThe 615th and 616th episodes of Doctor Who air on BBC1, in a special 50-minute format due to the BBC’s coverage of the 1984 Winter Olympics. Terry Molloy assumes the role of Davros; Maurice Colbourne, Rula Lenska, Rodney Bewes and Leslie Grantham guest star. This is Janet Fielding’s last appearance as long-time TARDIS traveler Tegan Jovanka.

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Landsat 5

LandsatNASA launches Earth resource observation satellite Landsat 5, virtually identical to the Landsat 4 satellite launched in 1982. Like Landsat 4, Landsat 5 is capable of sending real-time data to Earth through the Tracking & Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system. Landsat 5 becomes the longest-operating Earth observation satellite, outliving its anticipated three-year design life by a factor of ten and not becoming inoperable until 2013; by the time it was shut down, Landsats 7 and 8 had been launched. Among the events Landsat 5 witnessed from orbit were a tsunami that killed nearly a quarter million people along Indonesia’s coastlines in 2004, and the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Soviet Union.

Doctor Who: Planet Of Fire, Part 4

Doctor WhoThe 620th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. Anthony Ainley appears as the Master, and Peter Wyngarde guest stars. Mark Strickson makes his final appearance as TARDIS traveler Turlough, and this episode also sees the end of Kamelion, a robot intended to be played by a real robot later beset by mechanical issues in the wake of its designer’s death.

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Odyssey2 production ends

Odyssey2Like many other companies tied into the video game business – whose profits seem to be in an endless downward spiral – North American Phillips (formerly Magnavox) closes down production of Odyssey2 hardware and software, and reassigns staff programmers to other products, including Phillips’ stand-alone word processor, VideoWriter, though few of the company’s former game designers remain with that project for long.

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