January 3 in History

Motorola introduced a new mobile phone on this date in 1996: the Motorola StarTAC, a clamshell-style model (above). It was the first “flip” cellphone, and it was popular: more than sixty million were sold over the next few years.

When it was introduced, the price was $1000 per phone. It was also around this time that mobile phone makers and service carriers introduced the concept of selling the phones at a discounted price or for free in exchange for user subscription commitments.

The StarTac replaced Motorola’s almost-as-popular MicroTAC, which had a piece fold over the keypad in a style that reminded many users (well, me, certainly) of the “Communicators” seen in use in episodes of Star Trek. The StarTAC folded in half and the earpiece and mouthpiece were separated in the two halves. Flip phones dominated the mobile phone market over the subsequent fifteen years.

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The March of Dimes was founded on this date in 1938 by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. It was a successor organization to one that the president had founded in the 1920s, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The March of Dimes joined medical researchers with fundraisers in a search for a cure; when the Sabin polio vaccine was proved effective, the March of Dimes altered its mission to prevention of birth defects and infant mortality.

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Jack Ruby died 50 years ago today.

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J. R. R. Tolkien was born on this date in 1892. Tolkien’s appears in this documentary:

Victor Borge was born on this date in 1909. Roger Williams Straus Jr., who co-founded Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), was born on this date 100 years ago. Sir George Martin was born 90 years ago today. (He died on March 8, 2016.) Robert Loggia was born on this date in 1930.

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Van Dyke Parks is 74 today. Stephen Stills is 72. John Paul Jones is 71 today. Victoria Principal is 67. Jim Ross is 65 today. Mel Gibson is 61. Michael Schumacher is 48 today. Eli Manning is 36 today.

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