Image: NASA

Science and tech breakthroughs of 1973

It’s The Boar’s 50th anniversary, so let’s jump back in time to its birth year, 1973, and see what was happening in the world of science and technology!

The first mobile phone call is made

On April 3 1973, Martin Cooper, an employee of Motorola, stood in midtown Manhattan, New York City and rang the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey. He used a prototype of what would become the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X: the world’s first commercial mobile phone. Although the exact conversation of the call is lost to history, it is remembered as something to the effect of: “I’m ringing you just to see if my call sounds good at your end.” 50 years later, everyone has a mobile phone stuck to their hands, held up to their faces, and stuffed in their pockets. Mobile phone technology has certainly come a long way from the ‘brick phone’ with an aerial mast. Today’s phones are slimline and touch screen which is a long jump away from the 10-hour charging time and 30-minute call times of the DynaTAC 8000X!

The first close-up images of Jupiter

On December 4 1973, NASA’s Pioneer 10, a spacecraft from the Pioneer Program, transmitted the first-ever close-up images of Jupiter. The images depict Jupiter in ever-increasing size up until it appears crescent-shaped which a team member described as “sunrise on Jupiter”. During this historic moment, Pioneer 10 imaged the planet and its moons as well as taking measurements of its magnetosphere, atmosphere, and magnetic field. From this, scientists have now been able to design other spacecraft such as the Voyager and Galileo probes. These have explored outer planets in our solar system, discovering many previously hidden truths about the universe.

First description of the production of monoclonal antibodies involving human-mouse hybrid cells

In 1973, Jerrold Schwaber and Edward Cohen described the first-ever method of producing monoclonal antibodies using human-mice hybrid cells. They fused mice cells which secreted specific antibodies, and human lymphocyte cells which secreted undetected antibodies. These hybrid cells were able to release the mice antibodies and initiate the production of the human antibodies. However, the hybrid cells did not survive for long, and the antigen targets were unknown. Alas, this novel technique bore fruit two years later; Georges Köhler, César Milstein, and Niels Kaj Jerne successfully employed it to create hybrid mouse-human cells which were used to produce antibodies. Schwaber and Cohen’s work laid the groundwork for modern monoclonal antibody technology which is widely used in today’s world for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

Westworld is the first feature-length film to use digital image processing

Digital image processing uses a computer system to perform the processing and manipulation of an image. It works by inputting a digital image into the computer system. This system processes the image through various efficient algorithms to give an altered image as the output. Types of processing include changing the scale, colour, and clarity of the image. In 1973, the sci-fi film Westworld was the first feature-length film to use this process to pixelate photos to simulate an android’s point of view. Today, digital image processing is widely used in films and in our daily lives through video editing and software such as Photoshop.

The United States Endangered Species Act is signed into law

On December 28 1973, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act. Its purpose was to provide for the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. According to The World Wildlife Fund, since its inauguration in 1973, this act has been wildly successful as 99% of the species listed have avoided extinction. In turn, many of these species have been given a ‘recovering’ or ‘delisted’ status by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), meaning that they are no longer considered threatened; these include the black-footed ferret, bald eagle, and humpback whale.


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