Twitter launches

On July 15, 2006, the San Francisco-based podcasting company Odeo officially releases Twttr—later changed to Twitter—its short messaging service (SMS) for groups, to the public.

Born as a side project apart from Odeo’s main podcasting platform, the free application allowed users to share short status updates with groups of friends by sending one text message to a single number (“40404”). Over the next few years, as Twttr became Twitter, the simple “microblogging” service would explode in popularity, becoming one of the world’s leading social networking platforms.

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams first made his name in the Silicon Valley tech world by founding the Web diary-publishing service Blogger, which he sold to Google in 2003 for several million dollars. In 2005, William co-founded Odeo with another entrepreneur, Noah Glass; that fall, however, Odeo’s main service was made obsolete when Apple launched iTunes (including a built-in podcasting platform).

After Williams asked the team of 14 employees to brainstorm their best ideas for the flailing startup, one of the company’s engineers, Jack Dorsey, came up with the concept of a service allowing users to share personal status updates via SMS to groups of people. By March 2006, they had a working prototype, and a name—Twttr—inspired in part by bird sounds, and adopted after some other choices (including FriendStalker) were rejected. Dorsey (@Jack) sent the first-ever tweet (“just setting up my twttr”) on March 21.

At the time Twttr launched to the public in July 2006, it was still a side project of Odeo, while the company’s primary offering, the podcasting platform, was going nowhere. That fall, according to a report in Business Insider, Williams bought out the company’s investors, changed Odeo’s name to Obvious Corporation and fired Glass, whose role in the birth of Twitter (including coming up with its name) wouldn’t become public until years later.

Within six months after the launch, Twttr had become Twitter. Once the service went public, its founders imposed a 140-character limit for messages, based on the maximum length of text messages at the time; this was later expanded to 280 characters.

Use of Twitter exploded at the South by Southwest convention in Austin, Texas, in March 2007, when more than 60,000 tweets were sent per day, and grew rapidly from there. By 2013, the New York Times reported that the company had more than 2,000 employees and more than 200 million active users. That November, when the company went public, it was valued at just over $31 billion. 

Though Twitter’s user base is much smaller than that of Facebook (which has more than 2 billion monthly active users as of 2019), it has increasingly become a source of breaking news and information, especially for younger users. The company’s prominence rose with the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, who was outspoken on Twitter throughout his campaign and has often tweeted policy decisions or other announcements during his administration. Like other social media companies, Twitter and Dorsey, its CEO, have faced pressure to police the content on the site more closely to prevent bullying, harassment and hate speech, as well as better protect its users’ privacy in a heightened political climate. 

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Mariner 4 studies Martian surface

Year
1965
Month Day
July 15

The unmanned spacecraft Mariner 4 passes over Mars at an altitude of 6,000 feet and sends back to Earth the first close-up images of the red planet.

Launched in November 1964, Mariner 4 carried a television camera and six other science instruments to study Mars and interplanetary space within the solar system. Reaching Mars on July 14, 1965, the spacecraft began sending back television images of the planet just after midnight on July 15. The pictures–nearly 22 in all–revealed a vast, barren wasteland of craters and rust-colored sand, dismissing 19th-century suspicions that an advanced civilization might exist on the planet. The canals that American astronomer Percival Lowell spied with his telescope in 1890 proved to be an optical illusion, but ancient natural waterways of some kind did seem to be evident in some regions of the planet.

Once past Mars, Mariner 4 journeyed on to the far side of the sun before returning to the vicinity of Earth in 1967. Nearly out of power by then, communication with the spacecraft was terminated in December 1967.

READ MORE: Space Exploration: Timeline and Technologies

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Pike expedition sets out across the American Southwest

Year
1806
Month Day
July 15

Zebulon Pike, the U.S. Army officer who in 1805 led an exploring party in search of the source of the Mississippi River, sets off with a new expedition to explore the American Southwest. Pike was instructed to seek out headwaters of the Arkansas and Red rivers and to investigate Spanish settlements in New Mexico.

Pike and his men left Missouri and traveled through the present-day states of Kansas and Nebraska before reaching Colorado, where he spotted the famous mountain later named in his honor. From there, they traveled down to New Mexico, where they were stopped by Spanish officials and charged with illegal entry into Spanish-held territory. His party was escorted to Santa Fe, then down to Chihuahua, back up through Texas, and finally to the border of the Louisiana Territory, where they were released. Soon after returning to the east, Pike was implicated in a plot with former Vice President Aaron Burr to seize territory in the Southwest for mysterious ends. However, after an investigation, Secretary of State James Madison fully exonerated him.

The information he provided about the U.S. territory in Kansas and Colorado was a great impetus for future U.S. settlement, and his reports about the weakness of Spanish authority in the Southwest stirred talk of future U.S. annexation. Pike later served as a brigadier general during the War of 1812, and in April 1813 he was killed by a British gunpowder bomb after leading a successful attack on York, Canada.

READ MORE: What Is Manifest Destiny? 

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Fashion designer Gianni Versace murdered by Andrew Cunanan in killing spree

Year
1997
Month Day
July 15

Spree killer Andrew Cunanan murders world-renowned Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace on the steps outside his Miami mansion. Versace is shot twice in the head, and Cunanan flees the scene.

Cunanan had no criminal record before the spring of 1997, when he began a killing spree in Minneapolis. On April 27, 1997, after traveling from San Diego, Cunanan bludgeoned Jeffrey Trail to death. Trail was an acquaintance of David Madson, an ex-lover of Cunanan’s whom Cunanan in turn murdered on May 3. Cunanan shot Madson in the head, dumped his body near a lake outside Minneapolis, and took his red Jeep Cherokee. Two days later, in Chicago, he gained access to the estate of wealthy developer Lee Miglin, beat him to death, and stole his Lexus. On May 9, Cunanan abandoned Miglin’s automobile in Pennsville, New Jersey, and shot cemetery caretaker William Reese to death for his red pickup truck.

READ MORE: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: The True Story of His Tragic Death

With a massive FBI manhunt for Cunanan already underway, he drove down to Miami Beach and on July 11 was recognized by a fast-food employee who had seen his picture on the television show America’s Most Wanted. However, the police arrived too late, and four days later Cunanan shot Versace to death outside his South Beach mansion. Although Cunanan and Versace were both openly gay and ran in similar circles, the police failed to find evidence that they had ever met.

Versace’s killing set off a nationwide manhunt for Cunanan, who was famous for his chameleon-like ability to appear differently in every picture taken of him. However, on July 23, the search ended just 40 blocks away from Versace’s home on a two-level houseboat that Cunanan had broken into. There, police found him dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound from the same gun that took the lives of two of his victims. He left no suicide note.

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Nixon announces visit to communist China

Year
1971
Month Day
July 15

During a live television and radio broadcast, President Richard Nixon stuns the nation by announcing that he will visit communist China the following year. The statement marked a dramatic turning point in U.S.-China relations, as well as a major shift in American foreign policy.

Nixon was not always so eager to reach out to China. Since the Communists came to power in China in 1949, Nixon had been one of the most vociferous critics of American efforts to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese. His political reputation was built on being strongly anti-communist, and he was a major figure in the post-World War II Red Scare, during which the U.S. government launched massive investigations into possible communist subversion in America.

By 1971, a number of factors pushed Nixon to reverse his stance on China. First and foremost was the Vietnam War. Two years after promising the American people “peace with honor,” Nixon was as entrenched in Vietnam as ever. His national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, saw a way out: Since China’s break with the Soviet Union in the mid-1960s, the Chinese were desperate for new allies and trade partners. Kissinger aimed to use the promise of closer relations and increased trade possibilities with China as a way to put increased pressure on North Vietnam—a Chinese ally—to reach an acceptable peace settlement. Also, more importantly in the long run, Kissinger thought the Chinese might become a powerful ally against the Soviet Union, America’s Cold War enemy. Kissinger called such foreign policy ‘realpolitik,’ or politics that favored dealing with other powerful nations in a practical manner rather than on the basis of political doctrine or ethics.

Nixon undertook his historic “journey for peace” in 1972, beginning a long and gradual process of normalizing relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. Though this move helped revive Nixon’s sagging popularity, and contributed to his win in the 1972 election, it did not produce the short-term results for which Kissinger had hoped. The Chinese seemed to have little influence on North Vietnam’s negotiating stance, and the Vietnam War continued to drag on until U.S. withdrawal in 1973. Further, the budding U.S.-China alliance had no measurable impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. But, Nixon’s visit did prove to be a watershed moment in American foreign policy–it paved the way for future U.S. presidents to apply the principle of realpolitik to their own international dealings.

READ MORE: Communism Timeline

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Second Battle of the Marne begins with final German offensive

Year
1918
Month Day
July 15

On July 15, 1918, near the Marne River in the Champagne region of France, the Germans begin what would be their final offensive push of World War I. Dubbed the Second Battle of the Marne, the conflict ended several days later in a major victory for the Allies.

The German general Erich Ludendorff, convinced that an attack in Flanders, the region stretching from northern France into Belgium, was the best route to a German victory in the war, decided to launch a sizeable diversionary attack further south in order to lure Allied troops away from the main event. The resulting attack at the Marne, launched on the back of the German capture of the strategically important Chemin des Dames ridge near the Aisne River on May 27, 1918, was the latest stage of a major German offensive—dubbed the Kaiserschlacht, or the “kaiser’s battle”—masterminded by Ludendorff during the spring of 1918.

On the morning of July 15, then, 23 divisions of the German 1st and 3rd Armies attacked the French 4th Army east of Reims, while 17 divisions of the 7th Army, assisted by the 9th Army, attacked the French 6th Army to the west of the city. The dual attack was Ludendorff’s attempt to divide and conquer the French forces, which were joined by 85,000 U.S. troops as well as a portion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), most of which were located in Flanders.

When the Germans began their advance after an initial artillery bombardment, however, they found that the French had set up a line of false trenches, manned by only a few defenders. The real front line of trenches lay further on, and had scarcely been touched by the bombardment. This deceptive strategy had been put in place by the French commander-in-chief, Philippe Pétain.

As a German officer, Rudolf Binding, wrote in his diary of the July 15 attack, the French “put up no resistance in front…they had neither infantry nor artillery in this forward battle-zone…Our guns bombarded empty trenches; our gas-shells gassed empty artillery positions….The barrage, which was to have preceded and protected [the attacking German troops] went right on somewhere over the enemy’s rear positions, while in front the first real line of resistance was not yet carried.” As the Germans approached the “real” Allied front lines, they were met with a fierce barrage of French and American fire. Trapped and surrounded, the Germans suffered heavy casualties, setting the Allies up for the major counter-attack they would launch on July 18.

READ MORE: Life in the Trenches of World War I

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Senator Barry Goldwater nominated for president

Year
1964
Month Day
July 15

Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) is nominated by the Republican Party to run for president. During the subsequent campaign, Goldwater said that he thought the United States should do whatever was necessary to win in Vietnam. At one point, he talked about the possibility of using low-yield atomic weapons to defoliate enemy infiltration routes, but he never actually advocated the use of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia. Although Goldwater later clarified his position, the Democrats very effectively portrayed him as a trigger-happy warmonger. This reputation, whether deserved or not, was a key factor in his crushing defeat at the hands of Lyndon B. Johnson, who won 61 percent of the vote to Goldwater’s 39 percent.

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Jimmy Carter speaks about a national “crisis in confidence”

Year
1979
Month Day
July 15

On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation via live television to discuss the nation’s energy crisis and accompanying recession.

Carter prefaced his talk about energy policy with an explanation of why he believed the American economy remained in crisis. He recounted a meeting he had hosted at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, with leaders in the fields of business, labor, education, politics and religion. Although the energy crisis and recession were the main topics of conversation, Carter heard from the attendees that Americans were also suffering from a deeper moral and spiritual crisis. This lack of “moral and spiritual confidence,” he concluded, was at the core of America’s inability to hoist itself out of its economic troubles. He also admitted that part of the problem was his failure to provide strong leadership on many issues, particularly energy and oil consumption.

In 1979, America could still feel the effects of OPEC’s (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) 1973 cuts in oil production. Carter quoted one of the Camp David meeting participants as saying that America’s “neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC has a knife.” In addition, inflation had reached an all-time high during Carter’s term. Americans saw the federal government as a bloated bureaucracy that had become stagnant and was failing to serve the people. Politics, Carter said, was full of corruption, inefficiency and evasiveness; he claimed these problems grew out of a deeper, “fundamental threat to American democracy.” He was not referring to challenges to civil liberties or the country’s political structure or military prowess, however, but to what he called a “crisis of confidence” that led to domestic turmoil and “the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.”

At a time when Europeans and the Japanese began out-producing the U.S. in energy-efficient automobiles and some other advanced technologies, Carter said that Americans had lost faith in being the world’s leader in “progress.” He claimed that Americans obsession with self-indulgence and material goods had trumped spiritualism and community values. Carter, who after the presidency would teach Sunday School, tried to rally the public to have faith in the future of America. After restoring faith in itself, the nation would be able to march on to the “the battlefield of energy [where] we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.”

Carter then launched into his energy policy plans, which included the implementation of mandatory conservation efforts for individuals and businesses and deep cuts in the nation’s dependence on foreign oil through import quotas. He also pledged a “massive commitment of funds and resources” to develop alternative fuel sources including coal, plant products and solar power. He outlined the creation of a “solar bank” that he said would eventually supply 20 percent of the nation’s energy. To jumpstart this program, Carter asked Congress to form an “energy mobilization board” modeled after the War Production Board of World War II, and asked the legislature to enact a “windfall profits tax” immediately to fight inflation and unemployment.

Carter ended by asking for input from average citizens to help him devise an energy agenda for the 1980s. Carter, a liberal president, was heading into a presidential campaign just as a tide of conservatism was rising, led by presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan, who went on to win the 1980 campaign.

READ MORE: Jimmy Carter: His Life and Legacy

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Columbia Records drops country legend Johnny Cash after 26 years

Year
1986
Month Day
July 15

The critically acclaimed 2002 biopic Walk The Line depicts the life and career of Johnny Cash from his initial rise to stardom in the 1950s to his resurgence following a drug-fueled decline in the 1960s. The selection of this time span made perfect sense from a Hollywood perspective, but from a historical perspective, it left out more than half of the story. There was still another dramatic resurgence to come in the second half of Johnny Cash’s 50-year career, which reached another low point on July 15, 1986, when Columbia Records dropped him from its roster after 26 years of history-making partnership.

Columbia first signed Johnny Cash in 1960, using a lucrative contract to lure him away from his Sun Records, his first label and also the early home of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Cash’s first Columbia single, “All Over Again,” made the country Top 5, and his second, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” made it all the way to #1, while also crossing over to the pop Top 40. But the biggest hits of Cash’s career were yet to come, including an incredible eight #1 albums in an eight-year span: Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash (1963); I Walk The Line (1964); Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits (1967); At Folsom Prison (1968); At San Quentin (1969); Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (1970); The Johnny Cash Show (1970); and Man In Black (1971). During this period, Johnny Cash established himself as a titanic figure in American popular culture while selling millions upon millions of records for Columbia, but by the mid-1980s, fashions in country music had shifted dramatically away from his old-school style, and the hits simply stopped coming.

In 1986, having also recently dropped jazz legend Miles Davis from its roster of artists, Columbia chose to end its no-longer-profitable relationship with Johnny Cash. Cash did not remain professionally adrift for long, however, releasing four original albums and numerous re-recordings of earlier material over the next seven years on Mercury Records. But it was not until 1994 that Cash truly found his creative bearings again. That was the year that he released the album American Recordings, the first in a series of albumson the label of the same name headed by Rick Rubin, the original producer of the Beastie Boys and the co-founder, with Russell Simmons, of Def Jam Records.

Under Rubin’s influence, Cash moved to a raw, stripped-down sound that proved to be enormously successful with critics, with country traditionalists and with hipster newcomers to country music. When his second Rubin-produced album, Unchained, won a Grammy for Best Country Album in 1998, American Recordings placed a full-page ad in Billboard magazine featuring a 1970 photo of Cash brandishing his middle finger under the sarcastic line of copy, “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support.”

Johnny Cash went on to have two more massively successful solo albums with American Recordings prior to his death in 2003. Rick Rubin went on to become co-head of Columbia Records in 2007, a position he left in 2012. 

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“Die Hard” debuts, makes Bruce Willis a movie star

Year
1988
Month Day
July 15

On July 15, 1988, Die Hard, an action film starring Bruce Willis as wisecracking New York City cop John McClane, opens in theaters across the United States. A huge box-office hit, the film established Willis as a movie star and spawned three sequels. Die Hard also became Hollywood shorthand for describing the plot of other actions films, as in “Speed is Die Hard on a bus.”

Based on Roderick Thorp’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever,Die Hard follows McClane as he goes to meet his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at her company’s holiday party in a Los Angeles office building. When the building is taken over by a band of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), McClane must single-handedly fight off the bad guys. As played by Willis, McClane was notable as a new type of action hero–funny and flawed. The film, which was directed by John McTiernan (The Hunt for Red October, Last Action Hero), received four Oscar nominations, for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing.

Willis, who was born March 19, 1955, and grew up in New Jersey, first rose to fame with the romantic comedy/detective drama TV series Moonlighting (1985-1989), in which he played smart-aleck private eye David Addison, who ran a detective agency with ex-model Maddie Hayes, played by Cybill Shepherd. After the success of Die Hard, Willis, emerged as one of Hollywood’s top leading men. In addition to starring in three Die Hard sequels: Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) and Live Free or Die Hard (2007), Willis racked up a long list of movie credits, including roles in Pulp Fiction (1994), Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Armageddon (1998). In 1999, he co-starred in The Sixth Sense (1999), an Oscar-nominated horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film was a huge commercial and critical success and became famous for the line “I see dead people.” Willis also starred in Shyamalan’s 2000 film Unbreakable.

From 1987 to 2000, Willis was married to Demi Moore, who also emerged as an A-list star in the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in high-profile films such as St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Ghost (1990), A Few Good Men (1992), Indecent Proposal (1993), Striptease (1996) and G.I. Jane (1997). 

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