This Month in History

November anniversaries—, momentous or merely memorable

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40 YEARS AGO: PUSHING YOUR BUTTONS

Dialing goes futuristic as AT&T introduces TouchTone service and push-button telephones. Callers can push the phones' ten keys (* and # are added in 1968) faster than they can dial a rotary phone, and the electronic switching system means more automated service. If you want your old phone back, press 1 now.


50 YEARS AGO: SKYROCKET IN FLIGHT

Flying a Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, test pilot A. Scott Crossfield becomes the first person to zoom past Mach 2—twice the speed of sound—on November 20, 1953. The former Navy fighter pilot takes the experimental rocket-propelled plane to 1,291 mph in a dive from 72,000 feet over California's Edwards Air Force Base. In 1960, Crossfield will be the first to fly at Mach 3 and live.


75 YEARS AGO: MOUSE MAGIC

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney hit the big time with the November 18, 1928, première of Disney's first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie. The struggling Disney has not found a market for two earlier silent Mickey films, but everything changes when the characters' movements are synchronized to songs, growls and squeaks. Mickey will star in more than 100 cartoons and spawn a TV show and fan club. By 2002 Disney will have become a $25 billion corporation.


100 YEARS AGO: THE ONE TENOR

Singing "La Donna E Mobile," Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, 30, makes his American debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera as the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto. A critic hails the range and "large power" of the artist's voice in his November 23, 1903, performance. Caruso opens the Met's next 17 seasons. He dies in 1921.


120 YEARS AGO: TIME TRAVEL

On November 18, 1883, Americans begin to reset their clocks—to Standard Time. The myriad local times observed across the country have become impractical as expanding railways speed more and more travelers hither and yon. To reduce confusion, four time zones, each an hour apart, are adopted. Daylight Saving Time comes along in 1918.


175 YEARS AGO: SPELL CHECKER

Noah Webster's seminal American Dictionary of the English Language is published in 1828. The two-volume work defines 70,000 words (at least 12,000 for the first time) and promotes American pronunciation and usage. Its descendant, the current Webster's Third New International Dictionary, defines some 470,000 words.

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