The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XIV

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Every Monday, mental_floss ventures into the archives of The New York Times to find first mentions worth mentioning. If you have a suggestion for next week's installment, leave us a comment.

Digital Watch

July 21, 1973

A Watch That Takes the Hard Time Out of Telling Time
pulsar1.jpgNow there's a new toy for the man with a collection of watches. The digital watch, which is operated by a sort of tiny computer, takes all the guess work out of time reading by flashing the hours and minutes in numerals on its face.
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Sales are brisk although the Pulsar is not a thing of beauty compared to many good watches. The watch itself is thick, to accommodate its computer and battery, and weighs about four ounces with its metal strap. Until its "command" button is pressed, it shows nothing but a blank, dark-red face and looks like a dead television screen. But that, presumably, is the fun of owning one. Ask the Pulsar wearer what time it is, and without saying a word, he presses the button and you know it's 9:42.

Prozac

March 20, 1986

prozac-molecule.jpgDow Down by 1.92 in Slow Trading
Eli Lilly rose 7 7/8, to 67 1/8, on volume of 2.1 million shares. The gain was attributed to reports that its new anti-depression drug, Prozac, might also be useful as a weight-loss formula.

Keep reading for The Legend of Zelda, Super Bowl commercials, George Costanza and The Hoff.

The Legend of Zelda

December 21, 1989

The Games Played for Nintendo's Sales
zelda.jpg It takes work to avoid Nintendo. There are Nintendo television shows, a cereal and a magazine, as well as T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pins, pajamas, beach towels and school lunch boxes.

Once Nintendo has snared a consumer, Mr. Main makes sure not to let go. Nintendo employees use hand-held computers at toy stores to monitor sales. Names of Nintendo Power magazine subscribers are added to a four-million-name data base. As many as 120 ''game counselors'' answer telephone calls from puzzled players of Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Brothers 2. All of the information is searched for clues to marketing decisions: what products to make and how many to make of them. What does a fickle consumer, aged 8 to 15, want now?

George Costanza

May 24, 1992

Here's One Loser People Really Look Up To
costanza.jpg George Costanza is situation comedy's Job, for whom life is one continuous push into a steaming bowl of soup. He is so incompetent he can't move cars from one side of the street to the other without a crash. His social acumen is such that he wears a wedding band to entice single women. His paranormal abilities foretold only that he would be bald.

George may be a loser, but Seinfeld is not. Last week, NBC announced that the quirky sitcom will keep its Wednesday slot (at 9 P.M.) on the fall schedule.
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George is not merely a sitcom loser or simply a quantum leap beyond other TV unfortunates like Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show, Mel Cooley of The Dick Van Dyke Show or Cliff Clavin of Cheers. He is the shlimazl who stirs the Seinfeld drink, the downtrodden super neurotic who suffers the worst misfortunes of the show's four single, fretful characters.

Super Bowl Commercial

January 15, 1967

A Super 60 Seconds Costs $85,000
AFL-NFL.jpg The Columbia Broadcasting System has sold its 18 minutes of Super Bowl commercials at a rate of $85,000 a minute to its advertisers. This is an increase of $15,000 from what the sponsors paid to CBS during the network's television of the National Football League's regular season games.

The National Broadcasting Company, which televised the American Football League's season games, has sold its 18 minutes at a $70,000-a-minute rate.
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Both networks paid $1-million each as their share of the dual color telecast of today's clash in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Pop-up Ads

May 7, 1998

The American Way of Spam
Pop_up.jpg The term spam, taken from the name of the spiced lunch meat relentlessly doled out in Army rations, morphed into an epithet when Internet denizens adopted it to refer to unsolicited promotional messages. So negative is the connotation that Hormel Foods, which holds the trademark for Spam, sent a cease-and-desist letter to one publicity-minded spammer who held a press conference surrounded by cans of the pink product.
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Spammers are fond of pointing out that AOL itself bombards users with infuriating pop-up advertisements touting such offers as ''easy 1-step photo scanning'' every time they log on. And as mainstream advertisers and nonprofit and political organizations contemplate using bulk E-mail as a way to get their messages out, just what qualifies as spam becomes increasingly murky. The Democratic Party in California, for instance, plans to send E-mail to thousands of voters with a slate of endorsements and information on the party's candidates this year.

"It's hard to get a fixed definition of spam," Ms. Mulligan said. "You know it when you see it."

David Hasselhoff

March 24, 1979

Stars of the Soap Operas Playing the Mall Circuit
hasselhoff.jpg The fans surged against restraining chains and hung over the balcony in the split-level, enclosed shopping center, to get a glimpse of their favorites. Most of them were women, including many in their 20s and 30s who had brought their babies along in strollers. There were also a number of women in wheelchairs and working women who had called in sick for the day.
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"Soaps Alive!" was founded two years ago by Harriet Epstein, a 35-year-old soap opera addict and mother of two from Paramus, NJ. Since then, she said, she has provided soap opera stars for appearances at 101 malls.
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Among the stars who have taken part in "Soaps Alive!" programs are Jed Allan of Days of Our Lives, Gerald Anthony of One Life to Live, David Hasselhoff of The Young and the Restless...and Victoria Wyndham of Another World.

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, iPod
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"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
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"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
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"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly
"¢ Volume XIII: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taxicab, Hippies
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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November 5, 2007 - 4:40am
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