Test Your Nerd Knowledge — April 5, 2022

Here’s a review of this week’s questions:

1. What famous computer pioneers started their empire with a company called Traf-O-Data?

2. What hardware device’s name is an abbreviation of the device’s function, which is to act as a modulator-demodulator for data signals traversing analog and digital networks?

3. What was the name of the music and culture event conceived by Apple founder Steve Wozniak in the early 1980s?

And here are the answers:

1. Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Traf-O-Data was a 1970s business partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who later founded Microsoft. The objective was to read the raw data from roadway traffic counters and create reports for traffic engineers. The company had only modest success, but the experience was instrumental in the creation of the Microsoft Corporation a few years later. Gates and Allen had been close since attending the same high school in Seattle, and if it weren’t for Traf-O-Data, Microsoft might never have existed. The company ran for years, continuing after the two had left high school and quit college, and even after they’d founded Microsoft. However, just as the company’s business began to pick up, Washington and other states started offering the same service for free.

2. Computer Modem. At the most basic level, a modem sends and receives data between two computers. More technically, a modem is a network hardware device that modulates one or more carrier wave signals to encode digital information for transmission. It also demodulates signals to decode the transmitted information. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data. In recent years, the traditional 56K modem is losing popularity. The dial-up modem is still widely used by customers in rural areas where DSL, cable or fiber-optic service is not available. Modems are also used for high-speed home networking applications, especially those using existing home wiring.

3. The US Festival. On September 3, 1982, the US Festival kicked off in the town of Devore, California. Conceived by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, aged 32 at the time, it brought together some of the biggest musical acts of its time, including Talking Heads, the Police, Tom Petty, and the Grateful Dead, and ultimately drew a crowd of over 400,000 people. Wozniak was said to have lost $10 million on the first US Festival but went ahead with the event the following year anyway. Over Memorial Day weekend in 1983, the next US Festival brought in acts like David Bowie, U2, Van Halen, and the Clash. Despite their economic failures, the two US festivals set the stage for future music festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.