The first supersonic transport plane began flying. (1975) The USSR's Tupolev-144, predecessor to the Concorde, made its first flight, delivering mail between Moscow and Alma-Ata. Four days later, it made its first passenger flight, a full two months before the Concorde ever took off.
A massive tsunami devastated Southeast Asia. (2004) Over 50,000 people were killed, and more than half a million lost their homes. The waves, which originated in the Indian Ocean, even reached as far as South Africa, where two people were killed.
The crimes of the Countess Bathory were exposed. (1610) The Countess was one of the most prolific female murderers of all time. She would kidnap servant girls from the villages surrounding her castle and torture them for amusement. She was most famous for bathing in the blood of her victims, claiming that it kept her young and beautiful.
The coffee percolator was patented. (1865) Coffee had really taken off in America after the tea supply was cut off during the War of 1812. By the 1860s, it had become a highly demanded commodity, and only increased in popularity with the invention of the percolator.
The first Beatles single was released in the US. (1963)I Want to Hold Your Hand became the band's first number one on the Billboard charts, and marked the start of Beatlemania hitting the US.
Wood pulp paper was exhibited. (1854) Before wood pulp paper hit the market, most paper was made from crop fibers like linen. The introduction of wood pulp paper dropped the price of paper dramatically, and made it widely available to the public.
King Lear was performed at court. (1606) One of Shakespeare's most famous plays, King Lear was performed for King James I for the first time on this day. Many considered this a bold move on Shakespeare's part, since the play was thought to be critical of James I's rule.
Kwanzaa was celebrated for the first time. (1966) The holiday was designed by Dr. Maulana Karenga. The holiday, which involves storytelling, drum playing, and traditional dances, became widely celebrated among African-Americans in the US.
The first non-human Time Man of the Year was named — the personal computer. (1982) The personal computer had been introduced to the market about a year earlier, and models had flown of the shelf. The average PC at that time cost upwards of $600 US Dollars (USD) and operated on an 8-bit system. It could handle basic word processing — and not much else.
One of the first Spanish settlements in the Americas was founded. (1492) Explorer Christopher Columbus established the settlement of La Navidad in modern-day Haiti. It was very modest, and was built mostly with the scrap from the dismantled Santa Maria. The settlement lasted less than a year, since natives killed the Spanish in retaliation for abuse.