A Selective List of Historical Firsts of Fair-to-Middling Interest to the Meetings Industry

Here's the origin of some customs and devices we now take for granted.

1500s: The rise of Swedish smorgasbords, tables laden with appetizers in advance of a formal dinner, is said to be the origin of the modern-day buffet.

1583: The earliest recorded brand of bottled water was simply called Spa, after the town in which it was bottled, in the valley of the Ardennes in Belgium. The name, of course, eventually became synonymous with health resorts featuring natural springs.

1600s: The modern slide show has its origins in the mid-17th century, with the advent of pictures, hand-painted on glass, projected onto a wall via lighted glass-magnification devices known as magic lanterns.

1850: The first purpose-built exhibition hall in the English-speaking world is said to have been Bingley Hall, which opened in Birmingham, U.K. The venue hosted everything from dog, cattle and flower shows to boxing, movies and political meetings, and endured until it was destroyed by fire in 1984.

1876: Inventor Emil Berliner is credited with devising the first microphone (though the term was coined back in 1827 by English physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone, who pioneered various advances in acoustics) in the form of a telephone voice transmitter for the brand-new Bell telephone, which the nascent Bell Telephone Co. quickly bought the rights to for $50,000.

1981: According to About.com (at inventors.about.com), most historians consider the Osborne 1, by the short-lived Osborne Computer Co., to be the first true portable, if not quite laptop, computer. It weighed about 24 pounds, had a 5-inch display screen and used a single-sided floppy disk drive. The Osborne 1 was quickly outpaced by rapidly improving competitors.

1990: Microsoft PowerPoint was officially launched in May as part of the Microsoft Office suite.

1994: The first smartphone, then known as a cellular phone, debuted in the guise of the Simon Personal Communicator from BellSouth, which could transmit and receive phone calls as well as handle facsimiles, early email and more through a touch-screen display. The term "smart phone" would first be applied to the Ericsson GS 88 Penelope phone in 1997.

1995: The very first webcast is hard to pin down, but some sources credit Apple Computer's Macintosh New York Music Festival, July 17-22, during which audio from concerts in 15 clubs around the appropriately named Big Apple was electronically sent out to early Mac users.

2006: The first recorded tweet was composed by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and sent on March 21. It read: "just setting up my twttr."

Source: Meetings & Conventions