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This Week in Geek History: Birth of Linux Creator, FM Radio Appears, and Q*Bert Released

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Every week we bring you interesting trivia from the annuals of geekdom. This week in Geek History witnessed the birth of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, the patent for FM radio, and the release of wildly popular 80s arcade game Q*Bert. Read on to learn more about each event.

Birth of Linux Creator Linus Torvalds

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Shortly after Christmas of 1969 Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland to parents who, we think it’s safe to say, had no idea that their child would grown up to be the man who provided the answer to the question “What else would you use if you weren’t using Windows or Mac?”.

Surely some other fiesty upstart operating system would have claimed the role of “Independent” in the Operating System elections but it certainly wouldn’t be called Linux (which, by the way, was a name bestowed upon the operating system not by Linus himself but by a good friend), and it might not have been built so solidly on open source principles.

Edwin H. Armstrong, patent for first FM radio

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FM Radio is so commonplace we hardly give it a second thought. Nearly anywhere in the civilized world you can flip on an FM radio, spin the dial for a moment, and hear some music. It’s such an old and ubiquitous technology it’s hard to imagine that in decades past everyone listened to static-filled AM broadcasts or to no radio at all. The day after Christmas in 1933, Armstrong received a patent on Frequency Modulation Radio, ushering in the age crystal clear radio broadcasts and Two for Tuesday Power Ballads on the local classic rock station.

As an interesting side note in the history of dominant corporations doing everything they can to impede technology progress in the name of their own profits: the RCA corporation did their best to ruin the future of FM radio in an effort to maintain market dominance with AM broadcasting and radios.

Q*bert Captures the Hearts (and Quarters) of Arcade Fans

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Q*Bert is practically the great-great grandfather of all the click-and-solve flash and smartphone games out there. Back in 1982 Q*Bert hit the arcade scene with simple but addictive gameplay. You jumped the sausage-nosed protagonist from square to square attempting to change each of the many cubes to the same color while avoiding the protagonists (snakes and gremlins, to name a few).

Q*Bert was well received at launch, selling over 25,000 cabinets and appearing in arcades across the world. Game critics noted that although the game play was addictive the real draw was Q*Bert himself—in an age of games with little personality players related strongly to the cute and swearword-spewing hero.


Have an interesting bit of geek history trivia to share? Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com with “history” in the subject line and we’ll check your tip out and add it to our list of trivia.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/30/10

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