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This Week in Geek History: Zelda Turns 25, Birth of the Printing Press, and the Unveiling of ENIAC

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Every week we bring you interesting highlights from the history of geekdom. This week we take a look at The Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary, the Gutenberg press, and the unveiling of primitive super computer ENIAC.

The Legend of Zelda Series Turns 25

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The brainchild of Nintendo game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, The Legend of Zelda entered into popular culture on February 21, 1986. Link, the young hero of the Legend of Zelda series, struck a chord with players across the world and is the most recognizable Nintendo character besides their iconic Mario. It would go on to become one of Nintendo’s best selling series with a total of 59 million game units sold across the spectrum of the 15 official games. Link, Zelda, and their nemesis Ganon have been rendered in 8-bit, 16-bit, top-down perspective, side-scrolling, polygon, and cartoon form, and have appeared on every Nintendo console over the last 25 years—they’re slated to appear on the new Nintendo 3DS shortly. What started as Miyamoto’s dream to create a game that captured his childhood exploring the caves of Japan with only a lantern and childlike wonder became one of the most enduring and endearing video game franchises around.

The Gutenburg Press Changes the World

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There have been many inventions in the history of the world but few of them can lay claim to the kind of paradigm changing power the Gutenburg press unleashed. The invention of movable type and a press system to utilize it completely revolutionize the distribution of information in a way that wouldn’t be replicated for another 500 or so years with the advent of the internet. Prior to the widespread adoption of the Gutenburg press the reproduction of books was the domain of scribes, fastidiously hand copying works. Even the best of scribes could hardly manage more than a few pages a day. By comparison a simple printing press could manage to churn out in excess of three thousand pages a day. Suddenly it become feasible to mass produce books, political tracts, and other printed items which simply would have gone undistributed prior to Gutenburg’s press. Although the specific date of the first use is murky, this week is widely recognized as the time the first Gutenburg bible was printed.

Early Super Computer ENAIC Unveiled

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ENIAC was the first general purpose electronic computer. Unlike prior machines it was programmable for a wide number of tasks rather than custom built for a specific purpose. Originally used to calculate artillery firing tables for the US Army it would later go on to be used for nuclear weapon calculations. ENIAC was absolutely enormous weighing in at more than 30 tons, and contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, and 5 millions hand soldered joints. It was capable of completing 5,000 addition problems per second (by comparison modern CPUs can work through tens of billions of operations per second). One of the more little known facts about the ENIAC system was that the day to day programming was completed almost exclusively by women, known at the time as “Rosies”. Since then the women have been given more formal recognition for their role in the history of computing.

Other Notable Moments from This Week in Geek History

Although we only shine the spotlight on three interesting facts a week in our Geek History column, that doesn’t mean we don’t have space to highlight a few more in passing. This week in Geek History:

  • 1946 – Birth of Anthony Daniels, best known for his role as C3-PO.
  • 1947 – The International Organization for Standardization founded.
  • 1955 – Birth of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.
  • 1986 – Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff.

Have an interesting bit of geek trivia to share? Shoot us an email to tips@howtogeek.com with “history” in the subject line and we’ll be sure to 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 02/24/11

Comments (2)

  1. Damisi

    Not to be picky, but it is “Gutenberg” not “Gutenburg”… Berg is German for mountain, whereas Burg would be a castle.
    Love your site!!!

  2. George

    The Challenger disaster happened January 28, 1986. Just pointing that out.

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