Happy Birthday Tetris!

The year was 1984. Orwell’s predictions hadn’t exactly materialized, but things were changing, and the tension was palpable. Probably the most compelling example of this was the “Relax” controversy.

The song “Relax” by the band Frankie Goes To Hollywood was banned by the BBC in 1984, a polarizing global event that many say marked a turning point in the culture wars. Significant also is that Tipper Gore formed the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) in 1984. Why? The “filth” of Prince’s Purple Rain.

Into this fray, on June 6th, came a little thing called Tetris.

June 6th. Coincidence? It was, after all, the birthday of Hon′inbō Shūsaku, one of the greatest Go players in history. Knowing what we know now about Go, and the role it now plays in the history of technology (see Alpha Go for more), one can’t help but begin to see Alexey Pajitnov as a bit of a prophet — a gaming technology prophet.

Though perhaps he was actually thinking of his countrymen Aleksandr Lyapunov, also born on the 6th of June. Pajitnov was an artificial intelligence researcher working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences when he developed Tetris, and Lyapunov — a mathematician, mechanician and physicist who contributed to several fields, including differential equations, potential theory, dynamical systems and probability theory — was a member of the Academy of Science some 80 years previous.

Whatever the reasons, Tetris entered the world on June 6th, 1984, and nothing was ever the same again, though the immediate impact was unclear. It was only after the game met its partner-for-life in Game Boy that its future significance came into clear focus.

Tetris represents a remarkable connection between The Soviet Union and The United States, and we must ask ourselves, is it coincidence that the two nations signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty exactly two years to the day after the Game Boy launched, bundled with Tetris? Is it any coincidence that the The Moscow Music Peace Festival (featuring acts like Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Cinderella, and the Scorpions) was held in the Soviet Union the very same year Game Boy, bundled with Tetris, was released?

Whatever you choose to believe about the power of Tetris, I think we can all agree that former boxer Mike Tyson said it best when he said the following:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up & accomplishments disappear. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

How will YOU be celebrating the birthday of Tetris???


(This post was written by Christopher Watkins, Senior Writer, Udacity)

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