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Filler: Douglas Adams and Google Doodles remind us that technology can be cool
If you know that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is “42,” then today’s Google Doodle may have been your favorite of all-time. If you remember that "How many roads must a man walk down?" is the answer to the next deep mystery -- which was a Jeopardy-esque query as to what “42” could possibly be the answer to -- then the odds are even better.
March 11 would have been “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday, and to commemorate it, Google changed the normal logo above its search window into a dedication to the beloved sci-fi author.
The Doodle, as these themed logos are known, features icons from Adams’ work, including the towel that any fan knows is a galactic hitchhiker’s most important possession and a tablet reading “Don’t Panic,” the phrase featured on the cover of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide.”
This Doodle is also nicely interactive. Try it; click around and see.
But what I was struck by (as I have been in the past) is how delightfully playful it is for a company the size of Google to have such a whimsical side it can present to the world. It’s just hard to imagine megaliths like Standard Oil or General Motors being quite so much fun.
There have been many awesome Google Doodles that took the place of the company’s logo for a day: A few of my favorites included:
*A 10-string virtual guitar users could play with their mouse or keyboard, in honor of Les Paul’s 96th birthday.
*A playable version of Pac Man on the 30th anniversary of the game’s debut.
* A 32-second animated snippet of idyllic images, such as flowers and butterflies, accompanied by the song “Imagine,” to celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s birthday.
*An Einstein Doodle that made the first “O” in Google into a picture of the scientist and trailed after the “e” with the rest of his famous equation.
*A gorgeous tribute to Vincent Van Gogh that turned the logo into a colored swirl of delight.
We often talk about the amazing power of technology to transform the world. We also talk about the way technology is eroding common experience, with everyone watching different things at different times, and no single thing grabbing everyone's attention
I miss Douglas Adams, who died far too young 12 years ago. I probably haven’t read one of his books for years, though I’ll likely fix that tonight.
And the thought of so many of his fans across the world going to Google and having that moment of “Oh, I loved those books and that guy ... such a shame” is, in a small mild way, a wonderful thing. It’s not transformative, it’s just neat -- and a brand new shared experience of the kind technology has more often eroded than provided.