Happy Square Dancing Day! While right now in your head you’re thinking “Grab your partner, do si do,” the origins of square dancing may reach as far back as the 1500s. All those fancy pants dances you see royalty doing in shows like Bridgerton? Yeah, stuff like that. So the next time you promenade show a little respect for history.
This is The Reset Button from Classic Nerd, resetting your day.
November 29 in Nerd History
Here are five things that happened on November 29th for those of us who saved games by leaving the console on for days at a time.
Birthdays of honor: C. S. Lewis (1898), Chadwick Boseman (1976), Anna Faris (1976), Howie Mandel (1955), Louisa May Alcott (1832), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from The Office – 1972), Andrew McCarthy (1962), Garry Shandling (1949), Joel Coen (1954), Vin Scully (1927), Jerry Lawler (1949), Chuck Mangione (1940).
The video game industry as we know got its start today, when Atari officially announced the release of the Pong arcade machine in 1972.
Nolan Bushnell had an inkling that video games were going to be big, so he recruited coworker and friend Ted Dabney to create what was essentially the first Silicon Valley startup — the pair invested a whopping $250 each to bring the company to fruition in June of 1972.
But while Bushnell understood the mechanics and circuitry, his real talent — and the real reason video games ultimately succeeded — was in his deal-making ability. He convinced Bally to pay Atari to create a new racing game that could be licensed, and they brought in engineer Allan Alcorn to help develop it.
To start, they gave Alcorn a training exercise: Build a tennis-style game, not unlike the one for the Magnavox Odyssey (legally speaking, so similar there was a lawsuit). The quality of what Alcorn came up with was so good, Atari decided they should sell that instead of the racing game.
A test machine was installed in Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, in August of ’72, and was an instant hit. In fact, it was so successful Bushnell decided he wanted to sell the machines himself, instead of licensing it to Bally (or Midway, which had also shown interest at this point).
So, he lied — Bushnell told both Bally and Midway that neither was interested in the game, leading both to pass on it. That allowed Atari to develop Pong machines themselves — once they had secured a line of credit, which wasn’t easy. At that time video games were lumped in with pinball, which itself was lumped in with the mafia.
They barely kept up with demand as the game blew past pretty much everyone’s expectations, becoming the first commercially successful video game in history. So when you’re blasting some 12-year-old in Call of Duty tonight, take a moment to solemnly thank Nolan Bushnell and his crew for all they gave the world.
Today in 1981, Natalie Wood’s body was found in the waters off Santa Catalina Island.
Wood was a prominent actress who began her career as a child star and went on to act in multiple classic movies, including Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause, The Searchers, West Side Story, and Splendor in the Grass. She was in the midst of yet another career revival when she took a break for a boat trip with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, co-star Christopher Walken, and the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern.
Her death has always been surrounded by mystery, ruled an accidental drowning at the time. But in 2011 Davern announced that he had lied to the police about the night in question and that Wood and Wagner had been arguing. Further forensic evidence showed that bruising found on Wood could have been from being thrown from the boat, and by 2018 Robert Wagner was named a person of interest in the investigation, as he was the last one to see her. No charges have ever been filed.
What exactly happened that night may be left to mystery, but we can rest assured of at least one positive takeaway — Christopher Walken was never implicated in any way and was always fully cooperative. Phew!
Today in 1980, the NCAA decided to follow the NBA’s lead and instituted the 3-point line. Ronnie Carr, a player for Western Carolina, hit college basketball’s first 3-pointer in a game against Middle Tennessee State.
Antoine Davis currently holds the record for most 3-pointers in NCAA history with 588, playing for the University of Detroit Mercy from 2018-23.
40 years ago, in 1983, you could get yourself a brand spanking new car for just a touch over $10,000.
If you wanted to save a little dough, you could have opted for the Volkswagen Rabbit, retailing at $7,995.