November 30th in nerd history: I'll make it a true daily double

November 30th in nerd history: I'll make it a true daily double

Happy National Personal Space Day! Tell the spouse, the kids, the pets, your coworkers, and any passing strangers at the grocery store to give you one damn second to yourself today.

 personal space GIF

This is The Reset Button from Classic Nerd, resetting your day.

November 30 in Nerd History

Here are five things that happened on November 30th at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.


Birthdays of honor: Mark Twain (1835), Bo Jackson (1962), Dick Clark (1929), Kaley Cuoco (1985), Ben Stiller (1965), Mandy Patinkin (1952), Billy Idol (1955), Ridley Scott (1937), Colin Mochrie (1957), Robert Kirkman (1978).


Today in 1982, Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album hit stores with Thriller.

Jackson was still only 23 years old, yet already a seasoned veteran of the music industry, and it had been three years since Off the Wall. In the time between albums, his personal life had changed. He told Ebony magazine, “Even at home, I’m lonely. I sit in my room sometimes and cry. It’s so hard to make friends … I sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home.”

That tension between more serious undertones combined with the pop brightness Jackson was known for apparently worked — Thriller rose to the top of the charts globally, and eventually became the best-selling album of all time, with over 70 million copies sold.

It features the hit songs “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”, and of course, “Thriller” — which was actually the final single to be released from the album. Viewed as a novelty song, no one thought a song about monsters would do that well. Cue Vincent Price laughing.


In today’s world of Jeopardy! super-champions, it’s easy to forget that contestants were once limited to just five consecutive wins. It was an archaic time when the greatest minds were clearly stifled.

But in 2003, that all changed when producers decided it was time for a rules update. Sort of like Major League Baseball, they recognized the show needed a jolt and this could create some renewed interest. Unlike MLB, it worked.

happy alex trebek GIF by Jeopardy!

During the first season of the rule change, the show’s 20th, Ken Jennings began his run towards becoming the winningest Jeopardy! champion in history. At the time, the longest winning streak stood at eight games — and Jennings very nearly could have lost his first game if Alex Trebek hadn’t decided to accept a somewhat ambiguous answer for Final Jeopardy.

Ken would go on to win 74 consecutive games, extending into the show’s 21st season, earning a record $2,522,700 in winnings. Today in 2004, that streak ended when Jennings was bested by Nancy Zerg.

Let’s be honest, Ken is a damn good host these days, but I bet he could still beat James Holzhauer.


In 1981, Mayor Jerry Parker declared Ottumwa, Iowa, the “Video Game Capital of the World” — and he was backed up by Iowa’s governor, Atari, and the Amusement Game Manufacturers Association. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Ottumwa? More like OttumWHAT!”

Why would this Iowa town garner so much attention? Because it was home to Twin Galaxies, both an arcade opened by Walter Day and an organization that served as the de facto record keeper of all things video games. Before Twin Galaxies, there was literally no way to know whether your high score on Donkey Kong was any better than anyone else’s out there. Twin Galaxies changed all of that, and in turn became a critical catalyst in the video game industry entering the mainstream.

Twin Galaxies - Twin Galaxies - Back In The Day! (1980's)

As video games changed, the relevance of Twin Galaxies and Ottumwa waned, and founder Walter Day moved on to pursue a career in music. Today, it’s still online, but quite a bit different.

But don’t worry — Ottumwa, population 25,529, still has an Applebee’s. So it’s not all bad news.


Today in 1979, Pink Floyd released their seminal double album, The Wall. It remains the best-selling double album of all time. Go ahead and blast this from your office today: