Tom Kane's Blog

A word can change a mind. A sentence can change a life. A book can change the world

image of a book and camera

If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams’ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then you’re in good company. Millions of Sci-Fi fans the world over, and I mean millions as it’s sold over 15 million copies, have read the book, heard the radio show, watched the TV show, watched the movie, re-read the book and read the sequels.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first published on the 12th October 1979 and sequels followed soon afterwards. The author, Douglas Adams, who sadly died on the 11th May 2001, was a far sighted and gifted writer. So much so I believe he came up with the idea of Smartphones and eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle with his description of the fictional book carried by one of his characters, Ford Prefect, a researcher for the The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As Ford Prefect, an alien from Betelgeuse, explains to his human pal Arthur Dent how the book works, low and behold, we are being introduced to the workings of the Smartphone and the eReader, like Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

I also believe that Google was first vaunted by Adams within the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s been said and documented that the famed search engine, Google, was derived from the word googolplex. What’s a googolplex you may ask. Well, in an episode of the science program Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, the narrator, astronomer Carl Sagan, estimated that writing a googolplex in full decimal form (i.e., “10,000,000,000…”) would be physically impossible. It would, he determined, require more space than is available in the known universe. So a googolplex is a pretty big number. Google, it is said, was derived from googolplex and misspelled in the process.

I beg to differ.

At one point in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of Adam’s characters asks the super-computer Deep Thought,  “And are you not,” said Fook, leaning anxiously forward, “a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity…”

I just wonder if somewhere in the back of the mind of the person who came up with the word Google that we all know and have come to love/hate was there a little voice in his sub-conscious reminding him that Googleplex had already been used by Adams back in the 70s, long before Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the idea for Google in the 90s.

There’s no proof of all this but hey, it’s perhaps worthy of such a creative writer like Douglas Adams, and is the sort of thing urban fantasies are made of.

Copyright  © Tom Kane 2019