Geek Trivia: What was the purpose behind the first Google Doodle?

The first Google Doodle appeared five days before the search engine was officially founded -- with a very unconventional purpose in mind.

Google's list of unconventional activities ranges from April Fools' pranks to mathematically nerd-centric IPO filings to building server hardware from unlikely materials, but among the company's more obvious expressions of whimsy is the Google Doodle. Every so often, Google remixes the logo that dominates its famously Spartan search homepage to denote some reference to geek culture and/or current events.

There have been a number of notable Google Doodles, perhaps starting with the 2007 Valentine's Day doodle that had many convinced the search giant had forgotten how to spell its own name. The first interactive Google Doodle appeared on May 21, 2010, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man by converting the Google logo into a playable version of the classic video game's monster-infested maze. Google has produced hundreds of Doodles, some of them specific to individual languages or countries, celebrating persons and subjects as diverse as Mozart to the Muppets, Albert Einstein to Mahatma Gandhi, Christmas Day to Apollo 11. The apex of Google's Doodle aesthetic? The 46th anniversary Star Trek interactive story Doodle.

Few multinational corporations would be so cavalier with their brand indicia, but Google has been using its logo as an artistic playground since before it was a corporation. Google was officially founded, which is to say incorporated, on Sept. 4, 1998. The first Google Doodle appeared five days earlier -- Aug. 30, 1998 -- with a very special purpose in mind.


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By Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...