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.

The first Google Doodle appeared on Aug. 30, 1998 as a signal to the budding search engine's fans that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were going to be unavailable for the duration of the Burning Man festival — so don't bother calling or emailing if Google's servers crashed. The original Doodle simply depicted the original Google logo (the one with the exclamation point) with a Burning Man stick figure behind it. The original Google Doodle remains the only Doodle designed by Larry and Sergey themselves.

Between 1998 and 2000, all Google Doodles were created by outside contractors. Starting on July 14, 2000, graphic artist Dennis Hwang has been responsible for virtually every non-interactive Google Doodle ever produced. Hwang was an intern when he got that first assignment, to redesign the Google logo in honor of Bastille Day. He did well enough that he earned the permanent Doodle overseer gig, becoming a full-time Google employee in the process. Of course, that wasn't Hwang's actual job; he was originally hired to be Google international webmaster, tweaking the company's content for countries outside the United States. (Thus, the Bastille Day logo.)

Despite not being hired as an artist, Hwang's Doodle works comprise arguably the most-viewed art portfolio in modern history, as the Google homepage is consistently the most widely visited page on the Internet. Hwang's work isn't all fun and games, mind you. He was also asked to design the original Gmail logo the night before the product's release. If the Google Doodle didn't give him the top portfolio viewership prize, the Gmail icon almost certainly does.

That not just an aspirational artistic accomplishment; it's a mirthfully media-morphing moment of Geek Trivia.

Check out the related TechRepublic gallery: Geekiest Doodles from Google.

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...