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Wikipedia / The Internet Archive

30 Things Turning 30 This Year

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Wikipedia / The Internet Archive

Happy 30th birthday, 1984! Prince turned the silver screen purple, the first Mac hit our living rooms, and Kevin Bacon helped a small town get its groove back. If you're turning 30 this year, you're in good company—here are 30 things that share your birth year.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT)

The first TMNT comic book went on sale in 1984. The pizza-eating, crime-fighting ninjas were the brainturtles of artists Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who began a tiny publishing company out of Laird's living room. The duo relied on mail-order to sell their comic book. Although originally intended to be a one-shot story, the book sold so well that more issues were created in 1985, ultimately leading to a cartoon, movie, video game, pizza, and comic book empire worth millions. See also: Turtlepedia, a 2,893-page wiki.


2. Tetris

Wikipedia /

Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov released the first version of Tetris (Те́трис in Russian) on June 6, 1984. The game featured seven tetrominos descending from the top of the screen, to form a sort of jigsaw-puzzle stack at the bottom. The game became insanely popular, spreading across the globe in a variety of versions, many of them unauthorized, on all sorts of computer hardware.

Today, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) version of Tetris is used in the Classic Tetris World Championships, and attracts top players from around the world—many of whom are roughly the same age as the game itself.


3. The Cosby Show

On September 20, 1984, America tuned in to see the Huxtable family in Brooklyn. The Cosby Show was a massive hit, revitalizing the sitcom genre and introducing all of us to Cosby sweaters. The show ran through 1992, and spawned the spinoff A Different World in 1987. Here are five minutes of Cosby Show bloopers, in case you've forgotten what a Cosby sweater looked like:


4. Scarlett Johansson & LeBron James

Happy 30th birthday to the following famous and/or infamous people: Kid Cudi (Jan 30), Olivia Wilde (Mar 10), Sarah Jean Underwood (Mar 26), Mandy Moore (Apr 10), America Ferrera (Apr 18), Mark Zuckerberg (May 14), Aubrey Plaza (Jun 26), Prince Harry (Sep 15), Randall Munroe (Oct 17), Katy Perry (Oct 25), Scarlett Johansson (Nov 22), Trey Songz (Nov 24), and LeBron James (Dec 30). (Whew.)


5. "Where's the Beef?"

The most memorable fast food ad of the year was created by Wendy's to emphasize the size of its hamburger patties. In the commercial, actress Clara Peller is presented with a burger from a rival chain, but finds that the bun is comically large and the hamburger patty ridiculously undersized, leading her to exclaim, "Where's the beef?!" The slogan was so catchy it was turned into a song, and appeared throughout American culture, even modestly influencing the Democratic presidential primary that year.

The ad campaign ended in 1985, though Wendy's brought it back in 2011 with the obvious tagline, "Here's the beef."


6. Ronald Reagan's Bombing Gaffe (Plus National Ice Cream Month)

Reagan Library

During a mic check for his weekly radio address, President Reagan joked, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." While the clip wasn't broadcast at the time, the recording was leaked. Oops.

On a lighter note, in July of 1984, President Reagan declared that July is National Ice Cream Month, with National Ice Cream Day on the third Sunday of that month. According to the International Dairy Foods Association (which, we promise, is totally a thing):

[Reagan] recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90 percent of the nation's population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Get your ice cream party started, people. But keep it appropriate.


7. The Mac


Apple unveiled the Mac on January 24, 1984. At a demo event, Steve Jobs removed the Mac from a bag, inserted a 3.5" floppy disk, and booted the machine. The Chariots of Fire theme played, the Mac ran an impressive A/V demo, and finally said, "Hello, I'm Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I'd like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer that you can't lift!"

The original Mac cost $2,495, which pencils out to more than $5,600 in today's dollars. It had one floppy drive and a measly 128k of RAM, but it caused a revolution in personal computing; its designers were so proud of their creation, they signed the inside of the computer's case. Later the same year, a version with four times the memory debuted, and was promptly nicknamed Fat Mac.


8. MAC

After years of home-cooking lip gloss in their kitchen and selling eyeshadow from their salon, Frank Toskan and Frank Angelo launched a different kind of MAC from a single counter in a Toronto department store. The Makeup Art Cosmetics brand was born out of necessity: most commercially-available cosmetics at the time didn't hold up well under harsh lighting during photography, colors were limited, and stage makeup was fussy and difficult to work with. Originally intended just for makeup artists, MAC quickly grew popular through a perfect storm of word-of-mouth advertising, a good balance of novelty and usefulness, and a mid-range price point that made the brand accessible. (There was also a little help from Madonna, who paired the brand's Russian Red lipstick with various cone-shaped bras throughout her Blond Ambition tour a few years later.)

Today the company is a subsidiary of the $3.7 billion Estée Lauder juggernaut and one of the most popular brands of cosmetics for both professional and personal use. And they're still making those amazing lipsticks, which currently come in more than 160 shades.


9. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary

In what may be college football's most famous play (at least until Auburn's improbable last-second win over Alabama in 2013), Doug Flutie's miracle heave lifted Boston College over powerhouse Miami 47-45. Flutie went on to win the Heisman Trophy. The play has been credited with a rise in applications to Boston College, though the "Flutie Factor" may be overblown.


10. This is Spinal Tap

Image via cinemasquid

Rob Reiner directed the watershed mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, released on March 2, 1984. Chronicling the fictional comeback tour of British heavy metal rockers Spinal Tap, the film became a cult classic. It proudly bore the tagline: "Does for rock and roll what 'The Sound of Music' did for hills." Here's a clip:

But of course, this list goes to 11...and beyond. Moving right along....


11. Legal Taping of TV

Wikimedia Commons / Tomasz Sienicki

The Supreme Court decided a crucial case in January, 1984. Known as the "Betamax case," the court considered whether home VCR users could legally record TV shows for the purpose of watching them later, a practice known as "time-shifting." The court decided that recording episodes of The Cosby Show was just fine, and use of VCRs continued to take off. In an ironic twist, movie studios (who had brought the case in the first place) raked in tons of money selling home video copies of movies using the same technology they had tried to kill.


12. The Video Music Awards

The VMAs began in 1984. Cyndi Lauper won "Best Female Video" for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"; Madonna performed "Like a Virgin" while crawling around on the floor, wearing a provocative pseudo-wedding gown; and Michael Jackson took home a pile of awards for Thriller. The VMAs were just as scandalous then as they are now.

The full two-and-a-half-hour show is on YouTube. At least for now.


13. The Print Shop

The Internet Archive

Brøderbund's desktop publishing package The Print Shop epitomized 80s-era computing. It allowed users to make cards, signs, and banners. Before printing, it showed a colorful "THINKING" screen as it computed the graphics necessary to print. According to the Internet Archive, "In 1988 Brøderbund announced that it had sold more than one million copies, and that sales of The Print Shop comprised 4% of the entire United States software market in 1987." You can run The Print Shop online in your browser...but you'll need a classic PC and dot-matrix printer to get the full experience.


14. The Trebek Era of Jeopardy!

"Who is an awesome game show host?" Canadian quizmaster Alex Trebek ushered in a new era of Jeopardy! in 1984. Although the show had run with Art Fleming in the 1960s and 70s, Trebek brought Jeopardy! firmly into the 80s. Trebek plans to retire in 2016, thus marking a 32-year run on the show.


15. The "Press Your Luck" Incident

In 1984, ice cream truck driver Michael Larson set a record by winning $110,237 (a combined total of cash and non-cash prizes) in one appearance on the game show Press Your Luck—and he did it by gaming the system. (His appearance aired in June, one month before Reagan's National Ice Cream Month could have sent his day job's income soaring...slightly.)

Larson recorded episodes of the show on his VCR (thank you, Supreme Court!) and noticed that the patterns on the board repeated. So he memorized them, went on the show, and won a pile of money. You can read more about his feat here on mental_floss.


16. Law on the Moon (Sort Of)


The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the "Moon Treaty," took effect in July 1984, though it had been grinding through international legal processes since the early 1970s. The idea was to have all the Earth's countries agree that the Moon and other such places would be used for peaceful purposes, and not, say, to create a Death Star.

Although the treaty went into effect and 15 countries ultimately ratified it, none of those countries are actively involved in manned space exploration. So hey, while you're on the Moon, go nuts! (Within the limits of the Outer Space Treaty, that is.)


17. The "Death Star" Hypothesis

Image via Wookieepedia

Seven years after a different Death Star destroyed Alderaan on the silver screen, the journal Nature published a pair of hypotheses from two teams of astronomers who posited that mass extinctions on Earth are caused by an undetected companion star to our Sun. According to the hypothesis, Nemesis, a brown dwarf star, orbits the Sun outside of the Oort cloud, disrupting the paths of comets and asteroids to send them pummeling toward the planets. One such object could have wiped out the dinosaurs, and other events are believed to happen on a roughly regular timeframe of 26-28 million years. The hypothesis was enormously popular in the 80s and early 90s, but Nemesis's existence has been largely discredited; we haven't seen it with any instruments or methods despite its apparent proximity. Nearly 2000 brown dwarf stars have been discovered, but none inside our solar system.


18. Canadians in Space


Marc Garneau is currently a Member of Parliament in Canada. But 30 years ago, he was aboard the space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first Canadian in outer space. After the initial mission, he flew two more, logging over 677 hours in space.

Garneau paved the way for future Canadians in space, including our favorite, Commander Chris Hadfield.


19. TED

While technology, entertainment, and design are everlasting, the first TED conference was a one-off event held in Monterey, California, organized by graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman. Features included Sony's new-but-unreleased "compact disc," an early demo of Apple's Macintosh computer, presentations from Nicholas Negroponte (future founder of One Laptop Per Child) and mathematician Benoît Mandlebrot (discoverer of the Mandelbrot set), and exciting new 3D graphics from LucasFilm. Despite the awesomeness of 1984's event, TED lost a lot of money—so much that another conference wouldn't be held until 1990. Since then, TED has been an annual event.

Today, those of us who aren't in possession of TED invites can watch the presentations via TEDTalks, free online videos, and podcasts launched in 2006, which are arguably one of the most fascinating and binge-able series of videos on the Internet. Speakers include all the people you'd expect—Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Bono—but the best moments seem to come from unexpected sources. Take, for instance, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor's talk, which details the experience of having a massive stroke when you just happen to be a brain scientist.


20. Transformers

Transformers rolled out in the U.S. 30 years ago, after Hasbro bought distribution rights for the Diaclone and Microman toy molds from Japanese company Takara. Generation One (Series 1) launched with 28 figures—18 Autobots, 10 Decepticons—including the infamous Megatron figure that transformed into a gun ("more than meets the eye," indeed).

In September 1984, a three-episode miniseries introduced American children to the classic Autobots and Decepticons and their ongoing battle for the resources necessary to return to their home planet of Cybertron, as well as the Tranformers' human allies, Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky. The series launched soon after, with the first season running through December. During this time, the Dinobots, Insecticons, and Constructicons were introduced, as well as Chip Chase, new Decepticons, new Autobots, and all in time for 1985, when 76 new Transformers toys were released in Series 2.


21. Movies: The Karate Kid, Footloose, Purple Rain, Revenge of the Nerds, and More

It was a banner year for movies. With box-office hits like Footloose, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Ghostbusters we saw a clear theme of underdog heroes overcoming the odds in often bizarre circumstances.

Other notables from that year: Beverly Hills Cop, Police Academy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Dune, and Purple Rain. In a feat of rapid movie-making, both Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo were released in the same year. We were also treated to the Coen brothers' first film, Blood Simple...and Joel Coen married leading lady Frances McDormand in 1984 (they're still together).

Despite all that action in popular movies, 1984's Amadeus pretty much swept the Academy Awards the following year, taking home awards for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, and a pile of others. Prince took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Purple Rain."


22. BOOKS! (Other Than 1984)

While the world was discussing the dystopian present portrayed in Winston Smith's fictional journal, which began 30 years ago on a cold bright day in April, actual books were being published in the real 1984, including: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy, King's Thinner, The House on Mango Street (which was almost instantly placed on the AP Readers list; if you were in high school in the 90s, you've probably read it), the 1984 Nebula Award-winning Neuromancerby William Gibson, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, and Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.


23. Born in the U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen released his best-selling album, a twelve-track masterpiece in which seven songs were released as singles, including the mega-hits "Dancing in the Dark," "Born in the U.S.A.," "I'm on Fire," and "Glory Days." Rolling Stone called Springsteen the "voice of a decade," and wrote, "It's as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can."

Although the song "Born in the U.S.A." had a cultural impact, the most lasting legacy of the album might be "Dancing in the Dark," an upbeat pop song with oddly grim lyrics, and a classic video featuring a young Courteney Cox dancing onstage. Yes, in 1984 we all danced that way—at least those of us who were born in the U.S.A.

While the pop landscape of 1984 featured bands like Springsteen, Prince, and Wham!, 1984 also saw the formation of Primus, Warrant, Gwar, Soundgarden, Big Audio Dynamite, Fine Young Cannibals, and...wait for it...New Kids on the Block.


24. George Michael Started Being a Big Deal

Singer George Michael had a huge year. As part of the band Wham!, the infectious dance single "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" became a #1 hit in the United States and the UK. Then came the sultry, saxophone-driven "Careless Whisper," which was technically a George Michael solo effort, but was credited to Wham! in some countries. Michael rounded out the year with two more hits: "Freedom" and "Everything She Wants"; and he performed with the supergroup Band Aid on "Do They Know It's Christmas?"


25. Band Aid

After BBC aired a report by Michael Buerk about the devastating and ongoing famine in Ethiopia, singers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure (pictured) teamed up to raise relief funds. Together, the pair wrote "Do They Know It's Christmas?" then rallied members for the supergroup Band Aid. The final lineup included the members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Bananarama, Culture Club, Kool and the Gang, U2, Chris Cross, Paul Young, George Michael, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware, Phil Collins, Paul Weller, Status Quo, Jody Watley of Shalamar, Marilyn, and the Boomtown Rats.

The single sold a million copies in the first week, and went on to become the UK's highest-selling single of all time... until Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" tribute to the late Princess Diana.

In all, Band Aid raised £5 million for famine relief. The following year's Live Aid, 1989's Band Aid II, 2004's Band Aid 20, and Live 8 in 2005 raised a total of £150 million, and still earns around £2 million per year through the Band Aid Trust, which spends that money for relief efforts in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and other impoverished African countries.


26. The Quagga's Second Life (Sort of)

Once upon a time, there was an animal called the quagga. It was something of an animal kingdom reverse-mullet, which is to say it was zebra in the front, regular-looking horse in the back. The last captive specimen died in 1883, but it was gone from the wild for nearly a decade before that, thanks to being easy to hunt, having an interesting hide, and not being very good at competing with domesticated livestock for areas to forage.

Aside from its weird appearance, the interesting thing about the quagga came after it was wiped from the planet. In 1984, a team of scientists at the University of California at Berkely cloned fragments of the quagga's DNA taken from a 140-year-old sample. It was the first successful attempt to clone DNA from an extinct species, and the first step in the ongoing pursuit of technology that will give the world wooly mammoths and velociraptors again.

We may not have to wait for that technology, though: As it turns out, the mitochondrial DNA used in that quagga-cloning project revealed that the species was actually a subspecies of the still-living plains zebra. Through selective breeding, the Quagga Project hopes to create a living population of quaggas. In 2005, the first quagga-like foal was born; she was considered a successful first step toward quagganess because her striping was visibly fainter than that of her parents.


27. Dude, You're Getting a Dell

Michael Dell started his computing empire while studying at the University of Texas. He made low-cost PCs from off-the-shelf components, though his company was initially called PC's Limited. One early customer told The Smithsonian, "[The computer] always sounded as if it were coming apart. I never did figure out why."

Thirty years later, Dell is still selling customizable PCs. Need tons of RAM? Looking for a student discount? Want a keyboard but not a mouse? Dude, you're getting a Dell!


28. Muppet Babies

In 1984, Jim Henson gave us a window into the animated childhoods of our favorite Muppets. The Muppet Babies debuted in a fantasy sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and their own TV series premiered in the fall. Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang gave us their interpretations of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, The Twilight Zone, The Jetsons, I Love Lucy, and more.


29. The "Baby Bell" Telephone System

Wikimedia Commons / Badmachine

On January 1, 1984, AT&T was broken into seven independent "Regional Holding Companies," which became known popularly as the "Baby Bells." This was the end of a long saga of anti-trust litigation against AT&T, which had held a monopoly on the U.S. telephone market before then. The birth of the Baby Bells led to competition in the phone market, which drove down long-distance pricing and generally shook up the phone system through the 80s and 90s. Today, three big phone carriers can trace their roots to those Baby Bells: AT&T Inc., CenturyLink, and Verizon.

In 2008, Network World asked Does the AT&T breakup still matter 25 years on? The answer is complex, and boils down to "maybe."


30. Ghostbusters

The first Ghostbusters movie introduced us to a trio of failed Columbia University professors whose post-collegiate careers involved clearing New York City of various paranormal infestations. Bill Murray stole the show as Dr. Peter Venkman, a character originally intended for the (then-deceased) John Belushi. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing "Ghostbusters is one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production."

Ghostbusters launched a second film, two TV shows, various video games and comic books, and of course this epic single by Ray Parker, Jr.:

Images via Getty unless noted.

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Mabel Livingstone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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Mabel Livingstone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?


To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.


The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.


In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.


The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.


The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   


Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.


It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”


In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]


Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.


The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.


Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.


Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols
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Many of the most common symbols on our keyboards have fascinating origin stories. Some, such as the zero, we now take for granted—yet the idea of denoting an absence of value was not present in Western mathematics until introduced from the East. Other symbols, such as the hashtag or at-sign, had a variety of uses until the internet ushered in a new way of communicating and fixed them with the meanings we know today. Below are six examples of the first known usage and subsequent history of some of the most common typographic symbols.

1. AT SIGN // @

The @ (or at-sign) is usually dated to 1536 in a letter from a Florentine merchant, Francesco Lapi, who used it to mean a unit of wine called “amphorae.” But a Spanish researcher claims to have found an even earlier usage in a 1448 document, where the symbol also referred to a unit of measurement (even today, Spaniards call the @ symbol arroba, which is also a unit of weight, and some other Romance languages have similar dual meanings). Either way, the researchers think that the symbol then moved to Northern Europe, where it eventually gained the meaning of “at the price.” Other explanations have also been offered, but whatever the exact root of the symbol, its meaning eventually became known as shorthand for at, and it was generally used in written financial transactions—for example, in noting “Bob sells James 4 apples @ $1.”

The sign had largely fallen out of use by the early 1970s, when computer scientist Ray Tomlinson was working at what is now BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tomlinson, who was working for the government on a forerunner of the internet, was trying to figure out how to address messages sent from one computer to another when he noticed the little-used @ on his computer keyboard, and used it to send a prototype email. This precedent was soon adopted as the internet developed, and the at-sign is now, of course, central to our lives.

2. ZERO // 0

The absence of a value is a complex concept, one that many ancient civilizations struggled with. The idea of a zero ultimately came to the West from the mathematicians of India, where, as in a few other cultures, zero was initially used as a placeholder, for example to indicate a lack of units, as in the number 101.

The earliest surviving usage of a zero in India has been traced to an ancient mathematical text known as the Bakhshali manuscript, which is held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In September 2017, radiocarbon dating indicated that the manuscript was produced as early as the 3rd or 4th century—providing us with the first known usage of zero some 500 years earlier than previously thought. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library says, “the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today."

The manuscript itself was discovered buried in a field in 1881 in what is today Pakistan. Written on 70 delicate leaves of birch bark, historians think it represents a training manual for Silk Road traders, teaching them concepts of arithmetic.

3. HASHTAG // #

Hashtag on an old typewriter key

The origin of the hashtag (or pound sign as it's traditionally known in the U.S.) comes from scribes writing shorthand for the Latin libra pondo, which translates as "pound by weight." The abbreviation they used was lb, which was sometimes misread as 16. So, scribes took to drawing a line through the top of the two letters, which over time developed into the now familiar #. In the 1960s, the pound sign was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a function key on their newly designed telephone keypad. (The Bell Labs team fondly nicknamed the symbol the “octothorpe,” possibly in honor of athlete Jim Thorpe.) Fast-forward to 2007, when early Twitter users wanted to be able to group and filter their feeds, so developer Chris Messina suggested they appropriate the method used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) whereby users employed the pound sign or "hashtag" to signpost what they were chatting about. (Programmers knew the symbol as the hash, which was now being used to "tag" content.) This simple method soon caught on, and today the hashtag has become indelibly linked to the rise of social media.

4. ELLIPSIS // …

Originally, periods of silence were marked textually with a series of hyphens, but today the symbol of choice is the , a.k.a. the ellipsis. Dr. Anne Toner of Cambridge University spent years researching the ellipsis and finally discovered what she thinks is its first use—an English translation of Roman dramatist Terence’s play Andria printed in 1588. Although the play used hyphens instead of dots, the general idea caught on rapidly. (Toner notes that although there are only four “ellipses” in the 1588 translation, there are 29 in the 1627 version.) By the 18th century, dots started to replace the dashes, which an assistant professor from Southeastern University suggests may be connected to a medieval piece of punctuation called subpuncting or underdotting, which generally indicated something was incorrectly copied.


Ampersand symbol on an old metal block

The ampersand originated in Latin when the word et (meaning and) was written in cursive script as a ligature (in which one or more letters are written together as a single glyph). One of the earliest examples was found daubed in graffiti on the walls of a house in Pompeii, where it was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. By the 8th century the ampersand became a recognizably distinct character, but the word ampersand did not come into use until the late 18th/19th century, when English school children would recite "and per se and" meaning “and by itself means and” to help remember the symbol (per se being Latin for "by itself"). One of the most thorough investigations into the typographic history of the ampersand comes courtesy of German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, who in 1953 published The am­persand: its ori­gin and de­vel­op­ment, in which he collected numerous examples of the ampersand from the 1st century onwards, visually charting its developing form.

6. PLUS SIGN // +

A variety of ceramic plus signs

The plus sign used for addition in mathematics likely derives from a shorthand ligature for the Latin et meaning “and” and was probably in use for a long time before a surviving example appeared in print. One candidate for the earliest surviving usage is in French philosopher and polymath Nicole Oresme's Algorismus proportionum, a manuscript handwritten between 1356 and 1361, although scholars debate whether it's a true plus symbol. The first use of a plus sign in a printed book is more definitive, and can be found in a 1489 edition of Johannes Widmann’s Mercantile Arithmetic. Widmann also uses the minus sign for the first time in print in this volume—although both plus and minus signs relate not to addition and subtraction but to surpluses and deficits in business accounting. After this usage, the plus sign began to appear more frequently in German mathematical texts, and first appeared in an English text in 1557 in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte—which also introduced the equals sign.


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