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Box Brown

5 Fun Facts About Tetris

Box Brown
Box Brown

If you’ve ever played Tetris, especially when it first came out in the 1980s, you probably remember it as being something that at least temporarily took over your life. The best video games can do that, but something about the simple nature of Tetris made it addictive like no other. Now, in a new graphic novel, Box Brown (whose last graphic novel was a biography of Andre the Giant) tells the story of how Tetris made its way from the mind of a software engineer in the Soviet Union to becoming one of the most popular video games of all time.

Tetris: The Games People Play comes out October 11, but in the meantime, Brown shared with mental_floss things you may not have known about Tetris, illustrated with scenes from his book.

1. TETRIS WAS CREATED BY A SOFTWARE ENGINEER IN MOSCOW.

BOX BROWN: "This is where Alexey Pajitnov was working when he created Tetris. He was employed by the government at the time. One of the things I found so compelling about Alexey was that he had no profit motive to create Tetris.  It's pure inspiration and execution. Maybe he just did it because it could be done and it should be done. It's something that can't really be said about a lot of pieces of art."

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE A WOODEN PUZZLE GAME CALLED PENTOMINOES.

BOX BROWN: "A version of this game was marketed in the states as 'Cathedral' in 1985. I remember playing it at my cousin's house when I was a kid. It was pretty competitive. The game was designed to look like you were building a little castle but it was really just a Tetris-like puzzle game."

3. ITS ORIGINAL VERSION WAS ALL TEXT-BASED.

BOX BROWN: "The absolute first version of Tetris was made on a computer with no graphics capabilities. So, Alexey created his vision with text. Two brackets [] made up a block. His first conception of Tetris were these puzzle pieces falling from the sky and landing in a glass. The player had to rearrange them as they fell."

4. THE NAME TETRIS WAS AN AMALGAMATION.

BOX BROWN: "Most players thought the name Tetris was weird when they first heard it. I guess it's kind of weird looking back on it. The way the game was marketed in the U.S., it must have sounded like a very stern Russian word to American audiences. It's so ubiquitous, it's the perfect name. I wonder if people thought Xerox was a weird word at first?"

5. TETRIS STARTED OUT AS SHAREWARE.

BOX BROWN: "This scene was fun for me because I remember shareware. Before the internet you would save a game on a floppy disc and give it to a friend. It amazed me that the game still went 'viral' even though you had to physically meet the person, not to mention spend forever copying the game on the old machines. I have distinct memories of getting Wolfenstein via this method ..."

Tetris: The Games People Play will be released October 11.

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP/Getty Images

Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

Pregnant woman doing yoga.
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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

Woman running on the beach.
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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

Family playing in the park.
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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

Coworkers discussing a project on couches.
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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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