For the first time since 1974, nobody climbed to the top of Mount Everest last year.
In spite of being the subject of a major movie, the world's tallest peak remained untouched by human beings, as a series of tragedies and avalanches led to the mountain being effectively shut off.
Commercial organisations were stopped from bringing expeditions to the mountain, in the aftermath of the horrific earthquake that killed thousands in Nepal in April 2015.
At least 24 people were killed on Everest that month in the aftermath of the earthquake, which in turned had caused a major avalanche on the mountain. It's the highest annual death toll amongst those tackling Everest.
As National Geographic reported, 359 people - a record number - gathered at base camp at the start of 2015's climbing season. Yet April's tragedy, a second earthquake that followed in May, and broken ladders, led to each of them abandoning their plans to reach the top.
Everest was reopened for tourists in August 2015, but only one climber was giving a permit to reach for the summit. He was Nobukazu Kuriki, a Japanese mountaineer who ultimately lost his fingers thanks to frostbite, getting within 700 meters of the top in October.
All that notwithstanding, record numbers are again expected to attempt to tackle Everest in 2016.
Alan Arnette has penned an excellent blog, summing up the year for Everest, here. It's entitled 'Summits Don't Matter.'
It’s good to be the Queen. Twice a week, Queen Elizabeth II browses a leather-bound menu of the latest meal suggestions from the royal family’s head chef, Mark Flanagan, and whichever items she checks off, she gets to eat. The Telegraph recently spoke with two former royal chefs who were ready to dish out the Queen’s most personal food tastes.
Mealtime at Buckingham Palace isn’t always the extravagant affair non-royals might assume it to be. As former personal chef to the Queen Darren McGrady told The Telegraph, her royal majesty is no foodie. “She eats to live,” he said. And even the delicacies she does enjoy don’t appear on her plate every day. “The Queen loved scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a grating of truffle. But she was too frugal to ever order fresh truffles and only really enjoyed them at Christmas when the truffles were sent as a gift.” Instead, she prefers regular cereal like Special K with fresh fruit for a typical breakfast.
But even the most humble meals served to the Queen are held to high standards. When Owen Hodgson, who worked in the palace kitchen in the early 1990s, spoke to The Telegraph, he recalled the level of detail that went into a simple tuna fish sandwich. The crusts were removed, the bread was buttered on both sides, and the sandwiches were cut into eight identical triangles before they were fit for the Queen.
Of course, the royal diet includes the most classic of British culinary traditions, afternoon tea. Queen Elizabeth has a weakness for chocolate, and there’s usually chocolate perfection pie or chocolate biscuit cake included in the spread.
For dinner, she likes to keep things light with grilled fish like sole served with vegetables and a salad. On Sundays, she enjoys a roast, preferring the well-done end slice over something more rare. Ingredients from her farms, like white peaches from Windsor Castle and fillets of beef and venison from Sandringham and Balmoral, are often worked into the menu.
As for her preferred drink, it's a gin and Dubonnet with a slice of lemon. She also sometimes drinks wine with lunch, and reportedly enjoys a glass of champagne before bed.
In 2017, the royal palace made it a little easier to drink like the Queen when they made wine from her royal vineyard available for the public to purchase. Beyond that, you may need to hire a personal chef of your own to recreate her full experience.
When Defender arrived in arcades back in 1980, nothing looked or sounded quite like it. The controls had a steep learning curve, and its shooting action was intense and relentlessly difficult. Yet Defender's boldness made it stand out in arcades full of Space Invaders clones, and gamers quickly fell in love with it.
Created by a designer pushing the boundaries of early '80s technology, Defender's development wasn't without its drama. Here's a look at Defender's making and its lasting effect on the games industry.
1. DEFENDER WAS WILLIAMS'S FIRST PROPER, ORIGINAL ARCADE GAME.
With its foundations tracing back to the 1940s, American company Williams specialized in making pinball machines. When Pong ushered in a new age of electronic games in the 1970s, Williams knew it had to break into the same market, but its first attempt was tentative, to say the least: 1973's Paddle Ball was, for the most part, a straight replica of Pong's bat-and-ball action. Fortunately, a young programmer named Eugene Jarvis had a more pioneering spirit.
2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY SPACE INVADERS AND CHESS.
Jarvis joined Williams in the late 1970s, where he initially worked on the software for the company's pinball machines—titles included Airborne Avenger, Gorgar, and Laser Ball. But even as those machines were making their way into arcades, they were being roundly upstaged by a new game on the block—the coin-guzzling shooter, Space Invaders. The game immediately inspired Jarvis to make his own sci-fi shooter, though one which also took in the vector graphics of the seminal Spacewar (a game he'd played while in college) and a hint of chess. He wanted his game, he later told WIRED, to be a "rich, tactical and strategic experience."
3. THE TITLE CAME FROM A 1960s TV SHOW.
As Jarvis's ideas for his game began to develop—and it moved further and further away from the straight "blast the aliens" scenario popularized by Space Invaders—he began to think about an objective that involved rescue and defense rather than straight-up shooting. And early on, he adopted the name Defender, derived from the '60s courtroom drama series, The Defenders.
"I kind of liked that show," Jarvis said in Steven Kent's book, The Ultimate History Of Video Games. "You know, if you're defending something, you're being attacked, and you can do whatever you want."
4. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SIDE-SCROLLING GAMES.
Jarvis and his small team of programmers and designers, which included Larry DeMar and Sam Dicker, worked up a game design which, for its time, was hugely ambitious. Back then, most games took place on a single, static screen. What Jarvis proposed was a game which scrolled smoothly and rapidly along a map that was far larger than the display. At the top of the screen, a small mini map showed the player's current position. Both ideas were groundbreaking, and the mini map is a ubiquitous design feature in the games of today.
5. IT WAS COMPLETED JUST IN TIME FOR AN IMPORTANT TRADE SHOW.
As months of development passed, Jarvis was put under increasing pressure to get Defender finished in time for a trade show called the Amusement and Music Operators Association Expo. Jarvis worked feverishly to meet the deadline, but on the evening before the trade show, he had a horrifying realization: the game lacked an attract mode—the demo designed to show would-be customers how the game looks in action. An all-night coding session began, which, following another terror-inducing moment where the game refused to load up properly, the finished Defender was ready on the morning of the expo.
6. PLAYERS WERE INITIALLY INTIMIDATED.
Defender cut a strange and unnerving figure at the AMOA trade show. Where most games of the time had a joystick and one button, Defender had a joystick and five buttons—something which, Jarvis later suggested, left some people wary of even trying it. At first, though, Jarvis wasn't concerned, saying in an interview on the Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits game disc that the team was "proud that it intimidated everyone."
7. IT BECAME ONE OF THE HIGHEST-GROSSING GAMES OF THE GOLDEN AGE.
Everything changed when Defender appeared in arcades. Williams's first game of the '80s was also its biggest, selling 55,000 cabinets and reportedly making more than $1 billion in revenue. Players, it seems, couldn't get enough of Defender's speed, color, and sheer challenge.
8. A STRANGE BUG OCCURS WHEN YOU SCORE 990,000 POINTS
While Defender became famous for its vertical difficulty level, a certain breed of gamer rose to the challenge. The game's most dedicated players even discovered a bug: reach 990,000 points, and an error in the game's algorithm results in a sudden shower of extra lives and smart bombs. Yet even the bug added to Defender's absorbing challenge; as Jarvis told US Gamer, "Some of the richest elements of Defender [...] were bugs, things that I never even in my wildest imagination could have coded."
9. IT'S STILL INFLUENTIAL TODAY.
Defender's groundbreaking design paved the way for an entire generation of scrolling shooters, including Jarvis's 1981 sequel Stargate, Konami's Gradius series, and many more. Even today, Defender continues to inspire 21st-century game designers. Finnish developer Housemarque's side-scrolling shooter Resogun draws directly on the mechanics in Defender. In 2017, Jarvis teamed up with Housemarque to develop the game Nex Machina, which released to overwhelmingly positive reviews.
More than 30 years later, Defender's audacious design is still making an impact.