WTF Fun Fact 12932 – Nigel Richards, French Scrabble Champion

Nigel Richards is from New Zealand. He’s a worldwide Scrabble champion, but his most impressive feat may just be winning the French-language Scrabble World Championship without actually knowing how to speak French.

Memorizing vs learning

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you know that there are two parts to success – grammar and vocabulary. You can be great at grammar, but if you can’t memorize new words then it doesn’t do you much good. Equally, you can know lots of vocabulary words, but if you can’t put them together in a sentence (or even pronounce them), you can’t actually speak the language.

Nigel Richards memorizes the dictionary

Before trying his hand with French, New Zealander Nigel Richards won a couple of English-language Scrabble championships. But that clearly wasn’t enough of a challenge. That’s when he decided to tackle French.

But when you’re playing Scrabble, grammar doesn’t matter, only the words in the dictionary do. So Richards decided to try and memorize as many words as possible from the French dictionary.

Clearly, he did a great job, because he beat all of the actual French speakers in a 2015 tournament.

According to NPR (cited below): “It was only in late May [of 2014] that Richards began his quest to win the French world title, according to the French Scrabble Federation. That’s when he set about memorizing the French Scrabble dictionary.”

Richards obviously has an impeccable memory. After all, there are 386,000 words in French Scrabble and only 187,000 in North American Scrabble.

Scrabble expert Stefan Fatsis told NPR: “Basically, what he does is, he looks at word lists and looks at dictionary pages… he can conjure up the image of what he has seen. He told me that if he actually hears a word, it doesn’t stick in his brain. But if he sees it once, that’s enough for him to recall the image of it. I don’t know if that’s a photographic memory; I just think it’s something that his brain chemistry allows him to do.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Winner Of French Scrabble Title Does Not Speak French” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 12832 – Humanity’s Obsession with Call of Duty

Millions of people have answered the Call of Duty, religiously okaying the first-person shooter video game from Activision over the years.

In fact, every year, Call of Duty players collectively log 475,000 years of gameplay. If you add that up over the course of just six years, it has cost players a combined 2.85 million man-years. That’s more than 14 times longer than humanity has existed!

Answering the call of duty

According to Gamerrant: “Call of Duty, which began all the way back in 2003, has 16 console games and one mobile game over those 17 years. Since these titles have been available across many platforms and are incredibly replayable, many individuals have put in an amazing number of hours just trying to trick out their arsenal, fulfill other challenges to get the best gear, or just play with friends. With Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019) smashing sales records too and player loyalty at an all-time high, those hours have really added up over the years.”

And there are more impressive stats :

“The oldest human remains have been carbon-dated at about 200,000 years old, so that makes the collective years and hours spent playing Call of Duty an absolutely mind-blowing number. Considering that there are currently 7.8 billion humans on earth right now, that’s about 3.2 hours per human. With more than 300 million copies of Call of Duty sold worldwide over the last 17 years, with many of the games breaking records (like Black Ops 4, Modern Warfare, and more), that’s about 80 hours per copy.”

Bringing people together

Apparently, some consider Call of Duty not a violent hobby but a way of connecting people. Gamerrant called it “a wonderful tool to stay connected while having some fun. Also, with this many gamers and the devs working together, they can help generate donations for natural disasters, like the Australian wildfires. All told, these amazing numbers are both a boon for Call of Duty and its devs as well as fans of the series worldwide.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Humankind has now spent more time playing Call of Duty than it has existed on Earth” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 12788 – Monopoly, The Landlord’s Game

Charles Darrow is credited with inventing the board game Monopoly, but even he wasn’t aware of the real inventor of the game. Lizzie Magie invented Monopoly, only she called it “The Landlord’s Game.”

The Landlord’s Game becomes Monopoly

In 1932, Charles Darrow was playing a real-estate board game with friends. It wasn’t a game you could buy in a box, but one that was passed between friends who made their own boards. Darrow presumably had no clue it had been invented by a progressive feminist writer named Lizzie Magie nearly three decades earlier. She had called it The Landlord’s Game, but it was colloquially known as “the monopoly game.”

Darrow was so taken with it that he asked for a set of rules and took the idea to Parker Brothers. Then he seems to have taken credit for inventing it altogether, which helped him make millions in royalties.

According to The Guardian (cited below), “one journalist after another asked him how he had managed to invent Monopoly out of thin air – a seeming sleight of hand that had brought joy into so many households. ‘It’s a freak,’ Darrow told the Germantown Bulletin, a Philadelphia paper. ‘Entirely unexpected and illogical.'”

The Real “Monopoly”

Magie wrote about her game in a political magazine in the early 20th century, noting: “It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences. It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.”

She created two sets of rules – “an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents,” according to The Guardian’s story about a book on the history of the game titled, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon.

Magie had even patented the game and published a version through the Economic Game Company. It was popular among progressive intellectuals, but interestingly enough, the monopolist’s rules became far more popular.

The real Monopoly

Magie wasn’t sure what to think when Parker Brothers approached her about buying the rights to the game for $500 after they were approached by Darrow, but she did sell them. Only later did she find out why they wanted to buy them. And she never received any of the millions in royalties that Darrow did. Nor did she receive any of the credit until recently.

According to The Guardian, “She died in 1948, a widow with no children, whose obituary and headstone made no mention of her game invention. One of her last jobs was at the US Office of Education, where her colleagues knew her only as an elderly typist who talked about inventing games.”

Today, Parker Brothers is owned by Hasbro, which still credits Darrow with inventing the game in 1935.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The secret history of Monopoly: the capitalist board game’s leftwing origins” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12585 – Ronald Wayne Sells Apple

We’ve all heard of Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. But do you remember the third co-founder, Ronald Wayne?

The trio founded Apple Computer Company (now Apple, Inc) in 1976. But while Wozniak and Jobs each owned 45% of the company, Wayne had 10%, which would make him the tie-breaker in any disagreements between the two Steves.

He was the administrative brains among the computer geeks. And like any good businessman, he wanted to mitigate his risks.

Funny enough, Wayne’s first business sold slot machines (and ran out of luck, going into debt that he had to pay off personally).

The three met when they all worked at Atari, and Wayne invited Wozniak and Jobs to his house to discuss the future of computers. Jobs suggested they start a business, with Wayne (who was the 41-year-old “elder”) at the time acting as “the adult in the room.”

Wayne drafted the partnership agreement and designed Apple’s first logo (which was replaced the following year). But he got cold feet as he considered the future of the business in light of his past failure and the resulting debt.

Legally, all partners in a company are responsible for its debt, so when Jobs made a purchase order with a $15,000 loan, Wayne started to get cold feet. The vendor Jobs purchased from wasn’t known for being speedy with their deliveries, and Wayne saw warning signs.

His job at Apple also wasn’t his passion – he enjoyed engineering and his slot machine designs. So he did what any intelligent businessman might do – he moved on to greener pastures. Well, at least they seemed greener at the time.

Renouncing his 10% of the ownership after just 12 days (though Wozniak’s account is that it took a few months), Wayne sold his shares back for $800.

Just for comparison, in 2011, the contract signed by all 3 men in 1976 was sold at auction for $1.6 million. (Oh, and Wayne sold that as well – in the 1990s he gave it up for $500 before he knew what it might be worth someday.)

Wayne says that he made the best decision he could with the information he had at the time, which is respectable. And while he retired to a trailer park to collect stamps and play penny slots, he insists he doesn’t regret the decision.

Had he stayed with the company, his life would have certainly been different. Those shares would be worth a mind-boggling $300 BILLION today. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Apple just hit a $1 trillion market cap—here’s why its little-known third co-founder sold his 10% stake for $800” — CNBC

WTF Fun Fact – PS2 Missile Guidance

WTF Fun Fact - PS2 Missile Guidance

Sony needed special export permits from the Japanese government for the export of PlayStation 2s. The PS2 was so good at processing high-quality images quickly that the Japanese government believed it was possible to adapt it for use in missile guidance systems. – WTF Fun Facts