WTF Fun Fact 13215 – The First Smartwatch

Credit for the first smartwatch concept doesn’t go to Apple. Long before the Apple Watch, Microsoft and Fossil introduced the first standalone smartwatch.

If you want to get more technical, you could claim that the 1982 Seiko TV watch was more similar to the first smartwatch. But it needed an adapter and a large receiver box. And it only showed grainy greyscale TV images.

Another watch that paved the way for the Apple Watch and modern smartwatches was the 1998 Linux Wristwatch, created by Steve Mann and launched by IBM. According to the fact sheet, it was “Designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cell phones and other wireless-enabled devices, the ‘smart watch’ will have the ability to view condensed email messages and directly receive pager-like messages.”

What’s the story behind the first smartwatch?

In 2004, Microsoft released its “Smart Personal Object Technology” (SPOT). This allowed users to access services such as news, weather, and stock information from their wristwatches. It was more personalized and independent of other technology than previous “smart” watches.

Microsoft’s Smartwatch quickly became a hit among tech enthusiasts and professionals alike. The device was packed with advanced features, allowing users to stay connected while on the go. It had a wide array of sensors, allowing it to monitor heart rate, steps taken, and other important health metrics.

Furthermore, it was one of the first smartwatches to feature a touchscreen display, making it easier to interact with apps.

Microsoft and Fossil actually collaborated on the first smartwatch. The Microsoft SPOT Watch had a monochrome 90×126 pixel screen and was accessible through a yearly subscription that cost from $39 to $59. The watches featured customizable watch face displays and were built on a new technology platform designed to improve the functionality and usefulness of everyday objects.

Not long after, watchmakers Citizen, Fossil, and Suunto all joined the project to create the first smartwatches.

What happened to Microsoft’s smart watch?

The device was well-received by users, who praised its versatile design and advanced features. It was also praised for its long battery life, which allowed users to stay connected for extended periods of time.

The Microsoft smartwatch was also quite easy to use thanks to an intuitive interface that made it simple to navigate.

Despite its success, the device was not a commercial success and was eventually discontinued in 2010. This was primarily due to the fact that it was too expensive for the average consumer and was unable to compete with the lower-priced rivals that had entered the market.

However, the device paved the way for the smartwatches that we have today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Smartwatch timeline: The devices that paved the way for the Apple Watch” — Wearable

WTF Fun Fact 13213 – The First Video Game

The first video game ever created was called Tennis for Two. The game was played on an oscilloscope. It was created by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958.

Is Tennis for Two the first video game ever?

“Tennis for Two” is considered to be the first video game ever created, even though we’d hardly recognize it as a video game today.

Developed by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958, the game was played on an oscilloscope and was a simple simulation of a game of tennis (kind of like Pong).

An oscilloscope is an electronic instrument that allows people to visualize electrical signals. In the case of Tennis for Two, the oscilloscope was used to display the game on its screen.

The game consisted of two dots, representing the ball and the paddles, which could be moved up and down by players using knobs. Players would try to hit the dot back and forth across the screen. The game ended when one player failed to hit the dot (or ball) ball back to the other side.

Despite being pretty basic, Tennis for Two laid the foundation for the modern video game industry.

Who played Tennis for Two?

The first video game was created as a demonstration for visitors at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where its creator worked.

“Tennis for Two” was an instant hit with visitors to the laboratory. In fact, the game was played by thousands of people over the course of the next few years and featured in newspapers and magazines, sparking public interest.

Tennis for Two was the first game that allowed players to compete against each other in a virtual environment, and it provided a new way for people to interact with technology. Of course, very few people had the tools to play it.

A forgotten history

Despite its success at the time, Tennis for Two was not developed further. It was eventually forgotten as the video game industry continued to evolve. But it paved the way for the creation of more advanced and sophisticated games.

By the time Pong was created (the game considered to be the first arcade video game), most people didn’t know about its predecessor.

Pong was created in 1972 by Atari, and it could be played on arcade machines or home consoles.

While Tennis for Two is a two-player game, Pong could be a one or two-player game. And while Tennis for Two had no scoring system (the game simply ended when one player failed to hit the dot), Pong kept score. Each time a player fails to hit the ball back, the opponent scores a point. The game ends when one player reaches a certain number of points.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Complete History of Tennis for Two” — History Computer

WTF Fun Fact 13155 – The First Item Sold on eBay

The first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. It sold for $14.83 in 1995 (when the site was still called Auction Web).

More about the first item sold on eBay

According to eBay, “Mark Fraser purchased the first item that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar listed on the site in 1995: a broken laser pointer.”

All of this was revealed at the eBay Seller Summit fireside chat. Back when the site was still called Auction Web, Omidyar listed the laser pointer over the Labor Day weekend and was shocked when someone purchased it for $14.38.

The buyer’s identity and motivation had long remained a secret.

Fraser finally came forward at the eBay event in 2005. He explained that he had been on the road traveling for work and giving a lot of presentations. He has seen laser pointers in the ’90s and wanted one, but at the time they cost over $100.

Being an electronics “geek,” Fraser assumed he could fix a broken one, making his eBay purchase a potentially wise financial decision. He had already tried to build one from scratch and it needed too many components, so this was a great find for him.

Continued purchases

Fraser said he was still making eBay purchases and his broken laser pointer was the first in a long line of them. In fact, he’s made over 2000 purchases!

When he heard stories from eBay’s 20th anniversary celebration and the strange first purchase, he thought he was being “dissed,” so he contacted the company to explain how it all went down.

Funny enough – he still had the broken laser pointer. And yes, it’s still broken!

We assume that’ll end up in a museum someday – or at least at eBay headquarters somewhere!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Meet the Buyer of the Broken Laser Pointer” — eBay

WTF Fun Fact 13145 – World Website Statistics

While more people use the internet in Asia than anywhere else in the world, English is the predominant language of the world’s websites. According to First Site Guide (cited below): “25.9% of the internet is in English, 19.4% is in Chinese, and 8% is in Spanish.” Keep reading for more worldwide website statistics.

More world websites statistics

Asia has over 2.8 billion web users, with over 1 billion active users residing in China and 659 million in India.

Europe is the continent with the second most internet users, though they have under 700 million. The US comes in third with 307 million users (as of early 2022).

The age group with the most internet users (at least as of 2019) is 25 to 34-year-olds. They account for 1/3 of web users.

The majority of people also use Chrome as their browser. In fact, 65% of people use Chrome while the next most popular engine (Safari) is used by 16.82% of users.

According to First Site Guide: “The most connected region globally is North America, with over 75% of people having an internet connection. It is closely followed by Europe, in which over 68% of all people have internet access. The region with the least internet connectivity is Sub-Saharan Africa, with 24% of people having internet access according to internet usage statistics.”

Worldwide web searches

Google is by far the most popular search engine, holding 92.7% of the market share. In second place is Bing with just under 3%.

While DuckDuckGo is the search engine with the most privacy features, it’s used by only .5% of internet users.

And while you might think iPhones are ubiquitous, they’re also expensive. That’s probably why most mobile internet users (nearly 75%) use an Android OS.

And time spent on smartphones is rapidly increasing. 12 years ago, we spent less than an hour a day looking at the internet on our mobile devices. Today, we average about 2.8 hours. And this is only expected to increase.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Internet Statistics 2023: Facts You Need-to-Know” — First Site Guide

WTF Fun Fact 13144 – The Number of Internet Users

In November of 2022, the world population reached an estimated 8 billion people. The number of internet users is around 5.47 billion. That’s a lot, but it still leaves a mind-boggling number unconnected (for better or worse).

More internet user stats

The 5.47 billion number refers to active internet users, so it doesn’t imply that everyone else lacks Internet connectivity altogether. However, it’s estimated that 2.7 billion people do lack access to the internet.

First Site Guide (cited below) also gathered some other eye-popping internet facts from 2022. For example, did you know that 4.32 billion people use mobile devices to access the internet? And as we walk around, we’re surrounded by an average of 26 “smart” objects connected to the internet.

When it comes to social media, the majority of internet users are on some form of it. In 2021, there were 4.2. billion active social media users. (It remains to be seen if controversies associated with Twitter and Facebook will reduce that number or send people to other sites.)

We were surprised to know that 7 million blog posts get published every day, though it’s not clear exactly what counts as a blog and if some news items (or posts that people treat as news) get counted in this. What we do know is that there are around 198.4 billion websites, so people have plenty to choose from.

Who has the highest number of internet useres

Denmark, Iceland, the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar have the highest “internet penetration” rates in the world. In fact, over 98% of the people in these countries have internet access (and the average internet speed in the UAE is a whopping 110.90 Mbps!). However, China has the most number of internet users.

North Korea, unsurprisingly, has the least number of internet users.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Internet Statistics 2023: Facts You Need-to-Know” — First Site Guide

WTF Fun Fact 13142 – Use of Telemedicine in the U.S.

Telemedicine use skyrocketed during the pandemic, and now it seems poised to become a regular part of the healthcare landscape. A CDC report from October 2022 revealed just how much Americans relied on telemedicine in the previous year.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of electronic means (telephones, text messages, voice and video chats, etc.) to deliver healthcare to patients remotely. While it may occasionally involve in-office testing, most of the doctor-patient relationship takes place over a device like a phone or a computer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic State of Emergency, the U.S. expanded legislation to allow more providers to deliver a broader range of care options via telemedicine. Healthcare providers had been relatively limited in what they could do for patients without seeing them in person before this.

A CDC report using 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data to assess the use of telemedicine provided interesting insight into just how many Americans over age 18 took advantage of what it had to offer in the second year of the pandemic.

The rise of telemedicine use

In 2021, 37% of American adults reported using telemedicine in the previous 12 months.

The report also found that the older people were, the more likely they were to use it. On some level, that makes sense since older people are more vulnerable to severe cases of COVID. However, it hasn’t often been the case that technology use increases with age in the past.

Women were also more likely to use telemedicine. 42% of women said they used it in 2021, compared to 31.7% of men. (However, women are more likely to see doctors than men.)

Other statistics

Adults in the U.S. West were the most likely to use telemedicine, and those in the Midwest were the least likely.

Telemedicine use increased with patients’ urbanization level – those living in large metropolitan areas were more likely to use it. This is interesting because the technology was initially used to reach those who lived far from hospitals and clinics. However, during the pandemic, people in urban areas may have been more reluctant to head to hospitals and seek care due to crowded public transportation and waiting rooms.

Those with a GED or higher education level were also more likely to get on the phone or computer to “visit” their doctor. As education levels go up, so does the use of this technology.

And while those with a below-average or average income are equally likely to engage with healthcare providers electronically, its use increases among those with higher incomes.

It appears that if telemedicine is going to be part of the future of medicine, it will be important to ensure a broader range of people have access to it and knowledge about its benefits.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Telemedicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2021” —

WTF Fun Fact 13115 – Antarctica Tinder Match

Online dating is old hat by now. And it’s a good thing too, because where else are you supposed to meet people in Antarctica? It turns out that in 2014, the first Antarctica Tinder match took place.

The Antarctic Tinder match-up

Picture it – a December evening at the McMurdo Station. You’re an American scientist wondering what to do that night in 2014. Do you watch the rebooted Hawaii Five 0 just to think about what might have been if you had just picked your research topic a little more strategically? Or do you hop on Tinder, and wonder what on Earth might show up?

If you’re an unnamed scientist who agreed to be interviewed on the match but refused to reveal his name because of the trouble you might get in for using the rare broadband access to access a booty call, then the answer is the latter.

And you’d have gotten a match!

Who’s on Tinder in Antarctica?

The scientists told The Cut that he matched with a female traveling somewhere in the area.

“She was actually in her tent in the Dry Valleys when we matched,” said the scientist…“She was quite literally camping in Antarctica, went on Tinder, and found me. It’s mind-blowing.”

What’s the chance of two people trying to find love on Tinder in the tundra of Antarctica on the same December night?

Slim. But not none.

No profiles showed up for the scientist at first, but he wasn’t deterred. After all, he worked in a field camp that was a 45-minute helicopter ride away from any base station. When he expanded his radius, he got the hit. It seems they both swiped right.

Was this the first-ever Tinder hit in Antarctica? Well, it may sound ridiculous, but no one knows. The company doesn’t keep statistics on that particular area. However, according to The Cut, “the company agreed that this was probably the first match on the continent.”

How does it all end?

While we’ll likely never know anything else about the couple, the scientist told The Cut that the paid did meet briefly on the day the woman was leaving Antarctica.

“I have yet to become the first Tinder hookup in Antarctic history,” he said at the time. “But she is actually coming back, and we may overlap. There’s still hope.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Tinder Makes Its First Match in Antarctica” — The Cut

WTF Fun Fact 13107 – Google Backrub

You may know part of the the story of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. They met on a tour of Stanford, when Brin was showing prospective grad student Page around. While they didn’t agree on anything at first, they eventually became friends and business partners and invented Google. Except there was a step before Google – Backrub.

From Backrub to Google

According to Google’s own page on their history, the men wanted to build “a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web. They called this search engine Backrub.”

So…eww. Can you imagine saying, “I don’t know, I’ll need to backrub that information?”

We don’t know the precise details about why they changed the name. But we know how the word Google came to be.

“The name was a play on the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros and aptly reflected Larry and Sergey’s mission ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.'”

Google was a big deal in the academic community at first. Then it caught the eye of Silicon Valley investors in the late 90s.

“In August 1998, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote Larry and Sergey a check for $100,000, and Google Inc. was officially born. With this investment, the newly incorporated team made the upgrade from the dorms to their first office: a garage in suburban Menlo Park, California, owned by Susan Wojcicki (employee #16 and now CEO of YouTube). Clunky desktop computers, a ping pong table, and bright blue carpet set the scene for those early days and late nights.”

Google grows

Keeping things useful but unconventional was the duos brand style. Do you remember the first Google Doodle in 1998? It was a stick figure inside the logo telling everyone the staff was off-site attending Burning Man.

How about their motto? “Don’t be evil.”

In any case, things are now a far cry from the days of Backrub.  WTF fun facts

Source: “From the garage to the Googleplex” — Google

WTF Fun Fact 13071 – The Man Who Invented Pop-Up Ads

Ethan Zuckerman is the man who invented pop-up ads. And he’s very sorry he did.

Pop-ups pay the bills

Zuckerman wrote a long apology to the world in The Atlantic in 2014 (cited below). In it, he explained that from 1994-7 he worked for a website that needed a creative new revenue stream:

“At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content.”

Of pop-up ads, Zuckerman admits “I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.”

The best intentions of the man who invented pop-up ads

Creating better, more targeted ads required better surveillance of web users’ behaviors. Specifically, “tracking users’ mobile devices as they move through the physical world, assembling more complex user profiles by trading information between data brokers.”

The more a business relies on ads for income, the more they need people to see those ads. The ads become more invasive as a result. Enter pop-ups.

While the man who invented pop-up ads regrets his creation, he also notes that there’s no other way to offer the free services of the Internet without some sort of advertising.

People aren’t willing to pay for services like social media, for example. As a result, the ads we see have to be visible and valuable – and that means targeting us with things the algorithm knows we’re interested in and making sure we see the ads by forcing us to click through them in order to get to the content we want to see at the moment.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Internet’s Original Sin” — The Atlantic