Prototype And Final Mazes, Side-By-Side
Check out the maze from designer Toru Iwatani’s recently-divulged Pac-Man concept sketches, side-by-side with the final arcade version:
Arcade classic Pac-Man and inventor Iwatani's concept sketch thereof.
They’re different! Why? As the story goes, after one too many blind Tokyo alleys, Iwatani expunged dead ends from the prototype. A fortuitous accident in modulo-28 space created the tunnels. And the more expansive overall feel of the final maze? The details are hazy, but my sources whisper something about a retreat to the American Southwest. And peyote.
Of course, I made the last paragraph up, but whatever happened, thank you lucky star! For without Pac-Man’s addictive gameplay – amplified by the improved maze, no doubt – I might have never met his girlfriend: Ms. Pac-Man.
Oh, Ms. Pac-Man, and the crazy bowling alley days that we spent together! To preserve those precious memories, I shall model my labyrinthine countryside manor after her immaculate first level. Every detail will be included, from the power pellets and food on the floor to the roaming fruit and ghosts!
Except for Blinky. That dude’s a flippin’ bastard.
Wokka wokka wokka wokka wokka…
A Street Surrounded By LA's Superhighways
Over at the excellent Twelve Mile Circle, Tom Howder recently wondered: where’s the smallest chunk of occupied land completely surrounded by Interstate highway? Well, if “occupied” means “residential,” the answer might be Wright Street, a stubby cul-de-sac tucked inside the looping ramps of LA’s Harbor-Santa Monica Freeway interchange:
Wright Street (at bottom) and the Harbor-Santa Monica Freeway Interchange, 1964.
Back in 1884, Wright Street was just another new road on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Bungalows quickly filled its freshly-surveyed lots, and as the city grew, apartments and commercial buildings soon followed. In 1954, California’s first superhighway, the Harbor Freeway, passed two hundred feet westward, and a scant seven years later, the Santa Monica Freeway encroached from the east. Construction began on the connecting ramps, and Wright winced as road workers halved its length, blocked off one end, and encircled it with concrete pillars topped by pavement.
An Unexpected Discovery At Legoland
Mickey and Shamu hog most of the attention, but the discerning Bay Area six-year-old has another reason to travel to southern California: the sleeper theme park known as Legoland! So, to it, my family unit went on a sunny spring morning a few days ago…
The following night, children and grown-ups alike dreamt of Miniland: the exquisite collection of urban mockups, clad in 20-million Lego blocks, that anchors the park at its center. Within, you’ll find Washington D.C. and its monuments, a kid-friendly Bourbon Street sans the boobies and barfing, New York’s Empire State Building, and the Lilliputian City of San Francisco:
Part of Miniland's San Francisco: Pier 39 in the foreground, skyline to the upper right, and giants at left.
One-Half-Million Corporate Retail Locations
Inspired by Logorama – the incredible Oscar-winning animated short – we decided to go big, plunged into AggData’s geolocated business database, identified 330 retail chain corporations, extracted the latitudes and longitudes of each of their U.S. stores, and mapped them, one per dot:
America In Chains
That’s 500,000 individual retail establishments in all: thirty to each public library, fifteen per post office, and one for every 6.2 square miles and 600 souls in the Lower 48!
Graphs Of Historical Trends In Popular Baby Names
Them young’uns have different names than they used to! Stateside, a century ago, you couldn’t spit without hitting a John, William, or Mary. My grade school literally brimmed with Jasons and Jennifers. But nowadays, at the playground, more than anything else, you’ll hear Ethan, Jacob, Emma, and Isabella.
Which is fine by me – I like the new names. However, I wonder: did each bygone moniker selflessly pass the baton to the next generation? Lose a back-alley scrap with a gang of unsavory whippersnappers? Or simply succumb to the inexorable march of time?
Our answer comes from the Social Security Administration, which mined their archives to produce an extensive online list of popular baby names for each year from 1880 onwards. It’s tempting to be cynical about the government, but in this case, your tax dollars have worked quite wonderfully!
From the SSA data, we extracted the historically most-often-bestowed first names, one-hundred-and-fifteen per gender, and then charted their relative ratios by year, arranged with the older towards top and bottom and newer in the middle.
Let’s take a gander at the boys graph first, and be sure to click to see it big:
Popular U.S. Boys Names, Ratio By Year Given, 1880-2008