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The History of the Sudoku Number Puzzle Game

Sudoku is one of the most addictive number puzzle games to hit the puzzle world. Millions of people from all walks of like have caught up with the Sudoku puzzle game in every form and version that exists today. People can play this by themselves, or against another person in a timed game. So you have to ask… what is this Sudoku game anyway? Sudoku was invented in 1979 by a 74–year old retired architect named Howard Garnes, who was also a freelance puzzle maker. It was a puzzle that had a grid that was partially filled with numbers. The solver had to fill in the rest of the squares with the right combination of numbers.

The game first appeared on the New York publication Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games under the name Number Place. Number Place was introduced in Japan in April 1984 by the Nikoli company in its paper, the Monthly Nikolist. Kaji Maki, Nikoli’s president, named the game “Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru”, meaning the number must be single, or the number must occur only once. Later, the name was abbreviated to Sudoku. In 1986, two innovations to the game were introduced by Nikoli: a) a maximum of 32 numbers will be given in each puzzle; and b) the numbers were distributed in rotationally balanced squares.

These innovations made Sudoku very popular with puzzle solvers. Though Sudoku is currently published in almost all mainstream publications in Japan, like the Asahi Shimbun, Nikoli has the copyright to the name Sudoku. Due to the similarity of the logic behind Sudoku and the legendary Rubik’s Cube, Sudoku was dubbed as “The 21st Century Rubik’s Cube”. The first computer version of Sudoku was Digit Hunt, created by Loadstar/Softdisk Publishing and released on the Commodore 64 console platform in 1989. Another running version that still exists is Single Number, which was created by Yoshimitsu Kanai. Single Number is a computerized puzzle generator that first appeared in 1995 for the Apple Macintosh PC platform. A PDA version appeared in 1996, and the most recent version for the Mac OS–X appeared just last 2005. Dell Magazines still publishes Number Place. But it has added two new Sudoku magazines, Original Sudoku, which highlights the original version of Number Place, and Extreme Sudoku, which is a more difficult version of the original game. Kappa publications prints the Nikoli Sudoku as Squared Away in GAMES Magazine.

Various American newspapers like The Boston Globe, The Examiner, The New York Post, and USA Today also print daily puzzles of Squared Away. Though Sudoku was very popular in Japan and the USA before, Europe virtually had no idea that the game existed. But thanks to a retired Hong Kong judge, Wayne Gould, Europe would also catch the Sudoku fever. Gould saw a partially completed Sudoku puzzle in a Japanese bookstore in 1997. He bought the book, and created a computer program that could generate puzzles quickly and easily, developing it over 6 years in Pappocom, his software company. Then, he promoted Sudoku to the British newspaper, The Times, with knowledge regarding its history of publishing puzzles. On November 12, 2004, the first Su Doku puzzle was introduced to the Britons. Pappocom’s puzzles are being printed daily by The Times since that day. Various British versions of Sudoku then started popping up. There was Codenumber, The Daily Mail’s version, which was derived from Michael Mepham’s puzzles, and first printed on January 19, 2005.

5 Sudoku puzzles were first printed by The Daily Telegraph of Sydney last May 20, 2005. And when the British Telegraph introduced Sudoku daily on its front pages, starting last February 23, 2005, other British newspapers started to take real interest in the game. Due to the popularity of the game, The Times published the first Sudoku book to gain its edge over competitors. Due to its popularity, Sudoku was dubbed as 2005’s "fastest growing puzzle in the world". Sudoku conquered not only the print media, but also broadcast and electronic media! Channel 4 introduced the first TV Sudoku game last July 2005 when it included daily Sudoku puzzles in its Teletext service. The Radio Times, BBC’s program guide, started featuring Super Sudoku, a weekly puzzle game last August 2, 2005. Dutch mobile phone company Mobile Excellence International also released the first mobile phone version of Sudoku last September 2005 in Europe. Sky One also produced the first Sudoku TV show, Sudoku Live, which started airing last July 1, 2005. Hosted by Carol Vorderman, Sudoku Live featured 9 teams composed of 9 players per team, representing different geographical regions, that had to solve the show’s puzzle. Each team had a celebrity member and 8 ordinary citizens.

While the studio version was being played, home viewers had their own interactive version to play with. CBS started the broadcasting stories regarding Sudoku, including on the Early Show last summer 2005, and on the CBS Evening News last October 26, 2005. The US TV series HOUSE M. also showed Dr. House solving a Sudoku puzzle during the December 13, 2005 episode. Due to its addictive nature, Sudoku was banned on the set due to the cast constantly playing it. Now, the Internet is teeming with millions of Sudoku versions, both online and offline, free and purchasable. With the billions of unique puzzles generated by computer programs, 2 to 4 websites will not bore a Sudoku addict for a quite a long time.


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