The History of Trivia (the Trivia Behind Trivia)
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Published on Jul 15, 2012
Download the free trivia app at http://bit.ly/trivialapp. Sources/more info at http://bit.ly/R6njnG and http://bit.ly/NvPWIq. Friend me on Facebook http://on.fb.me/gCSs8F. For business/press inquiries only: jw(at)jeremiahjw(dot)com. Music: Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No 3.
Can you imagine a world without trivia? Trivia is such an integral part of today's television programming, our most popular games, and our extracurricular activities at school that it seems like it must have been around forever. However, as late as 100 years ago, trivia in its current form didn't even exist. Think you know it all? Well, let's explore the Trivia behind Trivia.
The first known use of the word "trivial" in English dates back to 1589, although an earlier use of "Trivium" in the mid 1400's may have some influence on the modern use of the word. "Trivium", in this case, was referring to the study of the Liberal Arts, and meant "insignificance" in the sense that certain facts were viewed to be "only of interest to a few." It took a few hundred years until we started using trivia in the modern sense and it wasn't until the 1900s that we started seeing people relate the word trivia, as we do today, with small factoids of information.
In the 1950s, as televisions became more commonplace, the demand for unique programming exploded and quiz shows shot onto the scene. Programs such as Dotto, The $64,000 Question, and Twenty One quickly became a staple of primetime TV. The quiz based game shows grew in popularity until it was revealed in the late 1950s that contestants of these shows had secretly been given assistance by the producers to "rig" the outcome. The Quiz Show Scandal, as it was called, resulted in quiz shows basically disappearing from prime time American television for decades.
While the shows faded in the 1960's, America's love of trivia and quiz contests did not. The first quiz bowl competitions were organized by Columbia University students Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsk. In 1966, Dan and Ed went on to write the first book to feature tidbits of random, but interesting information, and appropriately called it "Trivia". The popularity of the book landed it a spot on the New York Times best seller's list, and it was the first of many trivia books to hit the market in the late 60's and early 70's.
In 1979, the success of the books, and growing demand for all things trivia, inspired Canadian trivia fans Scott Abbott and Chris Haney to create a board game that rewarded players with diverse general knowledge of topics ranging from sports to pop culture. That game, Trivial Pursuit, would go on to become one of the most popular board games of all time. To date, Trivial Pursuit has sold more than 100Million copies and has been played by an estimated 1 Billion people worldwide, and was dubbed as "the biggest phenomenon in game history" by Time magazine.
Seeing the popularity of the board game, television producer Merv Griffin decided to bring back a trivia related game show that was originally released in 1964, but cancelled several years later. The revamped version of Jeopardy debuted in 1984 with a new host, Alex Trebek. Still going strong almost 30 years later, Jeopardy is one of the longest running, most successful game shows of all time. In recent years, Jeopardy has captured headlines and allowed trivia to come full circle to its roots as former high school quiz bowl champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter parlayed their trivia expertise into more than $3,000,000 each in winnings.
In the late 90's and early 2000's, trivia's popularity on TV exploded once again as often more than 20,000,000 people per night tuned into a new wave of primetime, trivia based games such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Today, trivia is more popular than ever with hundreds of thousands of students across the world involved in quiz bowl like competitions and adults participating in events such as the popular pub quiz tournaments. Perhaps the greatest catalyst for trivia's surge in popularity has been the internet. Information that was previously trapped in the pages of expensive encyclopedia volumes is now freely available to anyone with a computer. The internet has also allowed casual and social gaming to follow in the footsteps of classic trivia board and parlor games, and Iphone apps such as Trivi.al appear poised to make sure trivia remains fun and relevant for generations to come.
Now, you know the Trivia of Trivia, so go out and impress your friends with all your newly acquired knowledge.
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