Sunday, 26 February 2006

Mousetrap - 42

This is forty-second edition of this column. Reason enough to pay tribute to Douglas Adams, the man who made that number famous.

The man
Douglas Noel Adams, known to his legions of devoted fans as “DNA,” died in 2001, of a sudden heart attack. He was just 49. Perhaps best known for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, he was also the creator of Dirk Gently, the holistic detective, and wrote a number of non-fiction works as well. The Hitchhiker series started as a radio show, went on to become a hit series of novels, a TV show, and now also a movie. An early adopter and ardent proponent of technology (What are are the benefits of speaking to your fans via email? “It's quicker, easier and involves less licking.”), he was also a talented amateur musician (high point: playing a set with Pink Floyd) and designed a game based on the HHGG books. Another immortal quote: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Don’t Panic
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Maintained by the newsgroup, this is the definitive FAQ for DNA’s life, times and oeuvre. Lots of links to other sites, and a great starting point to a DNA voyage.

Life, the Universe and Everything
Defining social networking and online community before the terms became fashionable, h2g2 reflects the spirit of the Web as it was originally conceived: participative, collaborative and free. A simple concept: “researchers” from all over the world put in their takes on “life, the universe and everything.” Like the fictional Guide, this one has the words “Don’t Panic” in large letters right at the top. Set up by DNA himself, the site was later bought by the BBC (and is now also available on, and has continued to grow. Worth many hours of your time.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Remember the text-based games of the late 80s and early 90s? No VR, 3D graphics, surround sound and force feedbac, just a black screen, a description of scenario, and you had to type your way through problems and situations with simple instructions. Fiendishly difficult, Hitchhiker was probably the best-known of the lot. You can find the original game on some abandonware sites, or play this java-based version (where, unfortunately, you can’t save games and continue later). Alternatively, you can try the graphically prettied up version at the BBC.


This week’s blog

Another chance to see
DNA was an environmentalist. In the eighties, he did a BBC radio series called Last Chance to See where he and Mark Carwardine travelled the world to see various endangered species. DNA also wrote a book by the same name based on the series. This blogger, some fifteen years later, thought, “So many of the fascinating creatures they had described were teetering on the very brink of extinction back in the late 1980s, one had to wonder how they were doing now, some 15 years later.” And so, Another Chance to See was born.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 26th February, 2006.

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