Rhodri Marsden's Interesting Objects: The Trivial Pursuit wedge


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The Independent Tech

* This weekend 35 years ago, Scott Abbott, a sports journalist for the Canadian Press, challenged his friend Chris Haney, a picture editor for the Montreal Gazette, to a game of Scrabble. Haney arrived at Abbott's house with a Scrabble set which, he calculated, was the sixth he'd bought, thanks to repeatedly losing tiles. An exasperated Haney suggested they invent their own game. "How about trivia?" suggested Abbott. One hour later, over a couple of beers, they'd designed the six-spoked wheel of Trivial Pursuit.

* Haney's nickname, for reasons unclear, was 'The Horn'. They formed a company, Horn Abbot, and set about raising funds, although Haney talked his mother out of investing for fear it would lead to nothing. A bank manager in St Catherine's, Ontario, lent them sufficient to take the game forward, and on 10 November 1981 the game was patented. By 1984 it was selling 20m copies a year.

* The first edition contained two incorrect answers. Otto Titzling was not, in fact, the inventor of the bra (that was an urban myth propagated by New Zealand humourist Wallace Reyburn) and Philip was not the first name of TV detective Columbo. That fact had been placed in a book some years earlier by trivia expert Fred L Worth in order to catch anyone who 'stole' his trivia facts. He presented Haney and Abbott with a $300m lawsuit, but lost.

* During Christmas 1983, when the game couldn't be supplied fast enough to Canadian stores, Haney predicted a "trivia empire" – and he wasn't wrong; by the time of his death in 2010 the game had generated $1bn in sales, appeared in 40 different versions and, arguably, had spawned a global network of pub-quizzing trivia experts. And the coloured wedges? They remain one of the most brilliantly simple scoring systems ever devised.