History Of Sudoku - Electronic Puzzles

early days 1783 - 1979

The history of soduko (Japanese: sūdoku) begins with the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler who in 1783 invented Latin Squares - N x N grids which have all numbers from 1 to N appearing exactly once in each row and column.

Soduko puzzles as we know them today were first published in 1979, Pencil Puzzles and Word Games magazine under the title "Number Place" by Dell Magazines. Howard Garns, a puzzle designer, took Euler’s Latin Square concept and applied it to a 9 x 9 grid with the addition of nine 3 x 3 sub - grids, or boxes, each containing all numbers from 1 to 9.

So, the soduko concept was not invented in Japan as many people may believe, but the name soduko was.

japan 1984 - current day

The puzzle was introduced in Japan by Nikoli in the paper Monthly Nikolist in April 1984 as "Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru (数字は独身に限る)", which can be translated as "the numbers must be single" or "the numbers must occur only once" (独身 literally means "single; celibate; unmarried"). The puzzle was named by Kaji Maki (鍜治 真起), the president of Nikoli. At a later date, the name was abbreviated to Sudoku (数独, pronounced sue-do-koo; sū = number, doku = single); it is a common practice in Japanese to take only the first kanji of compound words to form a shorter version.

In 1986, Nikoli introduced two innovations which guaranteed the popularity of the puzzle: the number of givens was restricted to no more than 30 and puzzles became "symmetrical" (meaning the givens were distributed in rotationally symmetric cells). It is now published in mainstream Japanese periodicals, such as the Asahi Shimbun.

In 1989, Softdisk Publishing published DigitHunt on the Commodore 64, which was apparently the first home computer version of Sudoku. At least one publisher still uses that title.

Today there are more than 600,000 copies of soduko magazines published solely in Japan every month. In contrast, during all that time hardly anyone in Europe knew or paid any attention to the soduko puzzles. Today the craze is sweeping Europe and gaining popularity in the United States.

sudoku craze in europe

At the end of 2004 Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge as well as a puzzle fan and a computer programmer, visited London trying to convince the editors of The Times to publish soduko puzzles. Gould, that had written a computer program which generates soduko puzzles of different difficulty levels, demanded no money for the puzzles. The Times decided to give it a try and on November 12, 2004 launched their first soduko puzzle.

The publishing of soduko in the London Times was just the beginning of an enormous phenomenon which swiftly spread all over Britain and its affiliate countries of Australia and New Zealand. Three days later The Daily Mail began publishing soduko puzzles titled as "Codenumber". The Daily Telegraph of Sydney followed on 20 May 2005.

But that was not it. In July 2005 Channel 4 included a daily soduko game in their Teletext service and Sky One launched the world's largest soduko puzzle – a 275 foot (84 meter) square puzzle, carved in the side of a hill in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol. The BBC Radio 4's Today began reading numbers aloud in the first soduko radio version. Famous British celebrities as Big Brother's Jade Goody and Carol Vorderman, that her book How to do soduko is the best-selling book in the country, have testified to its benefits as a mental workout. Even the Teachers magazine which is backed by the government recommended soduko as brain exercise in classrooms and suggestions have been made that soduko solving is capable of slowing the progression of brain disorder conditions such as Alzheimer's.

Today there are soduko clubs, chat rooms, strategy books, videos, card games, competitions and even a soduko game show. Soduko has also sprung up in newspapers all over the world and is commonly described in the world media as "the Rubik's cube of the 21st century" and as the "fastest growing puzzle in the world".