September 12: Chocolate Milkshake Day, National Video Games Day, Programmer’s Day

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Chocolate Milkshake Day

Chocolate milkshakes bring back memories of childhood, before we were all watching our waistlines and avoiding empty calories. But today we get a reprieve from such adult worries because it's "Chocolate Milkshake Day!"

Although milkshakes are part of our childhood, they actually had adult origins. The first milkshakes were a kind of alcoholic eggnog, first appearing in print around 1885. In addition to tasting great, they were said to have also served medicinal purposes.

By 1900 they were enjoyed purely for refreshment, and without the alcohol, but it wasn't until 1922 that they made their giant leap into widespread popularity. That's when Ivar "Pop" Coulson -- a Walgreens employee -- added two scoops of ice cream to a regular malted milk drink. The idea spread like wildfire.

National Video Games Day

The first commercially available video game was called "Odyssey," and premiered in 1972. It came complete with two sizes of colored Mylar sheets that stuck to your television screen to represent the playing fields. Needless to say, we've come a long way in the last 40 years!

Video game sales in the U.S. alone were a whopping $17 billion in 2011 with "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" topping the sales charts. Even though that amount was down 8 percent from 2010, that's still a lot of bing-bang-boom.

You can celebrate "National Video Games Day" by hosting a video game tournament and challenging all your friends and neighbors to a fight-to-the-death battle. Or better yet, share this video showing the original video game inventor, Ralph Baer, playing an early version of ping-pong with his associate, Bill Harrison.

Programmer's Day

The 256th day of each year is celebrated as "Programmer's Day." That would normally fall on September 13, but because 2012 is a leap year, this year it falls on September 12. The number 256 is two to the eighth power, and represents the number of distinct values that can be represented with an eight-bit byte. If that confuses you, you're not alone. But to programmers, that's a very significant number!

The first major computer language -- FORTRAN -- appeared in 1957. It was short for "Formula Translating System." Although it is a very limited language by today's standards, it set the stage for many more complicated languages and served as the skeleton for more complex mathematical coding functions.

Why not celebrate by taking your favorite programmer out to lunch, or at least cheer him on. "Shift to the left, shift to the right! Pop up, push down, byte, byte, byte!"

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