This Week in Awesome History Vol. 13

From protests to crazy violent video games, it's yet another historic week.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

October 17th, 1968: Black athletes protest at Olympics

On this day in 1968 Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze-medallists in the 200m at the Olympic games in Mexico, raised their hands in unison during the victory ceremony as the American National Anthem played, silently demonstrating against racial discrimination of black people in the United States.

Smith and Carlos’ protest saw them being sent back to the US, after a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee described their actions as "a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit."

Smith and Carlos’ personal lives would suffer dramatically as a result of the protest, with both struggling to find work after they returned home from Mexico. Smith and his wife divorced, Carlos’ wife committed suicide, and both were terrified of violent repercussions from white America; Carlos’ dog was killed and left on his porch.

Their protest showed the inherently racist attitude of the Olympic committee and forced the system to change, with the Olympic Project for Human Rights (which Smith and Carlos were figurehead members of) calling for the employment of black coaches and officials.


October 18, 1958: First ever videogame is shown

On this day in 58 Tennis for Two was first shown, invented by scientist William Higinbotham as a way to entertain guests at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s visitor day.

It is now widely considered to be the first videogame ever made, although many claim that A.S. Douglas’ ’52 OXO game has now taken that honour.


October 21st, 1967: 100,000 protest outside the Pentagon

On this day in ’67 100,000 protesters marched on the Pentagon, calling for an end to the Vietnam War. This was one of the first huge-scale anti-war protests, echoed afterwards by demonstrations in Japan and Western Europe.

The protesters included everyone from Professors and War Veterans, to radicals and hippies. Many waved the red, blue and gold flags of the Viet Cong as they surrounded the military base until October 23rd. During the protest 683 people were arrested, including novelist Norman Mailer and United Press International reporters.


October 21st, 1998: GameBoy Color is released

The wallets of parents worldwide were pilfered on this day in ’98, as Nintendo’s GameBoy Color was released. Although they were released for the original GameBoy, the Color’s biggest claim to fame was Pokémon Red & Blue, which propelled the Pokémon franchise to the forefront of popular culture, getting kids engrossed in a product that encompassed not just videogames but television, trading cards, stickers and action figures, too.


October 22nd, 1797: First ever parachute jump

On this day in 1797 Andre-Jacques Garnerin was the first man to perform a parachute jump, leaping from a hydrogen balloon over 3000 feet above Paris.

The idea of the parachute was first conceived by Leonardo da Vinci, but Garnerin was the first to take the idea and run/jump with it. He ascended 3,200 feet in the hot air balloon with the attached parachute before severing the rope between the two, and the lack of an air vent in the prototype caused him to fall almost disastrously fast in the descent. Fortunately he landed safely half a mile from the balloons takeoff site.

 Garnerin later died in 1823 while testing a new parachute.


October 22, 2001: Grand Theft Auto III is released

On this day in 2001 Rockstar released the hugely controversial Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2. Its highly violent and sexual content earned it an “M” rating by the ESRB, and forced Wal-Mart to introduce a system whereby potentially underage customers were asked to show proof of age before purchasing it.

The game was blamed for the deaths of Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede, two young people shot by teens who were said to have been influenced by GTA III’s violent content.

Regardless (or perhaps because of) the controversy surrounding it, GTA III went on to become an unexpected smash hit for the PS2, becoming the #1 selling video game of 2001 in the United States and making thousands upon thousands of desensitised 15-year-olds attempt to convince their parents to buy it for them.

It currently stands side-by-side with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 as the highest ranked game in PlayStation 2 history, with an average review score of 97%.