The history of Sudoku puzzles is puzzling in itself. The game originated from Switzerland but traveled to America via Japan. However, the entire concept derives from a nearly 4000-years-old, ancient Chinese puzzle, Magic Squares. Since then, Sudoku has come a really long way. But, you won’t be a true Sudoku player if you precisely don’t know what happened when!
When mythical Emperor, Yu the Great, noticed a sacred tortoise emerging from River Lo, it had a three-by-three square inscribed on its underside, which was said to have supernatural powers to bring in good fortune and keep the evil eyes away. This image was printed, and it reached Europe (from China via Arabs), where engraver Albrecht Durer constructed the 4×4 Magic Square in the 14th century.
The Swiss Connection – Latin Squares
Leonhard Euler, a great Swizz mathematician, is the man chiefly credited for the creation of the Sudoku puzzle in 1783. However, he actually developed Latin Squares replacing the rules of Magic Squares with permutations. At that time, it was more of a dissertation than a puzzle, but it certainly proved to be the foundational block for Sudoku.
Journey to America
From 1890 to 1920, various French magazine publishers started experimenting with the Magic Square puzzle, some were math-based, and a few others were logic-based. But, it took around 50 years for these puzzles to mark a significant place for themselves.
Sudoku got introduced by Howard Garnes in the American Dell magazine, where it gathered quite a lot of attention. It was at this time that the rules of the gameplay changed – the grid got divided into nine 3×3 smaller sub-squares along with the rows and columns, each having a unique occurrence of digits 1 to 9. Howard Garnes named it as Number Place, and the first published record of this game is in 1979.
Over to Japan
The final transition took place in Japan after the death of Howard Garnes when Nikoli introduced Number Place as Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru, meaning the numbers must occur once only, to the Japanese audience. Thankfully, the name was abbreviated to 数独, meaning Su Doku as per the western scripts. It gained traction in Japan since number crosswords would do well on any language which added onto the appeal of this game.
Viral Fame in the West
Wayne Gould rediscovered the game at a Japanese bookstore in 1997 and dedicated his next six years into developing a program that produced free Sudoku puzzle games. It was in 2004 that Sudoku attracted massive attention and became more accessible. The Times in London and The Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire brought it up as a weekly newspaper puzzle game.
Fast forward to today, you name it, and it’s there – Sudoku paper puzzles, books, magazines, websites, free Sudoku puzzle games as mobile apps, and even worldwide championships. It also makes up a classic meme material where people humorously call Sudoku as a mental virus that spreads from person to the other sweeping across national borders. But, whatever people may call it, everyone knows Sudoku isn’t just a fad that would go away with time – it’s here to stay and grow, especially since the advent of technology that makes its success unmatchable.