Even the Beeb Gets the Pain In the Diodes Down My Left Side All Wrong

I loved seeing an article on the Beeb devoted to the 30th Anniversary of the debut of Douglas Adams’ radio show.

I was kind of appalled, though, to see that the writer managed to say this bit of nonsense about the number 42:

“Ever since, speculation has been rife as to what Adams meant. There is the “paperback line theory” – 42 apparently being the average number of lines on the page of a paperback book. Was Adams paying homage to the medium of his success?”

Um, hello? The radio series came before the books, which were an adaptation of the radio series — you know, that thing whose anniversary we’re celebrating, as stated at the beginning of the article? 42 couldn’t possibly have alluded to the success of the paperback book, which came long after the radio series had been written, aired and seen success. Unless, of course, Adams wrote it in the Starship Heart of Gold. Then maybe in one of those moments when everything was happening at once and his head was sprouting a penguin beak he noticed the books and made this astounding observation.

You’ll see in the comments that there’s a guy named Peter Stilliard who gets it right:

“Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed but he rejected them all. On 3 November 1993 he gave an answer on alt.fan.douglas-adams: ‘The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’. I typed it out. End of story.’ “

If only the Beeb had done such good research on Adams before writing about him. I’m sure that Adams would have loved that, despite the journalistic mangling, his true fans have not forgotten him.

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