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The Wizard of Oz 71st anniversary: Does Google hate round numbers?

The Wizard of Oz gets its own Google doodle. But isn't the search engine late to the party?

By / August 12, 2010

The Wizard of Oz got a very Google birthday present in honor of the film's 71st anniversary.

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This morning's The Wizard of Oz Google doodle shows once again that the search engine seems to hate round numbers.

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The charming banner shows the gang – and Toto, too – skipping down the yellow-brick road toward the Emerald City. It's another great illustration by the website that brought you visual salutes to composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, science heavy-weight Isaac Newton, and novelist H.G. Wells.

But why did Google choose the movie's 71st birthday? Most people celebrate round-number anniversaries. Seventieth would make sense. As would 75th.

IN PICTURES: Google's Doodles

Last year, the film reemerged in a newly remastered form. This 70th-anniversary special brought the Judy Garland classic back to movie theaters for a historic showing. Now, Google is throwing its own munchkin celebration 12 months later.

These off-year commemorations seem to be the norm for Google. Vivaldi's doodle came on what would have been his 332nd birthday. Newton received his as a 367th birthday present. Wells got the doodle treatment on a 143rd birthday. What gives?

(To be fair, Google does pick some round numbers. Pac-man's 30th anniversary comes to mind.)

Don't think we're ungrateful. We get a big kick out of Google's novelty banners. And you, the readers, clearly love them. The Monitor got more than 200 comments on the E.C. Segar Google doodle. But Google has all of human history to choose from. Why not wait four years for Oz's 75 anniversary? Or, the search engine could have put up this banner last May, when the book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" turned 110.

Also, there are plenty of other remarkable birthdays in August with nice, round numbers. Alfred Hitchcock would have turned 110 tomorrow. But Google already celebrated the movie director – on his 103rd birthday. Neil Armstrong, first person to step foot on the moon, turned 80 last week. Jazz great Count Basie's 105th birthday is later this month, as are German author Johann von Goethe's 260th and (perhaps most important) rock'n'roller Gene Simmons's 60th.

What do you think? Is Google picking off-years on purpose – better to buck the trend and fight the mathematical tyranny of round numbers? Does the Web company fear that it might not be around in four years – pushed aside by the relentless march of time and technology? Or, does Google just not care – they'll do what they want, when they want? Share your thoughts in the comments.

IN PICTURES: Google's Doodles

[Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated the age of the book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." It turned 110 years old in May.]

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