In celebration of Frank Zamboni’s 112th birthday, Google users can virtually operate the ice resurfacing machine on the site for themselves. The search engine giant’s homepage features a simple 8-bit video game and animation in which users get to drive a Zamboni across the screen using their arrow keys.
After pressing the “play” button on the screen, a character on ice skates glides across the Google Doodle, leaving marks and scratches across the ice for zamboni to clear. The patterns get increasingly difficult to remove as the game progresses, and a counter at the bottom of the game portion of the screen keeps track of how many moves it takes to clear the level.
Frank Zamboni grew up in the Western United States, where he began building his machine that would become an essential part of hockey and ice skating culture. He was born in Utah in 1901 and moved to California in 1920, where his older brother’s auto repair business was located. According to Frank’s official biography, the family switched to the refrigeration business and built an ice skating rink in Paramount, Calif., in 1939.
Before the Zamboni was invented, workers would drive a tractor across the ice with a scraper attached to the back to refresh the ice. The resurfacing process, which required workers to gather ice shavings and wipe away the dirty water, took more than an hour. This prompted Frank to begin researching alternatives to this method in 1942.
In 1947 a prototype for the modern Zamboni was developed, but it took an additional two years before it could adequately clear ice from a rink. It wasn’t long before Frank acquired a patent for the machine in 1953, and the rest was history. Although he passed away in 1988, Frank’s business continues to this day.
According to the Zamboni's official website, the company delivered its 10,000th ice resurfacing machine in April 2012. Zamboni was also inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, although he never played a professional match in his life.
This is not the first time Google has paid homage to an historical figure with its interactive doodles. Last May Google showcased a virtual, playable Moog synthesizer on its homepage to honor the American electrical engineer Robert Bob Moog on his 78th birthday. Before that, Google decorated its homepage with an interactive metal zipper in April to commemorate Gideon Sunback, inventor of the zipper.
Head over to Google’s homepage today to navigate the virtual Zamboni for yourself, or check out the video below.