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Thursday June 9, 2011 4:44 pm

Google Doodle lets you play guitar, honors Les Paul 96th birthday

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Google, Internet, Music

Google Les Paul Tribute Doodle

Google's Thursday homepage doodle is celebrating what would have been the 96th birthday of musician Les Paul with a playable guitar logo.

For the next 24 hours, the logo on Google.com will be replaced with the strings of a guitar that will play a tune as you strum them with your mouse. In the U.S., users can click the black "compose" button and record a 30-second track. Clicking the button again will display a link to share the song you've just created.

Google said it was inspired to include the record button because Paul, in addition to his guitar work, also "experimented in his garage with innovative recording techniques like multitracking and tape delay," Alexander Chen, a designer (and musician) with Google's Creative Lab, wrote in a blog post.

The doodle, meanwhile, was created by Google engineers Kristopher Hom and Joey Hurst as well as doodle team lead Ryan Germick. They used a combination of JavaScript, HTML5 Canvas (used in modern browsers to draw the guitar strings), CSS, Flash (for sound), and tools like the Google Font API, goo.gl and App Engine, Chen said.

"The electric guitar brings back memories for me of exchanging riffs with friends and wearing out cassette tapes as I meticulously learned songs," Chen wrote. "Today, we're attempting to recreate that experience with a doodle celebrating the birthday of musician and inventor Les Paul."

Paul was born Lester William Polsfuss in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. By age 9, he built his first crystal radio—and picked up his first guitar. Four years later, Paul was performing as a country-music guitarist and working on sound-related innovations, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, into which Paul was inducted in 1988.

Paul built his first electric guitar in 1941, but he is most well-known for the Gibson Les Paul, which debuted in 1952.

"It grew out of his desire, as a musician and inventor, to create a stringed instrument that could make electronic sound without distorting," the Hall of Fame said. "What he came up with, after almost a decade of work, was a solid bodied instrument—that is, one that didn't have the deep, resonant chamber of an acoustic guitar."

Gibson Guitars, however, initially rejected Paul, referring to his creation as a "broomstick with pickups." The company was skeptical that musicians would want to carry around both an acoustic and electric guitar. As a result, Leo Fender beat Paul to the market in 1948 with his electric guitar, the Fender Broadcaster.

After an almost fatal car crash in 1948, Paul worked on jazz-pop music of his own with his wife, Mary Ford. Their number-one hits include "How High the Moon" in 1951 and "Vaya Con Dios" in 1953. The songs are notable for their use of overdubbing, which layers guitar sounds on top of one another, the Hall of Fame said.

Paul worked steadily throughout his life. In 2005, at age 90, he released "American Made/World Played," which included appearances by a variety of well-known musicians and earned him two Grammys. Paul died at his home in Mahwah, New Jersey on August 13, 2009.

Google has made headlines for its own in-house homepage doodles, including an interactive undersea-themed drawing in honor of author Jules Verne's 183rd birthday and 17 holiday-themed doodles that were live for two days in December. Recently, Google.com also featured 16 homepage doodles in honor of what would have been the 76th birthday of children's author Roger Hargreaves, who wrote the Mr. Men and Little Miss series, and dancer/choreographer Martha Graham.

Recently, it was revealed that Google obtained a patent for its popular homepage doodles, covering "systems and methods for enticing users to access a Web site."

California second grader Matteo Lopez was selected as the winner of this year's Doodle 4 Google competition. His space-themed doodle was featured on the Google homepage on May 20, and he took home a $15,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 technology grant for his school.

This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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