History of Towel Day: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Bill Petro
3 min readMay 26, 2022

May 25 celebrates Towel Day as a day to honor Douglas Adams, the author of the five (or six) book trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Created in May of 2001 to mark the passing of English science fiction humor author Douglas Adams, the day is set aside for fans of his writings to carry a towel throughout the day in honor of the author.

Why a towel? Stay tuned

Although it occurs on the same day as the anniversary of the premier of the first Star Wars movie, and the original radio version of tHGttG came out the year after Star Wars, Star Wars did not inspire The Hitchhiker’s Gude to the Galaxy.

I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Adams about twenty-five years ago when he spoke at a special Sun Microsystems event. I recall noting that he talked at 19,200 baud (fast in those days), meaning he spoke the English language more quickly than any other person I had heard before. Erudite, clever, and mind-stretching — his talk was much like his writings, at times laugh-out-loud funny. He has appeared on Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV show and wrote a skit for the album of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He had also written for the TV show Doctor Who.

Though the books may not be as well known outside the world of Science Fiction, the phrase “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has become a well-known literary concept due in large part to the other media it has appeared in. It gained immense popularity as a:

  • Radio show
  • British TV series
  • Computer game
  • Stage show
  • Comic book adaption
  • 2005 film

Back to why a towel?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy story starts with the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it (I hope I haven’t spoiled anything), which kicks off a tour of the Milky Way Galaxy using a guide to it found in an electronic book. Think iPad.

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com