- “The Hitchhiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions . . . it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.”
- —The foreword to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979[src]
The Guide served in the original radio series as a plot device; giving the listeners' background information about the fictional world of Hitchhiker's and moving the story forward by narrating the events and often breaking the fourth wall.
The Guide itself was a device which, according to the first book, resembled a largish electronic calculator which looked “insanely complicated.” It had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice.It was said that the reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that “if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitch hiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.” A new edition of the Guide - named the Guide Mark II - was published in the fifth novel Mostly Harmless. This new edition was artificially intelligent and capable of interacting with the reader. It was described as a black, birdlike robot.
In the television series, the Guide looked similar to how it had been described in the book. It resembled a calculator, with a small screen and several buttons on the front. It was about the size of an average human hand.
In the film, it looked more like a conventional book. In this adaption, there was a hitch-hiking symbol on the front cover of a thumb, and the “Don't Panic” was on the back cover. In the movie version, the Guide was voice activated, and the screen showed several bars which were the links to the subsections of the articles.
- “The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that if you hold a lungful of air you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about thirty seconds. However it goes on to say that . . . the chances of getting picked up by another ship within those thirty seconds are two to the power of two hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and nine to one against.”
- —Chapter 9, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979[src]
Although the Guide was merely a resource for hitch-hikers it had a distinctly flippant and exuberant tone, occasionally bordering on sarcastic. This may either have been due to the voice with which the Guide spoke, or the tone with which the many articles were written. On one occasion the Guide was said to speak in a “still quiet measured voice.”
The Guide Mark II was said to have appeared pleasant and friendly, however, it was in fact deeply malevolent. Oddly enough, it later saved all the main characters from certain doom as part of some unknown agenda.
- “The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe . . . where it is inaccurate it is at least definitely inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong. . . . "The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate."”
- —Chapter 6, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, 1980[src]
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a “wholly remarkable book." It had been compiled and recompiled many times over many years and under many different editorships. It contained contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers.It is said that Hurling Frootmig was the founder of the Guide, and established its fundamental principles of honesty and idealism before he “went bust.” After many years of heart-searching and penury, Frootmig had a chance encounter with the Holy Lunching Friars of Voondoon, after which he refounded the Guide and “laid down its fundamental principles of honesty and idealism and where you could stuff them both.”Following this change of heart, the Guide’s founder began to develop and explore the role of editorial lunch-breaks, which played a crucial part in the Guide’s history, since it resulted in visitors to the offices doing most of the actual work, instead of the editors.
Shortly thereafter, the Guide was taken over by Megadodo Publications of Ursa Minor Beta, leading the Guide towards its first major commercial success and keeping the staff very financially sound. This positive change allowed the fourth editor of the Guide, Lig Lury Jr, to embark on extraordinary lunch-breaks, which led to him leaving his office late one morning and never returning. As he never formally resigned his editorship, all editors since Lig Lury Jr have been designating acting editors, with Lig’s desk still preserved the way he left it.
In its time, the Guide became popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?
The Guide was seen to be a lot less lengthy and complicated than Dan Streetmentioner's book: Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It skipped over the exhaustive topic of time travel and grammar, pausing only to note that the term ‘Future Perfect’ had been abandoned since it will have been discovered not to be.
Although the Guide contained at least 5,973,509 contributions, it was called “a very unevenly edited book and contains many passages that simply seemed to its editors like a good idea at the time." It was also said that “most of the actual work got done by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices of an afternoon and saw something worth doing.”
- “Space . . . is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen... ”
- —Chapter 9, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979[src]
“The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.
It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.
The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards.
The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself.
Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit, it says.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V - Oh that Santraginean sea water, it says. Oh those Santraginean fish!!!
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle sweet and mystic.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
Add an olive.
Drink ... but ... very carefully ...”
“The guide started to explain to anyone who cared to listen about the best ways of smuggling Antarean parakeet glands out of Antares (an Antarean parakeet gland stuck on a small stick is a revolting but much sought after cocktail delicacy and very large sums of money are often paid for them by very rich idiots who want to impress other very rich idiots).”
“"The Babel fish," said The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly, "is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.
"Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
"The argument goes something like this: `I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'
"`But,' says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.'
"`Oh dear,' says God, `I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanished in a puff of logic.
"`Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
"Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his best- selling book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.
"Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloddier wars than anything else in the history of creation."”
“Trillian did a little research in the ship's copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It had some advice to offer on drunkenness."Go to it," it said, "and good luck."”
“"What? Harmless? Is that all it's got to say? Harmless! One word!"
"Well, there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy, and only a limited amount of space in the book's microprocessors," he said, "and no one knew much about the Earth of course."
"Well for God's sake I hope you managed to rectify that a bit."
"Oh yes, well I managed to transmit a new entry off to the editor. He had to trim it a bit, but it's still an improvement."
"And what does it say now?" asked Arthur.
"Mostly harmless," admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.”
“See at the bottom of the screen, just under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6.”
“"The Guide says there is an art to flying", said Ford, "or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."”
“The Haggunenons of Vicissitus Three have the most impatient chromosomes of any life-forms in the galaxy.
Where as most races are content to evolve slowly and carefully over thousands of generations - discarding a prehensile toe here, nervously hazarding another nostril there, the Haggunenons would do for Charles Darwin what a squadron of Arcturan Stunt-Apples would have done for Sir Isaac Newton.
Their genetic structure, based on the quadruple-striated octo-helix, is so chronically unstable, that far from passing their basic shape onto their children, they will quite frequently evolve several times over lunch. But they do this with such reckless abandon that if, sitting at table, they are unable to reach a coffee spoon, they are liable without a moments consideration to mutate into something with far longer arms - but which is probably quite incapable of drinking the coffee.
This, not unnaturally, produces a terrible sense of personal insecurity and a jealous resentment of all stable life-forms, or “filthy rotten stinking samelings” as they call them. They justify this by claiming that as they have personally experienced what it is like to be virtually everybody else they can think of, they are in a very good position to appreciate all their worst points. This appreciation is usually military in nature and is carried out with unmitigated savagery from the gunrooms of their horribly beweaponed, chameleoid death flotilla.
Experience has shown that the most effective way of dealing with any Haggunenon you may meet is to run away… terribly fast.”
History of every major Galactic Civilization
“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.
For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?”
“The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.”
“The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition of the word "Infinite".
Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some.
Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, "wow, that's big", time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy.
Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.”
“FORD: Well - better than some. I read of one planet off in the seventh dimension that got used as a ball in a game of Intergalactic Bar Billards. Got putted straight into a black hole, killed ten-billion people.
ARTHUR: Hmm. Total madness.
FORD: Yeah! Only scored thirty points too.
ARTHUR: Where did you read that?
FORD: Hmm, a book.
ARTHUR: Which book was that?
FORD: ’The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’…”
“(Excerpt from The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Page 634784, Section 5a, Entry: Magrathea)
Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the former Galactic Empire, life was wild, rich and largely tax free.
Mighty starships plied their way between exotic suns, seeking adventure and reward amongst the furthest reaches of Galactic space. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before - and thus was the Empire forged.
Many men of course became extremely rich, but this was perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of because no one was really poor - at least no one worth speaking of. And for all the richest and most successful merchants life inevitably became rather dull and niggly, and they began to imagine that this was therefore the fault of the worlds they'd settled on - none of them was entirely satisfactory: either the climate wasn't quite right in the later part of the afternoon, or the day was half an hour too long, or the sea was exactly the wrong shade of pink.
And thus were created the conditions for a staggering new form of specialist industry: custom-made luxury planet building. The home of this industry was the planet Magrathea, where hyperspatial engineers sucked matter through white holes in space to form it into dream planets - gold planets, platinum planets, soft rubber planets with lots of earthquakes - all lovingly made to meet the exacting standards that the Galaxy's richest men naturally came to expect.
But so successful was this venture that Magrathea itself soon became the richest planet of all time and the rest of the Galaxy was reduced to abject poverty. And so the system broke down, the Empire collapsed, and a long sullen silence settled over a billion worlds, disturbed only by the pen scratchings of scholars as they laboured into the night over smug little treaties on the value of a planned political economy.
Magrathea itself disappeared and its memory soon passed into the obscurity of legend.
In these enlightened days of course, no one believes a word of it.”
“The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.”
From the Guide's introduction: “Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.”
“The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”
“"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's definition of "Universe":
The Universe is a very big thing that contains a great number of planets and a great number of beings. It is Everything. What we live in. All around us. The lot. Not nothing. It is quite difficult to actually define what the Universe means, but fortunately the Guide doesn't worry about that and just gives us some useful information to live in it.
Area: The area of the Universe is infinite.
Imports: None. This is a by product of infinity; it is impossible to import things into something that has infinite volume because by definition there is no outside to import things from.
Exports: None, for similar reasons as imports.
Population: None. Although you might see people from time to time, they are most likely products of your imagination. Simple mathematics tells us that the population of the Universe must be zero. Why? Well given that the volume of the universe is infinite there must be an infinite number of worlds. But not all of them are populated; therefore only a finite number are. Any finite number divided by infinity is zero, therefore the average population of the Universe is zero, and so the total population must be zero.
Art: None. Because the function of art is to hold a mirror up to nature there can be no art because the Universe is infinite which means there simply isn't a mirror big enough.Sex: None. Although in fact there is quite a lot, given the zero population of the Universe there can in fact be no beings to have sex, and therefore no sex happens in the Universe.”
“[One passage] supposedly relates the experiences of one Veet Voojagig, a quiet young student at the University of Maximegalon, who pursued a brilliant academic career studying ancient philology, transformational ethics and the wave harmonic theory of historical perception, and then, after a night of drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox, became increasingly obsessed with the problem of what had happened to all the biros he'd bought over the past few years.
There followed a long period of painstaking research during which he visited all the major centres of biro loss throughout the galaxy and eventually came up with a quaint little theory which quite caught the public imagination at the time. Somewhere in the cosmos, he said, along with all the planets inhabited by humanoids, reptiloids, fishoids, walking treeoids and superintelligent shades of the colour blue, there was also a planet entirely given over to biro life forms. And it was to this planet that unattended biros would make their way, slipping away quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely biroid lifestyle, responding to highly biro-oriented stimuli, and generally leading the biro equivalent of the good life.
And as theories go this was all very fine and pleasant until Veet Voojagig suddenly claimed to have found this planet, and to have worked there for a while driving a limousine for a family of cheap green retractables, whereupon he was taken away, locked up, wrote a book, and was finally sent into tax exile, which is the usual fate reserved for those who are determined to make a fool of themselves in public.
When one day an expedition was sent to the spatial coordinates that Voojagig had claimed for this planet they discovered only a small asteroid inhabited by a solitary old man who claimed repeatedly that nothing was true, though he was later discovered to be lying.
There did, however, remain the question of both the mysterious 60,000 Altairan dollars paid yearly into his Brantisvogan bank account, and of course Zaphod Beeblebrox's highly profitable second-hand biro business.”
“This is what the book said.
"Vogon Constructor Fleets. Here is what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy -- not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters.
"The best way to get a drink out of a Vogon is to stick your finger down his throat, and the best way to irritate him is to feed his grandmother to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
"On no account allow a Vogon to read poetry at you."”