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The other day I was in a group chat on that brilliant messaging app WhatsGoinOn? when some banter between a few of my friends totally baffled me.

We had been getting nostalgic - talking about all the great stuff we grew up with, you know. Then my friend Dave asked his other friend Bill what year he was born in. This was Bill's reply:

A A C

I thought at first there must be something up with Bill's keyboard, but Dave seemed to understand what Bill had just said! Then Bill asked another friend, Max, what year he was born in too, and the reply came as:

H H X

"Oh, so Max is 3 years older than Bill!" said Dave.

What?! I'll be honest, I was embarrassed that I didn't know what they were talking about, so I didn't ask them. I thought I'd ask you guys instead.

How did Dave know that Max was 3 years older than Bill?


Clue 1:

I don't know if this helps, but I was born in 1975 and I've always thought that the other guys are similar ages to me. When we were talking about the movies and video games we grew up with, we all fondly remembered the same stuff.

Clue 2:

Some people have been asking me what is the difference between WhatsGoinOn? and WhatsApp. Well, like I said, we're pretty old school and enjoy reminiscing about old times. Our chat app doesn't have any of those silly modern emojis that everybody seems to overuse. Just good old plain text.

Clue 3:

Not a new clue, but a summary of what you should have already figured out.

Firstly, I told you in Clue 1 that I was born in 1975, and that my friends are a similar age to me. That should tell you that the era we grew up in would have been the late 1970s and 1980s.

Secondly, I told you that we had been talking about things we grew up with, and in Clue 1 I went on to say that it was specifically movies and video games. The title of the puzzle should indicate that what we were talking about is significant.

Thirdly, I told you that our chat app is pretty old-school and doesn't feature any emojis. Even if you aren't old enough to be an early adopter of the internet you might know what people sometimes did before emojis were invented.... are you getting it yet? :)

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    $\begingroup$ I'm guessing it's albums or hit songs. What's Going On is a hit album for several artists. Could also be movies or something... $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Nov 23 '18 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @DrXorile I'll put you out of your misery and say that 'WhatsGoinOn' was just a throwaway pun on 'WhatsApp' and not actually a clue. Although I was trying to give the impression that me and my friends are not of the current generation. Otherwise, you're thinking along the right lines.... $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Nov 24 '18 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ I've been on this question for over a week and I've even thought about placing a bounty cause it's killing me and I can't figure out the answer yet ;-; consider maybe adding another hint OP (not necessarily now because you've already added one a few minutes ago)? $\endgroup$ – S. M. Dec 5 '18 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @S.M. No, it has nothing to do with music, but perhaps other forms of pop culture? Check the clues. $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Dec 5 '18 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if I can ask this, but would you say this is a puzzle that requires some research, or is it more of an "eureka" moment type with a short and easy answer once you get it? $\endgroup$ – S. M. Dec 7 '18 at 12:52
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Alright, new answer time. Like Excited Raichu,

I also had been trying to rotate things around to see what they resembled

but,

maybe rotation isn't necessary at all and the letters can be seen as visual representations themselves.

So,

Bill was born in 1980

since

The AAC looks like two ghosts chasing Pac-man, from the game originally released in 1980.

and,

Max was born in 1977

since

The HHX looks like two tie fighters chasing an x-wing, two dogfighting ships in 1977's Star Wars.

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    $\begingroup$ Damn, I was wrinting an answer about HHX. I didn't have anything about AAC anyway, so, good job, I think you might be right $\endgroup$ – F.Carette Dec 10 '18 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ Perfect answer! Well done - that is what we had been talking about! $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Dec 11 '18 at 10:05
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Could this possibly be something?

I keep wanting to turn the letters sideways, to relate to '80s video games.

If you

turn H H X sideways, it looks like (from top to bottom) X I I. When you draw that out, it kind of looks like the platform structure for Donkey Kong (released in 1981).

I'm not sure how to proceed from here.

A A C should come out to some game released in 1984, but I can't find anything. I'll keep looking!

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  • $\begingroup$ SO close. SOO close. You have the correct reasoning, but not recognised them correctly. Maybe you are looking the wrong way? Also, they may not both be the same form of media. Remember the clues. $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Dec 10 '18 at 14:16
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Could it be that Bill was born in

1983, since AAC pronounced aloud could sound like '83?

and that Max was correspondingly born in

1986, since HHX pronounced aloud could sound like '86?

of course I can't necessarily explain

why one used A's and the other used H's for the first part, but they do sound a bit better this way than swapped.

Title may be related due to

ARE being emphasized, which can be written as R in similar shorthand.

Edit: ... And now I'm realizing that this answer makes Max 3 years YOUNGER. Whoops. Guess I'll leave this up anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting answer! +1 for reasoning. But not correct. As you say, it doesn't add up. Have a think about the title. $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Nov 27 '18 at 10:22
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Is it 1990 and 1993? Just Clarifying as I dont have 50 reputation points.

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    $\begingroup$ No it isn't. Have a look at the clue to see why that is wrong. Your answer could do with some kind of explanation as to how you reached it - I'm hoping this isn't just a wild guess? $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Nov 26 '18 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Astralbee it is'nt a wild guess. I was browsing and got some albums that contained AAC and HHX released in 1990 and 1993. $\endgroup$ – gopal Nov 26 '18 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ @gopal You'll probably find a LOT of albums with those letters mentioned. AAC is an audio coding format, and HHX is a kind of cymbal. Perhaps they mean something else. Think about the title. $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Nov 26 '18 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ @WAF Nope. The title is the one thing you should ask yourself, literally. $\endgroup$ – Astralbee Nov 26 '18 at 11:53

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