Countdown: the numbers game

As another Countdown host leaves we look back at some significant numbers in the quiz show's history


1982 Year in which the first episode of Countdown aired, launching new TV station Channel 4


4 Original number of Countdown “hostesses”. When the show began, selecting both the number and letter tiles was considered too much work for one woman. Beverley Isherwood was in charge of the former while Kathy Hytner handled the latter. Similarly, calculation-checking duties were shared by Carol Vorderman and Linda Barrett

167 Carol Vorderman’s IQ

1992 First appearance on Countdown of Dictionary Corner’s Susie Dent. Several lexicographers had preceded Susie – and others have since had short stints in the role of adjudicating on contestants’ words – but having served on over 1,000 shows, and still sitting in the corner to this day, Susie has become synonymous with the title Guardian of the Dictionary

146 Highest score ever achieved in an episode of Countdown. Julian Fell set the record in 2002, when he also became the first contestant to come up with three nine-letter words in a single game

2005 End of an era. Original Countdown host Richard Whiteley dies, after 23 years in the job. Known for his bumbling on-screen persona and love of excruciating puns, Whiteley became a cult figure among viewers ranging from OAPs to students. It was a tough act to follow and most would argue Countdown was never the same again

8 Number of consecutive wins a player must achieve to be awarded automatic entry into the series finals and the coveted title of “Octochamp”

2008 Year Carol Vorderman leaves the show. Having forged a charismatic partnership with Richard Whiteley during their 23 years together, high priestess of maths Voderman continued on Countdown during the short tenures of Deses Lynam and O’Connor but departed amid claims that she was forced out by producers. Vorderman’s replacement was an injection of youthful sex appeal in the form of new numbers guru Rachel Riley

90 Percentage pay cut Carol Vorderman was supposedly faced with prior to leaving in 2008, after the programme’s budget was slashed. Before that, she reportedly earned £1.4 million for 40 days’ work per year

3,800 Current value in pounds sterling of a leather-bound 20-volume copy of the Oxford English Dictionary – the prize received by the winner of each series of Countdown

5,000 Countdown’s 5,000th episode aired in March of this year, prompting Her Majesty the Queen to send a letter congratulating the show on a “significant achievement”


2011 Year in which fourth host Jeff Stelling announces he is quitting Countdown to concentrate on football presenting at Sky Sports