April Fool's Day Technology Hoaxes
The Transporter Portable Computer.
Byte magazine featured a new portable computer, available from the Honda Corporation, called the "Transporter":
"The first truly transportable computer. With a few simple twists, you can transform the Transporter from a portable computer (with full keyboard, 24-line by 80-column display, and two microfloppy-disk drives) into a single-passenger automobile... The Transporter is 100 percent compatible with the popular Toyota Corolla and runs on most operating roads."
Byte later received a call from a USA Today reporter inquiring about the Transporter.
The British childrens show Going Live told its viewers about a revolutionary new portable music player called "The Chippy" that would soon be sold in stores. Host Phillip Schofield said that it was no bigger than a credit card but could store hundreds of songs. And soon, Schofield said, such a device might be able to hold an artist's entire back catalogue. Plus, it could play back any song instantly. It achieved this by storing all the songs on a computer chip. Thus, the name. (The name had a double meaning, since in British slang a "chippy" refers to a fish-and-chips shop.)
Schofield invited viewers to call in and request a song for "The Chippy" to play, and thousands phoned the station. Toward the end of the show, he revealed that The Chippy was an April Fool joke.
Moore’s Law Rewritten.
Intel employees circulated a spoof newsletter revealing historical discoveries related to chip-making, such as the fact that archaeologists had uncovered evidence of the existence of chip-making factories in Ancient Egypt. The newsletter quoted eminent archaeologist Lord Dhrystone as saying, "We never imagined we'd find an active semiconductor industry in a major goat-herding area. Too much dust."
The newsletter also revealed the unknown origins of the famous "Moore's law." Apparently Gordon Moore, Intel Chairman, had once scribbled on the back of a phone bill the phrase 'Buy Intel chips. They'll get twice as big every year or so,' as he brainstormed about ways to get people to buy more Intel chips. It was his secretary, Jean Jones, who rewrote the phrase to the more famous, "The number of transistors on a chip will double every 18 months."
The Singapore Straits Times reported that a 17-year-old student from Singapore called Jack Hon Si Yue had created a small computer program that could solve the Y2K problem (caused by the inability of older computers to distinguish between 1900 and 2000). The teenager, described as being camera-shy and a C student, was said to have worked out the Y2K solution in 29 minutes while solving an algebra problem for his homework. Jack showed the solution to his father who, in turn, presented it to a technology consulting group known as Gardner. The student's family and the Gardner group then formed a joint venture called Polo Flair to commercialize the solution. Revenues from the joint venture were expected to top $50 million by September, 1999. The Straits Times received numerous calls from journalists and computer specialists seeking more information about the story. One television journalist wanted to know if Jack Hon Si Yue could be persuaded to go on TV, despite the fact that he was camera-shy. Clues that the article was a joke included the name of the joint venture, Polo Flair (an anagram for April Fool) and Jack's name, Si Yue, which means "April" in Chinese.
Red Herring Magazine profiled a revolutionary new internet technology called Orecchio (Italian for "ear"). This technology used the TIDE communications protocol (short for "Telepathic Internet Data Exchange") to allow users to compose and send e-mail telepathically. To e-mail telepathically users wore a device nestled between their ear and skull. The company developing this device was Tidal Wave Communications, led by Yuri Maldini, a computer genius from Estonia. Adding credibility to the story was a reference to some real research at Emory University in which researchers had allowed a paralyzed man to move a cursor across a computer screen by implanting a device in his brain. Mr. Maldini, who had once been employed by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, claimed that he had developed the idea for Orecchio from the encrypted communications systems he had put in place during the Gulf War and the conflict in Somalia. Nevertheless, despite the revolutionary potential of telepathic e-mail, skeptics abounded. Clarence Madison, managing partner of New World Associates, was quoted as saying, "I know crap when I see it. This is crap." Ignoring such critics, Mr. Maldini was pressing
The Sunday East African Standard in Kenya printed an advertisement and a back-page story profiling a new mobile phone service provider called Kencom Limited. The new mobile phones would come with built-in scratch cards, internet service, videocams, and TV screens. What's more, service would cost a low rate of only four shillings per minute. To make the service even more attractive, a coupon was offered with the enticement that the first 3,000 people to submit the coupon would receive free phones. By noon, over 5,000 entry forms had already been submitted to the East African Standard Town Office in Nairobi. Among the hopefuls dropping off coupons were said to be top military personnel, politicians, and businessmen.
The British Observer revealed an exciting new idea sweeping through the internet community — a "cybrary," or cyber-library. The idea, dreamed up by London dot.com entrepreneur Lee Peters, was to "store, on paper, all the books available on the net." Peters explained that he wanted to add a "tactile dynamic" to the internet experience. He prophesied that one day millions of people would be able to go "to a public building and handle the texts, creating for the first time a real physical interface." Peters admitted that storage space would be a problem, but he revealed that he was already in talks with a number of London councils which had recently closed their libraries who were willing to offer space to the venture.
Human Gets Computer Virus.
The website BetterHumans.com posted news of the first case of a human catching a computer virus:
"A software developer from Houston, Texas has become the first human to contract a computer virus, microbiologists have confirmed. John Newman, an employee of vTouch Systems, came into contact with the virus through the use of a neural interface that his company is developing. Avril DuChamps, a spokesperson for vTouch Systems, confirmed yesterday at a press conference that Newman had come down with the virus. All activities at vTouch have been suspended until further notice."
Shake Your Mobile.
In an update of the Instant Color TV prank from 1962, Sweden's largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, reported that Hubert Hochsztapler, a researcher at Sweden's top engineering school, had made a surprising discovery: "if you shake your GSM, or second-generation, phone hard enough, you can access the new high-tech third-generation (3G) frequency which is only supposed to be available to 3G phones." This would allow users of older-model mobile phones to watch movies on their phones simply by shaking them.
Medical ID Chips.
Norway's Aftenposten reported a plan by government health authorities to implant electronic id chips under patient's skin in order to better monitor their medical needs. Health workers would be able to monitor their movements and know when they entered a hospital. Aftenposten later noted that over 2,000 people clicked on a link that accompanied the internet version of the story for people who wanted to participate in the project.
Mayfair Mall To Use Face Recognition Technology.
Wisconsin-based blogger Peter Hart posted a news article on the community news site WauwatosaNOW.com, claiming that the local Mayfair Mall planned to start using face recognition technology to scan for known criminals. The story fooled a reporter for WTMJ-TV who reported it as fact on the 4 pm news show.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.