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April Fool's Day, 2004

←2003      2005→

Portable Zip Codes (2004) NPR's All Things Considered reported that the U.S. Post Office was introducing a new portable zip codes program that would allow individuals to take their zip code with them when they moved. The program was inspired by a recent FCC ruling that allowed people to retain the same phone number wherever they moved or whatever service they switched to.

Supporters of the program noted, "A modern, mobile society… can no longer afford to remain grounded in locale-specific zip codes… a zip code is a badge of honor, an emblem symbolizing a citizen's place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape."
Overweight Canal-living Ducks (2004) British Waterways released a study claiming that a study conducted by Dr. Olaf Priol had found that ducks who lived on canals weighed, on average, a pound more than ducks who lived on rivers. The slow-moving canal water apparently provided the ducks with less opportunity for exercise, and so they gained weight.

The study had an embargo date of April 1st (meaning the media was not supposed to make it public until then), but reporter Declan Curry of BBC Business News, not recognizing the study as a joke, broke the embargo and discussed it on-air on March 30th.
The Atlantic Tunnel (2004) An elaborate website appeared online announcing that an Atlantic Tunnel connecting the UK and the US (and running beneath the entire width of Ireland) would be opening in September 2009: "The world is about to witness the dawn of a new era of trans-continental travel. It has taken 63 years to complete the 3261 miles of tunnel from Swansea to New Jersey. In 2009, that same journey will take passengers and their vehicles just 8 hours and 20 minutes." The site also featured a competition to win a trip on the first train through the tunnel. It's not clear who created the site, or why, but the site was registered to a London ad agency, TBWA/GGT.
PC EZ-Bake Oven (2004) Thinkgeek.com, an online retailer of offbeat gadgets, continued a multiyear tradition of posting fake gadgets on April 1st by debuting the PC EZ-Bake Oven: "It fits in a 5 1/4" drive bay and plugs right into your power supply with the included Molex connector… The PC Ez-Bake oven can even be used to cook your Pop Tarts, Bagel Bites, or any tiny or flat food. YUM!"
Repent, Criminals! (2004) Norway's TV 2 announced a new crime-reduction strategy being considered by the police. Prisons were going to send inmates to see The Passion of the Christ. Police officers would then position themselves outside the theater and wait for the criminals to confess and repent after seeing the movie.
Condoleezza Rice as Girlfriend of the Day (2004) Maxim magazine chose National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as its "Girlfriend of the Day."

The girl next door: "I always say to [the President], 'This is what I think, but let me tell you what the others think.' The key is to not take advantage of the fact that I live a few doors down from the Oval Office."

Where you've seen her: Lighting up the small screen and the press in her current role as President George W. Bush's sassy national security adviser. Look for her soon, when she will be making her hotly anticipated debut before the 9/11 commission.
Yum Cha Carts Regulated (2004) The Sydney Morning Herald reported that new legislation had been proposed that would require operators of yum cha trolley carts (as seen in Chinese restaurants) to obtain a license. The legislation had been proposed due to "dangerous trolley usage in yum-cha eateries." An expert noted: "There's been a lot of problem with dumpling accidents particularly. Dumplings retain their heat for quite some time. You get one of those in your lap and it can be extremely painful." Under the new rules, operators of the food carts would first have to complete an instructional course, and then would "carry a small 'L' plate on their carts for six months before being granted full licences."
BMW Self-Cleaning Car (2004) BMW Canada announced that its engineers had developed a system that used "microscopic blowholes" in the surface of the car, blowing away "dust, bugs, water and everything else," and thereby keeping the car constantly clean. BMW owners would never have to wash their car again!

[This was one of four April Fool ads run by BMW Canada in 2004.]
The Queen Visits the Bookie (2004) The Daily Mail ran a photo, allegedly taken by an Austrian tourist named Otto Breeching (an anagram for "bet on the corgi"), showing the Queen with her corgis at a bookmaker placing a bet on the Grand National: "The Daily Mail can reveal that the Queen has insisted on placing her bet in person every year since a flutter went disastrously wrong... And what of the latest wager? A betting shop spokesman would say only that the VIP customer had placed 'a sizeable sum' on one horse to win at the Aintree meeting on Saturday. He declined to name the horse, adding: 'If everyone finds out what she's putting her money on, all the odds will go crazy.'"
Shake Your Mobile (2004) 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.
Theater-goers Weighed (2004) New Zealand's Southland Times reported that all those attending the Invercargill Civic Theatre would be required to first weigh-in if they wanted to sit upstairs, due to concerns about the ability of the second level to support heavy weight:

"'Luckily, Southlanders seem relatively slim and it could be an incentive for some people, including myself, to watch what we eat,' [Mayor Boniface] said. Anyone more than 75kg who wanted to sit upstairs would have to buy two seats, he said. 'However, if you're a man with a petite wife or girlfriend, you might be able to get away with it.' Telephone bookings would still be accepted but customers would have to declare their weight and would be weighed at the theatre."
Scandinavian Earthlines (2004) The Norwegian Board of Tourism ran an ad in Swedish newspapers debuting a new underground super-train, Scandinavian Earthlines, that would connect Sweden and Norway and allow a trip from Stockholm to Lofoten to be made in under an hour. Readers were invited to call a phone number for more information. Those who phoned up were informed that the super-train wasn't actually real, but were given a pitch inviting them to visit Norway anyway.
Day Lost to Stronger Trade Winds (2004) Nature.com reported a startling discovery made by astronomers. The increasing force of trade winds had slightly accelerated the spin of the Earth. As a consequence the length of the day had decreased over the past century, meaning that the calendar was now inaccurate: "Just as February has an extra day in leap years, we conclude that March ought to have 30 days once every 100 years, not 31… If we start the adjustments this year we should be back on track." In other words, "today should be 2 April, not 1 April."
Oprah Becomes 4th Member of Holy Trinity (2004) Belief.net announced that all the major Christian denominations had jointly agreed to make Oprah Winfrey the fourth member of the Holy Trinity, thereby broadening its appeal and making it less gender-biased: "Along with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the popular talk show host will be recognized as one person in the sacred and indivisible unity of the Godhead—or Quadhead, as the updated Trinity will now be called."

In response to the news, Oprah's production company issued a statement: "This just confirms what millions of Americans already know: that Oprah is a goddess—and one completely compatible with Christian faith." However, the Russian Orthodox Church had not supported the deification of Oprah, noting that "the current structure leaves no room for the possible addition of Dr. Phil."
The Canadian Autobahn (2004) BMW Canada ran an ad urging Canadians to petition their local Member of Parliament to support the creation of a Canadian Autobahn. This roadway would be an "auxiliary highway system that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a manner that benefits high-performance automobiles." BMW Canada revealed that it had already surveyed the country to determine where such an Autobahn might best be placed.

[This was one of four April Fool ads run by BMW Canada in 2004.]
Hawkeye Cameras Catch Speeders (2004) The Sun reported that hawks outfitted with miniature cameras would be used to catch speeding drivers:

"They will swoop on vehicles and film them with strapped-on mini cameras developed by the BBC for wildlife programmes. Officers watching monitors will see a speed readout --and even registration numbers and tax discs. The Hawkeye system has had successful trials on the M40 in Oxfordshire, where PCs Mark Dalton and Otto Hergt put two birds through their paces… Paolo Firl, of the Italian makers, said: 'We are very pleased. We have shown it can be done.' But motorist Andy Pinder, 45, said: 'We're already persecuted, now we're being hunted.'"
Howard Stern Replaced (2004) Fans of "shock jock" Howard Stern were dismayed to tune in to his morning show and discover that Infinity Broadcasting had replaced him with two DJs who promised "all the fun without the filth." Stern had recently been publicly arguing with the FCC because it had applied an "indecency" standard to his show. But after an hour Stern and his sidekick Robin Quivers returned to the air. “We are back for anybody who was stupid enough to fall for that,” Stern said. “Check your calendar people,” Quivers added.
Google Copernicus Center (2004) Google announced they were accepting applications for positions at Copernicus Center, their new "lunar hosting and research center." Applicants, Google noted, must be "capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen." Google went on to say that the facility, set to open in Spring 2007, would house 35 engineers, 27,000 low cost Web servers, two massage therapists and a sushi chef.
Kids Fly Free (2004) Visitors to the website of discount airline RyanAir were greeted by the news that as a special April Fool's Day offer kids would be allowed to ride free. A few seconds later the announcement added the second part of the offer: "For as long as they can hold on."
The Tour de France Sunflower Conspiracy (2004) The bicycle magazine VeloNews revealed the shocking truth behind the Tour de France: The fields of sunflowers lining the tour's route were the result of a secret program of genetic manipulation designed to produce flowers that would exactly match the color of the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Unfortunately, these genetically engineered sunflowers were also prone to fungal infection. Those concerned were "embarking on a nationwide campaign to warn farmers about the risks involved in accepting cash, seeds or other considerations to plant flowers along the route of this year's Tour."
Cook From Your Car (2004) BMW ran an ad in the Guardian unveiling its new Satellite Hypersensitive Electromagnetic Foodration (SHEF) Technology, which allowed drivers to cook their dinners from their car as they drove home from work. All the dials for the home oven were built into the dashboard of the car and communicated wirelessly with the actual oven at home. Drivers could monitor the progress of their meal via a built-in oven-cam. The ad directed readers to a website that offered recipes such as "chicken a la M42."
Left-handed Cellphone (2004) Virgin Mobile announced that it would be offering a left-handed Sony Ericsson LH-Z200 mobile phone: "Designed with a reversed keypad layout, the buttons are switched from right to left instead of standard left to right… This simple but clever design makes dialling, texting and menu navigation quicker and easier for anyone left-handed." A number of technology sites fell for the joke.
BMW Golf Cart (2004) BMW Canada the immediate availability of a BMW 18 Series Golf Cart, featuring "fore-wheel drive," uDrive technology that advised on golf club selection, and a GPS ball-tracking feature that displayed your ball's location on a plasma screen.

[This was one of four April Fool ads run by BMW Canada in 2004.]
The iShave (2004) The German software company Application Systems Heidelberg debuted an iShave attachment for the iPod, allowing you to transform your iPod music player into an electric razor. The website boasted: "Now with your iPod you can not only hear good music everywhere, you can also get a smooth shave to look good."
Skeptic Converts (2004) Bob Carroll, creator of the online Skeptic's Dictionary, announced that he was abandoning skepticism and embracing a Christian belief in divine design. He attributed his conversion to an epiphany that occurred after doing yardwork:

"I came in afterward and noticed that there were several weeds stuck to my socks and shoes. It was like a hammer to the head. I started to see the patterns. There was clearly a design here. The weeds excreted a sticky substance that allowed them to cling to my clothes. When I moved around I carried their seeds with me and had unwittingly deposited them throughout my yard. Soon, my yard would be crawling with weeds and I would have been partially to blame. But I wasn't concerned about the yard. I had a bigger problem. I had seen that randomness could not account for the weeds' behavior. Yes, behavior. What else could it be? The weeds clearly know what they are doing. They didn't just accidentally cling to me. There is no way this was just matter randomly and meaninglessly behaving in a way that looked like design. This was truly design at work."
Planets Renamed (2004) CBBC (Children's BBC) announced that astronomers had decided to rename the planets in the Solar System after characters from the Lord of the Rings. The Earth would henceforth be known as Gandalf. Mars would become Frodo. Pluto would be known as Sauron, and even the Moon would receive a new name: Gollum.
Ask Jeeves Wardrobe Malfunction (2004) Visitors to the search engine AskJeeves.com found the company's signature animated butler clothed in an undershirt and patterned boxer shorts instead of his usual jacket and tie. The company attributed the new look to a "wardrobe malfunction."

The Jeeves character was discontinued after 2006, and AskJeeves.com itself became Ask.com.
Medical ID Chips (2004) 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.
Homo Metro (2004) An Oslo Township announced that city workers had discovered the remains of a 15,000-year-old body while digging part of a tunnel for the local subway system. As a result, work on the subway had been halted indefinitely. The skeleton was going to be named “Homo Metro” because of where it had been found.
Fall Asleep at the Wheel (2004) BMW Canada boasted of the new "Retina-evaluating sensory technology" (R.E.S.T.) technology available as a feature in its new cars. This system scanned the eyes of the driver to detect sleep. When detected, the system took full control of the car, allowing the driver to nap peacefully. "Lose consciousness, not control," the ad declared.

[This was one of four April Fool ads run by BMW Canada in 2004.]
Lottery Tickets Instead of Pension Payments (2004) The Tokyo Shimbun reported this on its front page: "The government is seriously considering a project which includes issuing lottery tickets to citizens to balance the inevitable cuts in pensions counting on the fact that it would be better to give them dreams of future wealth instead of making them pay more in order to keep present pension figures." Readers were said to be hopeful that the joke didn't turn out to be a satirical prophecy.