Seven April Fools' Day pranks that happened on the Internet

April 1st is dubbed April Fools' Day (at least in the United States), a day set aside for confusing people, playing jokes, pulling pranks and otherwise being silly. The 'net is a haven for silly people, so, as you might except, many Internauts have a field day on the first of April. Here's a selection of the best pranks that have occurred on the 'net over the years. You can read about more by pointing your Web browser to No kidding.
  1. Perhaps the most (in-)famous April Fools day joke happened in 1984. The prank is now legendary: a forged Usenet posting supposedly from the Premier of the USSR celebrating the first Internet link to Russia (this was a few years before there really was one.) It was written in an excellent imitation of Russian bombast, and despite the repeated mention of the date, it fooled a fair number of people. (This joke was successful enough that when the USSR finally did get a real Internet connection, many people thought that it was just another prank.)
  2. In 1989, a post to the RISKS mailing list announced that BMW had released "Road Warmers"- -the result of twenty years of German engineering- -employing laser technology to ensure consistent road conditions. "Underneath the car, four pivoting convex lasers are mounted in front of each wheel. The lasers are aimed at the pavement directly in front of the tread stance. They work in tandem with five-speed turbo fans. So not only do they manage to melt snow and ice, they also dry the road of excess moisture. And virtually eliminate the need to clear your driveway during winter...Eventually Road Warmers will be standard on all new BMWs. But as part of a special offer, your dealer will install them on your present car free of charge."
  3. In 1990, official RFC (Request for Comments) document #1149 outlined an experimental Internet standard describing a method for the encapsulation of IP datagrams in avian carriers, stating, "Avian carriers can provide high delay, low throughput, and low altitude service. The connection topology is limited to a single point-to-point path for each carrier, used with standard carriers, but many carriers can be used without significant interference with each other, outside of early spring...Multiple types of service can be provided with a prioritized pecking order. An additional property is built-in worm detection and eradication. With time, the carriers are self-regenerating. Audit trails are automatically generated, and can often be found on logs and cable trays."
  4. In 1991, a bogus press release, allegedly from Microsoft, heralded the development of Microsoft Windows for the Macintosh. "Yes, all the power you've come to know on your IBM PC will soon be available on the Macintosh, too. Get all the power and function of Windows applications like Microsoft Word for Windows and Microsoft Excel for Windows, right there on your Macintosh. Now the Macintosh user will come to know what users of Windows on the IBM PC have known for some time now: that a powerful graphical icon-based user interface will give you even more power to be your best than you've ever had before!" The cost? $395. The optional "Microsoft Excel for Windows for the Mac" was said to cost $695 and required 16 MB RAM and System 8.2. (By the way, in 1994, Apple Computer announced a product that would really made Windows work on a Macintosh. Some time in that year span, that concept stopped being funny. Or did it?)
  5. On April 1, 1992, Apple Computer, Inc., "made a major addition to the software that runs the Macintosh computer with the release of the Caffeine Manager, "an extension to System 7.0 that allows all Macintosh computers to interface cleanly and easily with such devices as coffee percolators and soda machines...John Sculley, CEO of Apple Computer, was quick to hail the Caffeine Manager as a turning point in the development of the Macintosh. 'It's where I've envisioned the company going, it's a dream I've had since my last job,' he states. 'This will make the Macintosh the choice of a new generation.'"
  6. In 1993, several new top-level Internet domains were added, so that those logging on from other planets could have Internet access. These domains included .ea (Earth), .ha (Hades), .ju (Jupiter), and .og (Outer Galaxy).
  7. In 1994, a false "NASA Headline News" newsletter was posted to the newsgroup Here's an excerpt: "The Congressional Budget Explorer Module (CBEM) is scheduled for installation in the orbiter Titanic's payload bay this afternoon. Technicians resolved an earlier problem with hydraulic line pressure when it was discovered that several fragments of lobbyist had become stuck in a flapper valve... Meanwhile, the Velikovsky spacecraft is in good health on its journey to Venus. It's now 122 million miles from Venus and about 28 feet from Earth. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory report that failure to actually launch Velikovsky has had little impact on its ability to perform the primary pseudoscience missions. Earlier problems with voltage fluctuations in the Wide Eyed/Credulous Subject Scanner are being monitored carefully. 'I'm pretending this is really exciting,' says JPL team leader Geraldo R. Spencer."

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Copyright © 1994, 1995, 2004 by Kevin Savetz. The information in this book was collected in 1994-1995 and has not been updated since.