April Fool's Day, 2003

Media Pranks

Shellac, Sound of the Future
National Public Radio's All Things Considered ran a segment about the efforts by preservationists to transfer audio recordings to a durable medium that would last far into the future. The medium they had decided upon: shellac (what Edison used when he first invented recording technology back in the nineteenth century). Rick Karr reported: "the format needs to be reliably re-created and understood by civilizations 50, 100 or even 1,000 years from now. But thanks to a grant from the Smolian-Giovannoni Foundation, all of these audio formats are being transferred onto 10-inch wide, 78 rpm shellac disks -- the one rock-solid format archivists have identified that works every time." And so works such as Vanilla Ice's smash debut CD were being painstakingly transferred onto shellac. The report concluded: "If funding levels can be maintained, experts estimate the archiving project can catch up with recordings made before 2003 by April 1, 2089."

Species Restaurant
The Sydney Morning Herald reviewed Species restaurant in their Good Living supplement. This unusual dining establishment allowed diners to sample animals featured on the World Wildlife Fund's endangered list. Among its specialties: braised slices of hairy nosed wombat, yellow spotted tree frog kebabs and Sumatran Rhino steaks. The owner of the restaurant was named April Phewell.

Saddam Hussein Offered Job in South Africa
South Africa's Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper scooped its rivals by reporting that, in a last minute deal to avoid war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had accepted an offer of exile in South Africa. In exchange he would run South Africa's oil industry. Details of the arrangement included: Hussein would be given a game farm on which to live, and he would travel in a jet outfitted with a missile defense system. The US was said to be happy about the deal because it would make Hussein "somebody else's problem."

US To Move Its Embassy in Berlin
Germany's Tageszeitung claimed that the US had decided to move its Berlin embassy. The problem with the current location of the embassy was two-fold. First it stood directly opposite the French embassy, which was awkward because of French resistance to Washington's war in Iraq. Second, the embassy was located on Pariser Platz (meaning Parisian Square). The newspaper noted that Washington might reconsider the move, "but only if the name of the square is changed."

Kenyan Troops To Serve in Iraq
Kenya's East African Standard reported that the US forces in Iraq were actively recruiting reinforcements from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Troops from these regions were supposedly better adapted to desert conditions which were giving the US forces a "rough time."

Oil Found in Japan
The Tokyo Shimbun reported the discovery of a huge oil field (over 110 billion barrels, about the size of Iraqi reserves) in the Tokyo Gulf. It was predicted that this would tip the balance of power with Washington in Japan's favour.

Astro Boy to the Rescue
The Tokyo Shimbun also reported that the Japanese government was planning to send robots modelled on the 1960s cartoon character Astro Boy to assist with post-war reconstruction in Iraq. They noted: "It is partly aimed at showing the world the right way to use science technology following the loss of confidence in US high-tech weapons."

Nessie Fence
The Inverness Courier reported on opposition to a plan to build a six-foot high fence around parts of Loch Ness in order to protect the public from Nessie. The paper wrote: "The Provost condemned proposed European Health & Safety legislation that requires the separation of wild animals from humans. 'Nessie is not a wild animal and has never bitten or attacked anyone,' he declared... 'Many people enjoy the Loch Ness area and the authorities should include a suitable gate to allow access to the loch. I am prepared to use the loch at my own risk.' Ella MacRae, the Landlord at Dores Inn, agreed with the Provost and said she would provide a stock of disclaimer forms at the Inn."

Norfolk Island Pines Cellphone Towers
Australia's Manly Daily reported that Norfolk Island Pines were going to be cut down in the suburbs of Sydney in order to make room for mobile phone towers. The new phone towers would be thoughtfully disguised as Norfolk Island Pines.

Chips Banned From UK Schools
The BBC reported that school-lunch authorities in the UK had decided to ban chips (french fries) from school canteens: "They reckon the fave food is unhealthy, so have decided kids won't be able to eat it any more - you'll all have to eat lumpy mash instead! Government food expert Professor Steve P.U. Denton said that although they knew the decision would be unpopular, they were making it so kids would be healthier. He added: 'We're very sorry that we have to do this, but kids spend so much time playing computer games now we have to help them keep fit another way.' The head of the UK Chip Authority, Fry Smith has slammed the move, saying he couldn't understand why chips have come in for special treatment."

Payback 1.0, Anti-Hacker Software
The Register reported that there was finally a way for computer users to get back at hackers. A company called Backfire Security had developed a software package called Payback 1.0, which it was making available as a free download at its website, http://www.backfiresecurity.co.uk/ (no longer active). The Register wrote: "PAYBACK v1.0 is a new kind of anti-hacker application called an IRS (Intruder Retaliation System) and is based upon "guerrilla" programming protocols and algorithms originally developed for the Chinese Space Program. The software has the ability to instantly and dynamically 'trace' the IP source address - no matter how well masked - of the network attack/infection and respond by launching either a Domain Name or Mail Server flood attack in the direction of the attacker." The Backfire website was visited by over 30,000 people in a single day, over half of whom tried to download the fictional software. When they tried to do so they were greeted with the words "April Fool."

World Window Cleaning Championship
The Welsh Western Mail reported that the Great Glasshouse in the National Botanic Garden of Wales was going to host the World Window Cleaning Championship. The spokesman organising the event was said to be "Mr Miki Taik" (i.e. 'take the mickey').

Liverpool Bikini Contest
Liverpool DJ Kev Seed announced that the first 50 girls to pose in a bikini in the city centre would win racing tickets. Three bikini-clad young women braved the cold weather and appeared at the designated spot, but all for nothing. The contest was an April Fools joke.

Internet Pranks

The Honest Thief
In late February a Dutch company calling itself The Honest Thief announced that it would host a new, totally legal file-sharing service. And how could it do so, given all the lawsuits facing other file-sharing networks? Answer: "The Honest Thief is the first Dutch company to take advantage of a recent Dutch appeals court ruling that paved the way for the Netherlands to become the world's first legal haven for file sharing companies." Huge amounts of press attention followed, including an article in the Wall Street Journal. But visitors to The Honest Thief website on April 1st were met with an announcement: April Fool! There was no legal file-sharing network. It was all a ploy to promote a book of the same name (The Honest Thief) by Pieter Plass.

Typing monkey
The website of the First Genetics Corporation appeared online. First Genetics claimed to have genetically engineered a monkey (called Marty) to increase its intelligence. Marty was so intelligent that he had learned how to type in English and would respond to questions. First Genetics invited web surfers to chat with Marty online. Of course, what people were really chatting with was a software program. First Genetics was the creation of The Sun, which had decided to celebrate April Fools by creating a hoax website.

GE Sponsors Iraq War Coverage
The anti-war site Iraq-War.org posted a report claiming that the Cable News Network (CNN) was accepting corporate sponsors for its coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom: "During the first 'Shock and Awe' campaign on Bagdad, Thursday, March 20, 2003 the GE logo appeared inconspicuously in the lower right corner of the screen. When questioned, CNN spokesman, Allen Simpson said, 'In order to offset the coverage of this war, which all networks found out during the first Gulf War to be extremely expensive, we have taken to running a limited number of corporate logo advertising during the war coverage.'"

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."

Security Flag in the IPv4 Header
The Network Working Group issued a RFC (request for comments) paper, written by Steve Bellovin, of AT&T Labs Research, suggesting a new way of preventing malicious packets of data from making their way through network security systems: "Firewalls [CBR03], packet filters, intrusion detection systems, and the like often have difficulty distinguishing between packets that have malicious intent and those that are merely unusual. The problem is that making such determinations is hard. To solve this problem, we define a security flag, known as the "evil" bit, in the IPv4 [RFC791] header. Benign packets have this bit set to 0; those that are used for an attack will have the bit set to 1." In other words, have hackers voluntarily identify the presence of their programs. Bellovin noted that many people on his security mailing list appeared to have fallen for the prank, even though he had been jokingly referring to such a system for years.

Corporate Pranks

Personalized Tires
Dunlop Tires announced the availability of a new product: personalized tire treads: "'For hundreds of years people have been monogramming their clothes, and there's certainly no shortage of personalized license plates, so why shouldn't they be able to add a personal touch to their tires too?' said Ian McIntosh, General Manager of Advertising & Marketing Services, Dunlop Tires (Canada)... Dunlop Ident-a-Treds are the product of more than a decade of top-secret work at the company's remote Canadian research and development facility in Serit Polnud, NWT. Researchers at the Serit Polnud lab created the new, ultra malleable and highly adhesive tires by combining sticky sap from Canadian maple trees with traditional rubber compounds. Dunlop Ident-a-Tred tires are available with initials, symbols, designs or logos engraved onto the tire treads, combining superior traction and handling with unique style."


Invisible Cars
Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Melbourne's Herald Sun both contained an advertisement describing a new technology that would allow vehicles to avoid paying road tolls by simultaneously making the vehicles invisible and raising the toll booms. Readers were directed to nomoretolls.com for more information. The ads were placed by Travelodge hotels.

George Foreman USB iGrill
Thinkgeek.com, an online retailer of gadgets and geek toys, debuted the George Foreman USB iGrill, the "low-fat, high-bandwidth solution to your networked cooking needs": "The George Foreman USB iGrill conveniently connects to your home or office PC using USB 2.0 technology, and provides a sophisticated web-based cooking interface. Download recipes, enter in the type of food, weight and desired degree of doneness, and the iGrill handles the rest. Did you know that a medium rare 1/4 lb. hamburger made from 80% lean beef takes 1 minute and 45 seconds less cook time than an identical patty made from 95% lean prime Black Angus? The iGrill does. As your meal cooks, the subtle glow from under the unit increases brightness and pulses faster until your meal is perfectly done."

Vertical Parking Locator
Car-maker MINI placed ads in several Australian papers describing a new space-saving technology: the Vertical Parking Locator (VPL), which allowed MINIs to park vertically on the side of buildings. Their press release stated that: "The world-first VPL allows MINI Coopers to be parked vertically against walls, thus saving substantial parking space. ASC+T-backed VPL gives MINIs sufficient traction to attain and maintain an erect parking position and to cling securely to the side of the designated building. All-but seamless in operation, VPL makes its presence felt via a subtle frisson of vibration as the traction system is activated. A warning jingle recorded by a string quartet in the key of G also sounds." To demonstrate the technology MINI placed one of their cars on the side of the Woolworths building in George Street, Sydney.

New BBEdit Pricing Option
Software maker BBEdit unveiled a new pricing option for power users: "Upon purchase of BBEdit at the price of US$250,000, you will receive the following: a single-user license for BBEdit 7.0 on CD-ROM, hand-delivered to your specified address by a Bare Bones Software employee wearing a gorilla suit. (5% surcharge for street clothes.)"


Mark Cuban Fakes Fight
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, known for his frequent arguments with officials (for which he has suffered heavy fines), appeared to get into yet another screaming match with an official during the second quarter of the game against the New Orleans Hornets. He was seen arguing with an official during a stoppage in play. Then he shoved the man and had to be restrained by one of the team's equipment managers. Only then was it revealed that the entire incident had been staged.

European Committee Bans Single-Shelled Eggs
The European Committee issued a communique in which it declared that it was banning single-shelled eggs, in order to prevent cracked eggs being found in food stores. The ban was a play on the French word "coque" which means both egg shell and ship's hull.

Anti-war Billboard
Indiana anti-war protesters draped a sign over a billboard along I-465 that read: "April Fools! Fooled into Another War For Oil." The message was quickly removed, and the owner of the billboard threatened that he would prosecute the protesters, if found.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us
Twenty signs appeared in various locations throughout Sturgis, Michigan reading, "All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time." The signs were a reference to a well-known quotation from a badly translated Japanese video game. The signs were put up by 7 young men, who intended them as an April Fools joke. Unfortunately, many residents didn't get the joke, thinking that the signs somehow referred to the war in Iraq. The police didn't understand them either. Police Chief Eugene Alli said the signs could be "a borderline terrorist threat depending on what someone interprets it to mean." The seven men were arrested.

Soccer Star Yardis Alpolfo
Alex McLeish, manager of the Scotish football club Rangers, announced that he had signed Yardis Alpolfo, a seventeen-year-old Turkish player, to a 5 million deal. Many news organizations, including Reuters, reported the story. However, it was a joke. Yardis Alpolfo was an anagram of "April Fool's Day."

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