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April Fools Day Computer Technology Hoaxes
First Practical Touring Machine. (1976)
Byte Magazine published a technology update describing an invention that it hailed as the “first practical Touring Machine”: This month in the hills of New Hampshire, we discovered an example of computer technology in the form of the first practical Touring Machine, shown here complete with a unary relocatable based operator (in IBM OS PL/1 parlance). For those individuals having less than a passing acquaintance with computer science, the Turing machine is a famous mathematical construction first formulated some decades ago by Alan Mathison Turing, and which can be shown to be logically equivalent to any digital computer implementation. A Turing Machine is to computing what a More…
The Amazing Apple-Pip. (1981)
Computer manufacturer Microsense ran an ad in The Guardian announcing the "Apple-Pip," which it described as "an amazing breakthrough in computer miniaturisation." "The new Apple-Pip is a tiny computer only 3/4" high which you can grow to full size in your own garden in just seven days. Simply sow the Apple-Pip in fertile soil during a guaranteed sunshine week, cover lightly with a soft mulch of old unpaid invoices, inaccurate stock control sheets and outdated sales forecasts — and wait to be amazed. In two days, the monitor screen will break surface. In seven days your new computer will be fully grown and ready for use. And that's not all! If you leave the fully grown computer in More…
The Black-Hole Diode. (1981)
Byte Magazine, in its What's New column, described a useful new computer component, the 7N-∞ BHD (black-hole diode): "Another new addition in the small-components market is the 7N-∞ BHD (black-hole diode). This device has two inputs and no output. Care must be taken to shield this component appropriately or it may absorb the unit it is placed in. The 7N-∞ will accept any voltage or current value. It is useful for GI (garbage-in) applications. Due to the light-absorption qualities of the device, we could not provide a photograph. Contact Spatial Regression Ltd, POB 463, Paulborough NH 03458." More…
Debugging Tool. (1982)
Byte magazine profiled a new Debugging Tool that "Irons Out Circuit Problems": The General Electric Model F340 Electric Iron serves as a handy debugging tool for crucial logic circuits that must exhibit planar topology or use especially thin-film substrates. Using the latest deionized-vapor-injection technology, the Model F340 can be used with circuits arrayed on fiber substrates up to 0.1 cm (approximately 1/8 inch) thick, assuming proper adjustments for duration of treatment. More…
Erase-Only Memory. (1982)
Byte Magazine described an "erase-only memory" circuit in it's "What's New" section: The Stanislowski Electronics 3131.3 is a 4 Kbyte, vigorous, random-access erase-only memory (RAEOM) Imaginary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (IMOS) integrated circuit (IC)... Possible applications include disposing of obsolete data and programs, destroying incriminating evidence, and amusing computer hobbyists. Due to the patented IMOS process, the 3131.3 remains fully functional even when power is removed, making it ideal for use during power blackouts. More…
The 5-megabyte Hard Drive. (1982)
The Sinclair ZX81, launched in 1981, was the first cheap mass-market home computer. However, it lacked a hard drive, storing data instead on audio tape cassettes. However, Byte magazine revealed that a third-party supplier, Hindsight Engineering, was introducing a 5-megabyte hard disk for the ZX81. (At the time, 5 megabytes was considered an extremely large size): Responding to an obvious need of ZX81 owners for more data storage space, Hindsight Engineering has developed a 5-megabyte hard-disk system for the Sinclair ZX81. The system is available in either assembled or kit forms. The kit includes instructions for building your own clean room for kit assembly. A DOS will soon be available. More…

The Transporter Portable Computer. (1985)
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. More…
Soybean Computer Disks. (1985)
Byte Magazine featured a section called "What's Not," instead of its usual "What's Hot" section. Included were technological gadgets such as computer disks made of soybeans: If merely erasing sensitive data is not enough for you, Soycure Systems of Tokyo has developed the ultimate in disk security. Made entirely of processed soybeans, Parasoya Disks are writable, readable, and edible. Parasoya disks contain 84 percent more protein than average floppy disks and are available in 5¼-inch (regular) and 3½-inch (crunchy) formats. More…
The MacKnifer. (1985)
Byte magazine described a new product called the MacKnifer: "Ennui Associates has announced MacKnifer, a hardware attachment that mounts on the side of your Macintosh and sharpens knives, scissors, lawn-mower blades—anything in your home that needs sharpening. With MacKnifer's patented double-action grinding wheel, you can easily sharpen any utensil in less time than it takes the Mac to open a file. According to the manufacturer, MacKnifer is so easy to use that you can operate it within 30 minutes of taking it out of the box. Turn your spare computing time into extra cash with a knife-sharpening business on the side... of your Macintosh." More…
Moore’s Law Rewritten. (1990)
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." More…
Left-Handed Toshiba. (1997)
Declaring that "there's nothing looney about the lefties," Toshiba announced the new "Toshiba Tecra F00-LDU" — a portable computer designed for left-handed users: "The F00-LDU is a fully functional notebook packed with all the features you'd expect from the world leader in portable computing — only it fits left handed people like a glove. The major bays and keys are reversed for clarity and there's a stunning left handed screen." More…
Y2K solved. (1999)
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. More…
PigeonRank. (2002)
Google revealed the secret at the heart of its search technology: PigeonRank. Clusters of pigeons had been trained to compute the relative values of web pages: PigeonRank's success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation… By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings. When a search query is submitted to Google, it is routed to a data coop where monitors flash More…
George Foreman USB iGrill. (2003)
Thinkgeek.com introduced 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 More…
Human Gets Computer Virus. (2003)
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." More…
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!" More…
USB Fondue. (2005)
Online retailer ThinkGeek.com announced the availability of the "Fundue," a desktop USB-powered fondue set — "a USB powered desktop culinary experience that will transform your lunches to a new realm." More…
LivePoke. (2007)
The social networking site Facebook posted a notice about a new feature called LivePoke allowing users to "dispatch a real live person to poke a friend of your choice." The offer was said to be good for only the first 100 pokers in each network. The joke was a reference to Facebook's "poke" feature, which causes a poke icon to appear on another user's home page. More…
Toilet Internet Service Provider. (2007)
Google announced a new technology called TiSP (Toilet Internet Service Provider) that would allow it to provide free in-home wireless broadband service. Users would connect to the internet via their bathroom's plumbing system. Installation involved dropping a weighted fiber-optic cable down the toilet and then activating the "patented GFlush™ system" which would send the cable "surfing through the plumbing system to one of the thousands of TiSP Access Nodes." Google promised that it would provide a higher-performance version of the service for businesses which would include "24-hour, on-site technical support in the event of backup problems, brownouts and data wipes." More…
Sniff-Screen Technology. (2007)
The BBC reprised its 1965 "smellovision" April Fool hoax by inviting visitors to its website to test new "sniff-screen technology" by clicking on various colored squares, pressing their noses and thumbs against their screen, and inhaling to identify the smell.
Super Pii Pii Brothers. (2008)
ThinkGeek described an unusual new Nintendo Wii game — Super Pii Pii Brothers, an "Amazing Virtual Pee Experience from Japan." "Prepare yourself by strapping on the included belt harness and jacking in your Wiimote. A series of toilets are presented on screen and the challenge is to tilt your body to control a never-ending stream of pee. Get as much pee in the toilets as you can while spilling as little on the floor as possible." More…
Alpine Legend. (2009)
Microsoft announced the release of a new game for the Xbox: Alpine Legend. It featured the tagline, "Join the Global Yodel." Players competed online by yodeling and blowing on an alpine horn: "Take your band through all the alpine rights of passage: a mountainous village tour, recording sessions in a log cabin studio, overcoming throat soother addiction, and even competing in a live yodel off." More…
DIY CrunchPad Kit. (2010)
Technology news website TechCrunch released a video detailing its new "DIY CrunchPad Kit" that allowed people to convert any laptop screen into a touchscreen device. The process involved removing the screen from the laptop, placing a (highly toxic) nanobot-driven "F.U.J.J." film over the screen, adding a new CPU, power unit, and 4G module, and finally "special radioactive shield casing." The price was only $49.99. More…
iPad Fit Series. (2010)
Health and Fitness company Dailyburn introduced the iPad Fit Series. This app transfored an iPad into a scale. After a person stepped on the screen, the app would instantly analyze body fat percentage, calculate BMI, and then announce their weight out loud, either scolding or congratulating based on the results. More…
Tableau iPad Restaurant. (2011)
CNet reported on Tableau, a new London restaurant using iPad 2 tablets as plates: It was deeply moving to see a delicious steak served on a stunning slice of tablet technology. Info about calories and nutrients was displayed around our pasta, and it even warned us to beware of our piping-hot food. There are downsides to iPad 2-based dishes, however. The device doesn't have a rim, which means it doesn't do a good job of holding sauces and other runny items. According to other diners, the all-day breakfast was "a nightmare" due to the fried egg and beans running rampant over the table. More…
Sony Ultra-Small Ultrabook. (2012)
Sony debuted the VAIO® Q Ultrabook, boasting 8GB of RAM, HD 1080p resolution, and full 3-D graphic support. It could also fit in your pocket because it was the size of a quarter. Sony promised that it was the "lightest, most portable ultrabook ever," offering "portability without compromise." "Watch the future of mobile computing unfold before your eyes," the company said, "and soon, in the palm of your hand." More…
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.