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April Fool's Day, 1982
Athens Pollution Alert. (1982) Greece's state-controlled National Radio Network issued a warning that pollution had reached emergency levels in downtown Athens, and that the city would have to be immediately evacuated. All schools were called upon to close immediately, and the children to be sent home. Furthermore, anyone driving a car was asked to abandon it and flee to open ground.
Many people took the broadcast seriously and attempted to leave the city, since pollution was (and is) a serious problem in Athens. Within three hours the Radio Network had retracted the broadcast, revealing it to be a joke, but by then the damage had been done. One man sued the network for $820,000, claiming the prank had caused him mental distress. The director of the network submitted his resignation over the incident, and the originator of the hoax was fired.
Hong Kong Powdered Water. (1982) The South China Morning Post announced that a solution to Hong Kong’s water shortage was at hand. First, scientists had found a way to drain the clouds surrounding the island’s peak of their water by electrifying them via antennae erected on the peak. The paper warned that this might have a negative impact on surrounding property values, but the government had approved the project nevetheless. Second, more clouds could be attracted to the region by means of a weather satellite positioned over India. And finally, packets of powdered water imported from China would be distributed to all the residents of Hong Kong. A single pint of water added to this powdered water would magically transform into ten pints of drinkable water.
Hong Kong’s radio shows were flooded with calls from people eager to discuss these solutions to the water shortage. Many of the calls were supportive of the plans, but one woman pointed out that the pumps needed to supply powdered water would be too complicated and expensive.
The TNBC Network. (1982) On Cable magazine reported that Turner Broadcasting was going to merge with NBC. The new logo of the resulting company (TNBC) would show a peacock wearing Ted Turner's trademark railroad engineer's cap. Ted Turner would personally add some variety to the new company's entertainment lineup by co-hosting a country music show called "Atlanta Howdown" with Slim Whitman and Barbara Mandrell. On Cable magazine received angry phone calls from executives at both NBC and TNT complaining that their management had taken such a step without informing them first.
The Laytonsville Dump Stadium. (1982) State Senator Victor Crawford of Montgomery, Maryland introduced a bill into the Maryland senate proposing that his district receive $45 million to buy the Baltimore Colts and build a new stadium for them at the Laytonsville dump site in upper Montgomery County.
The Interfering Brassieres. (1982) The Daily Mail published an article titled "Do not adjust your set—it could be your bra!" in which it reported that 10,000 brassieres made by a local manufacturer had developed a serious problem. The support wire in the bras had been fashioned out of specially treated copper originally been designed for use in fire alarms. When this wire came into contact with nylon and body heat, it was producing static electricity which, in turn, was being emitted by thousands of unsuspecting women, causing interference with the reception of television signals throughout the country. As the article put it, "Widespread television interference, which has brought complaints from viewers all over Britain in recent weeks, is being caused not by unusual atmospheric conditions, but by 10,000 'rogue' bras."
The Daily Mail advised women to conduct a simple test to determine if their bra was "rogue": "After wearing the bra for at least half an hour, take it off and shake it a few inches above the TV." The paper displayed a picture of a model shaking her bra above a TV in order to show women how to perform the test.
Hundreds of readers took the article seriously. Among the readers who were fooled was the chief engineer of British Telecom who, according to later reports, upon reading the article immediately called his office and asked that all his female employees be checked to see if their bras were interfering with any electronic equipment.
Tass Expands into American Market. (1982) The Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was "the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain." The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by "simultaneous hunting accidents" in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with "standard-issue Soviet Army rifles." An accompanying picture showed Gazette and Compass staff members wearing winter coats and fur hats, and carrying hockey sticks and bottles of vodka.
The announcement itself was bylined "By John Reed," and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be "thoroughly red." A new delivery system was also promised: cruise missiles (the publisher then admitted that this proposal was a 'leetle Soviet joke.') In response to the news, the offices of the Compass and the Gazette received calls offering condolences for the death of the publishers. One caller also informed them that he had long suspected them of harboring communist tendencies, and that it was only a matter of time before all the papers in the country were communist-controlled. When the publishers tried to explain that the article had been an April Fool's prank, the caller replied, "You expect me to believe a bunch of Commies?"
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.
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.
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.
Hundreds of readers wrote to the magazine requesting more information.