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April Fool's Day, 1985
Thermal Ties. (1985) ITV News ran a segment about a "thermal tie" developed by the British Department of Energy:
"Our research has discovered that heat loss from the body is particularly important in the front of the chest, and this thermally insulated tie is to prevent heat loss from that part of the body."
Conservative MP Anthony Beaumont-Dark reprimanded the DOE for participating in the prank, noting that such pranks were "OK for the music hall, but we do not expect this type of thing from government departments."
Dashboard Tire Pressure Control. (1985) BMW announced that its Chief development engineer, Herr Brehn, had come up with a solution for the "irksome chore" of maintaining correct tire pressure: dashboard tire pressure control:
"Herr Brehn perfected a revolving seal, kept airtight by an ingenious contra-flow of air under very high pressure... Touch a button on the console and a digital display gives pressure... A compressor feeds air into storage units. It then travels to the wheel centre via the revolving seal and through to the tyre. Excess pressure is merely vented into the contra-flow system."
School For Sale. (1985) The students of Newtonbrook Secondary School in Canada placed an ad in a local newspaper putting their school up for sale. The ad read: "For Sale—106-room mansion, 5 1/2 acres of well-kept grounds in the heart of Willowdale. $1 million." According to the principal, Richard Frise, the school's secretaries answered a number of calls from interested buyers before they realized what had happened.
Gourmet Bingo. (1985) The Guardian announced that under a new incentive plan, each of its readers would be eligible to receive a "Guardian Gourmet Card," allowing them to gain a 15% discount at participating restaurants. The card would also allow holders to be eligible for 850,000 pounds in prize money. Each card would display a ten digit number broken into a sequence of three-four-three. Each week top chefs would be asked to select their favorite three course dinner. A menu would be randomly selected from among these choices, and then the total calories in each course would be determined. These calorie amounts would become the prize-winning number, to be matched against the numbers on a card.
In a separate article, the Guardian admitted there was some similarity between their Gourmet bingo game and a bingo-style scheme launched by their competitor, the Standard, to earn reductions on restaurant meals (a scheme which the Guardian had derided as tawdry and commercial). But the Guardian's editor noted: "I cannot of course deny that there is pounds 850,000 at stake here... Nevertheless the whole tone and refined taste of the competition, redolent of wild strawberries rather than the sweaty armpits of the Stock Exchange, invites a totally different response from readers."
The next day the Guardian announced that it was forced to cancel its Gourmet Bingo game because of "an outbreak of salmonella poisoning at its plastic credit card subsidiary."
Sidd Finch. (1985) Sports Illustrated revealed that the New York Mets’s were hiring a new rookie pitcher, Sidd Finch (short for Siddhartha Finch), who could throw a ball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph. Sidd Finch had never played baseball before. Instead he had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa.“ Mets fans celebrated their teams good luck and flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. In reality, this unusual player sprang from the imagination of author George Plimpton.
Children with Giant Wishbone. (1985) Photograph by Cliff Yeich for the Eagle-Times (Reading, Pennsylvania).
Lowering the Congressional Minimum Age. (1985) Representative Thomas J. Downey (shown), a Democrat from New York, issued a news release proposing that the minimum age for Congressmen be lowered from 25 to 15. He cited the need for "new blood in Congress." He argued that teenagers could usefully lead a Select Committee on Acne and noted that "junkets could become field trips; the carry-outs could sell Twinkies; missed votes could be excused with a note from Mom." He did concede, however, that there would be an increased risk of "food fights in the cafeteria."
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.
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.
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 bladesanything 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."
Families limited to .75 children. (1985) The Rivereast News Bulletin (Glastonbury, Connecticut) announced that the city's Board of Education had devised a plan to eliminate overcrowding in classrooms. The plan was to forbid families from having more than .75 children per household for the next 15 years. The Board of Education admitted that it had not yet figured out how families could limit themselves to .75 children, but that a computer had determined that this was the ideal number. It was suggested that families unhappy with this ruling move to California. The Board added that the new ruling would not become law for another ten months. Therefore, parents who wanted more than .75 children were urged to "get started this afternoon."
The New York City Packers. (1985) New York City Comptroller Harrison Goldin called a news conference at which he announced that the city was purchasing the professional football team, the Green Bay Packers. City retirement funds would be used to make the purchase, and the Packers would replace the Giants and the Jets. Reporters had already phoned the story into the New York Post and Daily News when a press representative in Golden's office announced that the news was an April Fool's day joke. The Post complained that they had almost put the story on their front page, a mistake which would have cost them $100,000 to correct.
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