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April Fool's Day, 2003
Vertical Parking Locator. (2003) 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:
"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."
Liverpool Bikini Contest. (2003) 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.
Astro Boy to the Rescue. (2003) The Tokyo Shimbun 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."
All Your Base Are Belong To Us. (2003) 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.
US To Move Berlin Embassy. (2003) Germany's Tageszeitung claimed that the US had decided to move its Berlin embassy because it was too close to the French embassy. (Relations between the two countries were tense at the time because of French resistance to the U.S. war in Iraq.) Also, 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."
Oil Found in Japan. (2003) 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.
Chips Banned From UK Schools. (2003) The BBC reported that school-lunch authorities in the UK had banned 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."
Personalized Tires. (2003) Dunlop Tires announced the introduction of 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."
Mark Cuban Fakes Fight. (2003) 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 a referee 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.
The Honest Thief File-Sharing Network. (2003) In late February, a Dutch company calling itself The Honest Thief announced it would host a new, totally legal file-sharing service. It explained that it was able to do this because a recent Dutch court ruling allowed the Netherlands to become a legal haven for file sharing companies.
Large 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. The hoax was a stunt to promote a book of the same name (The Honest Thief) by Pieter Plass.
Endangered Species Restaurant. (2003) 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. The next day the paper received numerous letters from outraged readers who thought the restaurant was real.
Kenyan Troops To Serve in Iraq. (2003) 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."
Shellac, Sound of the Future. (2003) NPR'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 was shellac — the material Edison had used when he first invented recording technology back in the nineteenth century. Archivists had identified this as "the one rock-solid format... that works every time."
Works such as Vanilla Ice's 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."
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 faster until your meal is perfectly done."
Soccer Star Yardis Alpolfo. (2003) Alex McLeish, manager of the Scottish Rangers Football Club, 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 as fact. Yardis Alpolfo was an anagram of "April Fool's Day."
Saddam Hussein Offered Job in South Africa. (2003) 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."
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."
European Committee Bans Single-Shelled Eggs. (2003) 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.
Nessie Fence Opposed. (2003) 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 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."