Monday, April 1, 2013

Apple #631: April Fool's Day Pranks

For your April 1 pleasure, I thought I'd collect a few especially choice April Fool's Day pranks.

Left-handed Whopper

(Photo from Magique)

In 1998, Burger King published a full-page ad in USA Today, saying they were offering a new sandwich: the Left-Handed Whopper.  All condiments had been rotated 180 degrees for the ease of Burger King's 1.4 million left-handed customers.

Lefties all over the country lined up for the new Whoppers, many of them failing to realize that rotating the condiments 180 degrees meant there was actually no difference.

Instant color television

Black & white TV, magically transformed to color
(Photo from Ugo

In 1962, when televisions were still only black and white, the Swedish television station Sveriges had a "technical expert" tell people on the air that if you stretched a pair of nylon stockings over your television, the nylon would bend the TV's light wavelengths in such a way that you could see the black & white picture in color.  You also had to "angle yourself" so your eye could catch the wavelength from the right position.

An estimated "thousands" of people who tried it discovered that it did not work at all, only stretched out a perfectly good pair of nylons.

Internet shut down for spring cleaning

This prank first sprang into existence in 1997, but it's been updated and resurrected periodically ever since.

*** Attention ***
It's that time again!
As many of you know, each year the Internet must be shut down for 24 hours in order to allow us to clean it. The cleaning process, which eliminates dead email, inactive ftp and www sites, and empty USENET groups, allows for a better working and faster Internet.
This year, the cleaning process will take place from 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 1 until 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 2 (the time least likely to interfere with ongoing work). During that 24-hour period, five powerful Internet search engines situated around the world will search the Internet and delete any data that they find.
In order to protect your valuable data from deletion we ask that you do the following:
1. Disconnect all terminals and local area networks from their Internet connections.
2. Shut down all Internet servers, or disconnect them from the Internet.
3. Disconnect all disks and hard drives from any connections to the Internet.
4. Refrain from connecting any computer to the Internet in any way.
We understand the inconvenience that this may cause some Internet users, and we apologize. However, we are certain that any inconveniences will be more than made up for by the increased speed and efficiency of the Internet, once it has been cleared of electronic flotsam and jetsam.
We thank you for your cooperation.
Kim Dereksen
Interconnected Network Maintenance staff,
Main branch,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sysops and others: Since the last Internet cleaning, the number of Internet users has grown dramatically. Please assist us in alerting the public of the upcoming Internet cleaning by posting this message where your users will be able to read it. Please pass this message on to other sysops and Internet users as well.
Thank you.

BBC Suspends gravity

In 1976, an astronomer for the BBC's Radio 2 told listeners that later that morning, Pluto and Jupiter would align in a way that would cause a temporary reduction in gravity on Earth.  He said that at 9:47, people should jump in the air so they could experience a brief sensation of floating.

One minute later, the phone lines into the BBC were jammed with calls from people saying they had jumped at precisely 9:47, and they had experienced the sensation of floating.

This is apropos of nothing. I was looking for a photo of people jumping in an elevator and came across this. Since it's April Fool's, I thought I'd show it to you anyway.
(Photo from Elevator World)

BBC Flying penguins

In 2008, the BBC released a video showing an amazing discovery -- a group of penguins can fly.

It was such a hit, they still have a link on their Nature Wildlife page that suggests that the penguins are real: "Flying penguins are a very recent addition to the penguin family in evolutionary terms."

Here's how they did it:

Towing an iceberg

In 1978, Australian electronics entrepreneur Dick Smith often wondered why you couldn't tow an iceberg from Antarctica to places that needed fresh water.  He'd said these musings aloud to the media, and they were forever asking him when he was going to do this.  Finally, he announced that an iceberg would be arriving in Australia the following week, and the media passed on his announcement to the public.

That April 1, his employees started phoning radio stations and newspapers, saying, "What's that thing out in Sydney Harbor?  It looks like an iceberg." 

There was in fact something large and white in the harbor, but it wasn't an iceberg.  It was a barge, covered with a big sheet of plastic, shaving cream, and fire-fighting foam.

Enough people believed it was an iceberg that even the Australian Navy called to offer them a place to moor.  Within hours, driving rain had melted much of the foamy "ice," and the jig was up.

Entrepreneur Dick Smith and his "iceberg."
(Photo from

Fake volcano eruption

In 1974, residents of Sitka, Alaska, woke up to black smoke pouring out of the top of Mount Edgecumbe, which was a giant volcano.  They called the police, ran out of their homes, and otherwise feared imminent eruption.

Actually, a man named Porky Bickar had dropped a hundred tires, oily rags, Sterno, diesel oil, and smoke bombs inside the mouth of the volcano and set them on fire, creating the black smoke.

Mount Edgecumbe, with Porky's faux eruption.
(Photo from Sitka, Alaska)

He also wrote "April Fool" in giant letters in the snow nearby.  Since he used a helicopter to fly all his incendiaries up there, he told the FAA what he was up to.  And as a member of the police commission, he also told the police what he'd done. Now that's preparation.

The FAA controller reportedly said, as the helicopter was coming back to ground, "The son of a gun looks fantastic!"

Sitka residents also say that when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, one of their townsfolk wrote to Bickar saying, "Now you've gone too far."

I say, let's have more pranks like people used to pull in the 1970s.

Huffington Post, The 10 Best April Fools' Pranks Ever, March 29, 2012
Squidoo, Top 10 Biggest Pranks Ever
Dan Fletcher, The Left-Handed Whopper - 1998, Time, April 1, 2011
Mark Hill, The 7 Ballsiest Pranks You Won't Believe Actually Worked,, April 1, 2010
Sitka, Alaska, Porky's April Fool's Day Adventure, Internet Spring Cleaning
UK Mirror, Football's greatest April Fool pranks, Just tip of the iceberg, March 29, 2003

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