But latter-day Edisons at ThinkGeek outdid themselves with the Screened Sphorb, a device so unbelievably awesome that its accompanying QuickTime video--to say nothing of the attendant text description--don't begin to capture its multifaceted brilliance. What self-respecting geek could pass up a product that lets you "mod elementals AND screen drive in twice the time using only half of the optional memory pods, while the other half waits to achieve a normalized state"--for a mere $39.99? Best of all, legacy Sphorbs are fully engaged in the emulation process! Caveat emptor: No matter what assurances ThinkGeek's Screened Sphorb page makes about availability, the item may remain on back order indefinitely (or infinitely).
Usually, the moderated posts on the Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems (a.k.a. Risks) focus soberly on news about security flaws in computer programs--and the life-threatening unintended consequences of those programs. But around the first of April each year, Risks takes a decidedly silly turn, featuring satirical, sometimes macabre, and possibly fictitious reports of technology gone wrong.
Examples from the April 1, 2006 issue include reports about a motorist trapped in a traffic circle for 14 hours by his car's malfunctioning lane-keeping software; and about the announcement at Cambridge University of new full-scale mapping software (where 1 kilometer of the real world is represented by 1 km of the map) that had revealed errors in the location of actual roads and buildings. (Spokesperson Lewis Carroll assured reporters that the maps would be annotated to reflect the real-world errors.)
Then there was a post about the "successful" evacuation of an Airbus 380 in 90 seconds. The latter quotes a statistics-enamored Airbus source, who downplayed reports of injuries during the record- (and femur-) breaking deplaning: "In a group of 853 people, the chances that one person has a broken leg and doesn't yet know it are substantial. The test showed that everyone came out at least as healthy as when they went in."
The Web-browser business is highly competitive, and developers like the Mozilla Foundation, Microsoft, and Opera are always trying to outdo each other with breakthrough enhancements. So it seemed like business as usual when, on April 1, 2005, Opera issued a press release announcing Opera SoundWave, described as an exciting platform-independent real-time technology for short- and medium-range interpersonal communication.
The company stated that it had accidentally discovered SoundWave during an R&D study to speech-enable Opera's e-mail client, and included a link to a demo of the analog-signal-processing technology.
We hoped that continued healthy competition in the browser market would prompt further advances in Web-enabled communications, but Opera's ill-advised 2006 venture into stock photography was a disappointing follow-up.
On April 1, 2007, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' blog, The PETA Files (say it out loud), contained a brief entry regarding a new Minnesota-based antihunting group called Hunting Is Downright Evil (HIDE), which had developed an ingenious new plan to protect local deer from hunters--first tranquilizing them (the deer, not the hunters), then painting them with a camouflage pattern, and finally rereleasing them into the wild. It certainly gave a new twist to the term "deerhide."
Despite the telltale date right next to the blog post's title, dozens of commentators blasted away at HIDE, PETA, and each other until sunset. Only at 5:44 p.m. on April 1--after a score of vitriolic denunciations of deer painting, hunt interference, and "tree-huggin' idiots"--did a lone voice finally interject: "Y'all know what day it is, right?"
Needless to say, most subsequent commentators persisted in not getting it. PETA was no newcomer to the art of the prank, either: In 2000, the organization announced plans to sabotage a Texas bass fishing tournament by knocking the fish out with tranquilizers. It's a joke, son. Contributing Editor Scott Spanbauer moonlights as a college Spanish instructor, and part-time Shinto priest. No, really.