We interrupt your regularly scheduled programing…
This is not the post you are looking for. Error, please try again. Okay, seriously I need to get some work done today and I don’t have time to solve our mysterious mind control device problem that I posed yesterday, so today I’m going to give some quick thoughts on something totally unrelated because there isn’t time for anything else and while trying to figure out a header for this post (where I was originally going to say hey can’t talk today) I was reminded of max headroom. I genuinely don’t know that I’ve ever said that before, but here we are…
The year is 1987 and on November 22 in Chicago a local TV station was doing a broadcast covering the nine o’clock news. Nothing strange about that, but for 15 seconds the screen went blank and when it came back it cut to a man wearing a max headroom mask. For those unfamiliar max headroom, the guy pictured above was a show about an AI. He would glitch and do all sorts of weird things and you can watch clips on youtube if you’re interested. There was no audio with the first incident and it took roughly 30 seconds to fix the issue, but that wasn’t the strangest bit! There was a second hack.
The second hack happened two hours later on a different channel. This time during an airing of Dr.Who! This was lucky for those of us who are fans of the incident because we don’t have to just hear about it happening, we can actually watch the video from the hack! Below is the clip from before the hack occurred to just after it ended. It’s wild and that’s not even the oddest part of the story!
This wasn’t the first or the last time a news station was hacked, but it was the oddest. From the clip and the behavior of the person you would assume that this was an amature job or maybe something last minute, but this isn’t the case! Investigators first thought the person was inside the building (based on the first hack), but after a search they didn’t find the person(s) responsible so they concluded that whoever did it had used their own dish antenna near the transmitter tower. It was a combination of good timing and positioning, but clearly whoever did it had more than just a working knowledge of how broadcasting worked.
Of course the media loved it and aired the clip above repeatedly talking about this. The FCC and the federal government however were not as amused. There were national security issues involved with this type of hacking, like not just transmitting signals, but intercepting classified satellite information. Since this wasn’t something new, there were laws in place that would make life for the person (or people) who did this awful, the first time someone hacked a TV signal they got a $5000 fine and probation, when the max headroom hack happened, this was now a felony.
Two things make me super interested in this bit of history. The first is motive. We have no idea what any of this even means! No clues, no motives, nothing from the broadcast suggests it was anything more than just something to do for fun. Felony fun, but fun all the same I guess. I mean if that’s your thing, then who am I to judge?
The second thing that makes this so interesting is that whoever was behind it was never caught. Literally the federal government was searching whoever did it and came up with zero. There has been speculation about who was behind it, but even now after all this time no one has claimed responsibility. The person could be dead, the person could be alive, we just don’t know.
There’s just so much we don’t know about how or why this happened and that to me is the most interesting thing, mysteries are fun and maybe we solve it one day, maybe we don’t, but until then all the weird broadcasting hacks that have happened since (like this one in 2009) don’t even compare (at least to me).
Anyway hopefully we can get back to regular stuff tomorrow, but there was just no time to make that happen today!