TagMax Headroom

Remembering the Max Headroom Incident, One of the Creepiest Hacks Ever

I wrote a bit about the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion for Wired today:

Around 9 o’clock on November 22, 1989, Chicago residents witnessed this epic hack. The evening news sportscast cut out, and a person in a strange mask appeared, dancing around in front of a spinning piece of metal—a rather dark incarnation of Max Headroom, the rather inexplicable character at the heart of the British TV series Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into The Future and two subsequent TV shows. On these shows, Headroom had a tendency to interrupt the broadcasts of the fictional TV station Network 23, but this wasn’t an authorized appearance by the character. It was a real pirate transmission.

After about 30 seconds, WGN’s technicians were able to override the pirate signal. “Well, if you’re wondering what’s happened, so am I,” the station’s sports anchor Dan Roan said when the signal was restored. But two hours later, PBS affiliate station WTTW’s broadcast of Doctor Who was similarly interrupted. This time, the pranksters were able to broadcast their entire video, complete with audio. And what nightmarish audio it was. “Yeah, I think I’m better than Chuck Swirsky!” the infiltrator announced in a high pitched, distorted voice, referring to the Chicago area sports announcer.

Full Story: Remembering the Max Headroom Incident, One of the Creepiest Hacks Ever

Vice Motherboard has the most in-depth look at the incident that I’ve seen, and those looking for something longer than my piece but shorter than the Vice piece should check out Chicago Radio and Media‘s article. And the Chicago Tribune‘s contemporaneous coverage is worth a read too.

What happened to the science-fiction future?

If this is the future, someone forgot to stock it properly. Where are the personal service robots, the moon vacations, the self-contained cities rising out of the smog? What happened to all those sci-fi prophecies? In Where’s My Jetpack? (Bloomsbury), Popular Mechanics columnist Daniel Wilson moans that ‘it’s the twenty-first century, and things are a little disappointing.’ Wilson, the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, begs ‘all the scientists, inventors, and tinkerers out there’ to ‘please hurry up’ (emphasis in original).

Wilson shouldn’t be so moony. Fanciful futurist visions can obscure all the neat stuff we’ve accumulated, once-wild innovations that are far cooler and more functional than jetpacks. (Microwave ovens, anyone?) They also make it easy to forget that the ultimate responsibility for choosing which technologies fill our lives lies with us, the ordinary consumers, more than any rocket scientists. Take the titular jetpack. It exists-but no one really wants it. It’s a 125-pound monster with a flight time of 30 seconds, powered by expensive fuel. The dream of individual human flight was realized in 1961, and we haven’t been able to find any use for it outside of Bond movies, the first Super Bowl halftime show, and Ovaltine commercials.

Full Story: Reason.

See also: The prescience of Max Headroom.

The prescience of Max Headroom

Alterati reviews the most prescient aspects of the 1987 TV series Max Headroom:

Cellphones
Short Advertisements
CGI
Computer Generated Composite Photos
Integrated Corporate Information Systems
Every Information Device Connected
Cash Free Society
One (Token) Ring To Rule Them All

Full Story: Alterati.

© 2019 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑