With April Fool’s Day this past weekend and stories of gullibility in the air, we thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to take a look back at some historical hoaxes in technology and what we can learn from them. If you look closely, many of the lessons learned in the wake of these pranks can still be applied to today’s IT management challenges.
Lesson 1: Ask for proof
The invention of the Brownie Camera, introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1900, brought low-cost photography and the “snapshot” to the masses. The introduction of amateur photography has since ushered in photographic “evidence” of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and in 1920 the staged photos of sweeter mythological creatures grabbed their own headlines. They came to be known as the Cottingley Fairies.
In an attempt to trick their parents, two English girls cut out some fairies from a picture book, propped them up in the garden using hatpins, and posed with them in a series of photographs. Photography was still a relatively new medium and photographs weren’t thought of as representations as much as reflections of actual reality. Their mother, seeing the photos, believed they proved the existence of fairies, and the photos were eventually published.
The girls admitted that the fairies were faked in 1983, but they’d already duped plenty of people by then. Among those deceived by the hoax? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Holmes, a noted skeptic, is famously quoted as saying, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” In the case of the Cottingley Fairies, it seems like Sir Arthur could’ve used some of Sherlock’s level-headed logic.
With new technology comes new questions. We believe in checking facts against fairies and monsters, especially when it comes to technology assets. Because it’s good to know what’s really there (and what’s really not) in your data center.
Lesson 2: Beware the bait-and-switch
The most recent prank on our list, Rickrolling got its start in 2007. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, please turn up your speakers and click here for a brief video of puppies dressed up as IT Managers.
What — no puppies? Rickrolling is a recent twist on the classic bait-and-switch. Have you ever clicked on a link, thinking you have a general idea of the content on the other side, and then — bam! You’re listening to the chorus of Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up?” Well congratulations, my friend. You’ve been Rickrolled.
There have been some hilarious instances of Rickrolling in the last decade, including April Fool’s Day 2008, when YouTube redirected every link on its homepage to the video.
Although it may be a funny prank, bait-and-switching in IT can lead to some serious consequences. Getting an easy-to-understand maintenance contract where everything can be managed is one way to make sure your hardware maintenance is never going to “let you down.”
Lesson 3: Don’t believe everything you’re told
On the night before Halloween in 1938, a radio actor named Orson Welles decided to spice up his radio show with a horror story. He based his script on a 1897 sci-fi novel called The War of the Worlds, but updated the story to fit the radio format and include real-world locations.
Welles interrupted his own musical program with breaking news bulletins about invading Martians and widespread destruction. People bought it. Not everyone, but there was enough panic to warrant newspaper headlines the next day. Many folks were used to getting important news over the radio – just a year earlier, radio audiences listened to live radio coverage of the Hindenburg disaster.
Later, Welles came clean: “We were fed up with the way in which everything that came over this new magic box, the radio, was being swallowed. So in a way, our broadcast was an assault on the credibility of that machine. We wanted people to understand that they shouldn’t swallow everything that came through the tap.”
Welles went on to explain that radio had become “a voice of authority – too much so. At least I thought so. It was time for someone to take the starch … out of some of that authority, hence my broadcast.”
Welles was trying to diminish the authority of the established tech leaders of the time. He knew that hearing something on the radio doesn’t necessarily make it true. We think the same can be said for OEM EOL proclamations. Don’t let OEMs scare you into updating before your equipment reaches the end of its useful life. Curvature can help you challenge the authority of the OEM. Because the Martians won’t be landing in 3-5 years and your server doesn’t need to be upgraded on that timeline either.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of pranks. Do you have a favorite you’d like to share? And in case we didn’t hit your favorite, remember – there’s always next year.