Friday, November 22, 2013

The Max Headroom Incident

There are more times than I can count where some article catches my eye on the internet and it leads me down this path of blogs and terrible Angel Fire sites until I finally am too tired to read on and instead of counting sheep, I'm counting conspiracy theories once my head hits the pillow.

One such incident is the Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion.

On November 22, 1987, during the WGN Chicago nightly news, a pirate broke into the TV signal and took over the airways.

It was a person wearing a Max Headroom (A CGI, comedic British A.I. character that was popular in the 80's. He sold Coke Max.) mask, dancing around, to a loud buzzing noise.

When the broadcast ended, a confused sportscaster merely commented, "Well, if you're wondering what happened, so am I."

Then, later that night, during a Dr. Who rerun, the masked man appeared. This time, he disguised his voice creepily, uttered some non-sense about a cartoon, made fun of the owners of the TV channel, and had his bare butt spanked on air.

It's one of those unsettling times where this structured set of rules that we think we have complete control over is shown to have incredible vulnerabilities that someone at home can break.

When you boil this down to it's simplest terms, we know that this is just a person in their garage (And from their humor, probably someone young) just poking fun at the FCC and the TV station.

It's like John Draper (not from Mad Men) that figured out how to make free long distance phone calls using a toy whistle.

Or Adian Lamo, who would break into the systems of large corporate and then tell them about the vulnerabilities.

It shows that humans want to feel safe by setting rules. But as long as their are rules, someone is going to try to break them, just to see if they can. And when that happens, our stomachs sink, and we feel uneasy.