Caught Playing Solitaire

The April 1998 cover of Broadcast Engineering showed a view of the media control room of TCI The cover sparked a massive reader response, with hundreds of letters sent to the magazine pointing out what appeared to be an unintentional goof: the game Solitaire could clearly be seen on the computer screen of the employee in the foreground. Evidently the man had been caught red-handed not doing his job. Not so, the editors revealed in the next issue. The solitaire-playing employee was an intentional joke, created with the participation of TCI's engineering staff.

Guinness Mean Time

An article in the Financial Times detailed an agreement that had been struck between the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England and the Guinness brewery, wherein Guinness would be declared the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time, and instead of counting seconds in pips, as was traditional, the Observatory would count them in pint drips. The Financial Times lamented that the deal marked a new low in corporate marketing and set a brash tone for the millennium. But what the Financial Times didn't realize was that it had fallen for a joke. The Guinness press release, from which it had taken the information, had been marked for April 1 release. The Financial Times subsequently published a curt retraction, clarifying that Guinness Mean Time had been apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof.

Nat Tate

A celebrity-studded party was held at Jeff Koons's SoHo studio to celebrate the release of William Boyd's biography of the late American artist Nat Tate - a troubled abstract expressionist who had leapt to his death from the Staten Island ferry. David Bowie read aloud selections from the biography, while art critics in the crowd murmured appreciative comments about Tate's work. It was a week later that journalist David Lister revealed the secret in the Independent: Nat Tate didn't exist. He was a figment of Boyd's imagination. Lister, who had attended the SoHo party, noted that although no one in the crowd had claimed to know Tate well, also no one admitted they had never heard of him — although no one had. The London newspapers declared it one of the great literary hoaxes of all time and gloated over New York's bamboozled celebs.

The Left-Handed Whopper

Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a Left-Handed Whopper specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, many others requested their own 'right handed' version. Left-handed products of various kinds are actually an old joke on April first, but Burger King's announcement quickly became, by far, the most famous version of the joke.

Alabama Changes the Value of Pi

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough.