Oh, I Just Made a Giant Masterpiece....
December 13, 2013 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Vice magazine attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of the creepiest television hack (moderately NSFW). Previously.
posted by carrienation (33 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Vice says that it's a woman administering the spanking, but for some reason I thought the spanker was a man. Is even possible to tell?
posted by exogenous at 9:29 AM on December 13, 2013


Little-known tangential fact - this incident is apparently what gave John Cusack the name for his production company, "New Crime Productions".
"I saw it, and I thought it was so funny," Cusack said. "And then I read that authorities were having trouble prosecuting these guys because there wasn't any law against what they'd done. Technology had gone so far, so fast, that they had indeed invented a new crime."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hey neat. I had heard of these broadcast hijacks, but had it in my head that they were boundary-breaking, but internally orchestrated and approved, advertising for the Max Headroom TV show. Apparently not!
posted by 256 at 9:44 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This related Vice link about a CTA train leaving the yard by itself is downright fascinating.
posted by dr_dank at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the frequency, Kenneth?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:03 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Things are just more fun in analog.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:08 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's kind of amazing to me that analog systems didn't have anything we would recognize as "security". At the time, it was just a given that nobody else would be able to get a big enough transmitter to interfere, even with your relatively small-scale network of repeaters and whatnot
posted by jes5199 at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This related Vice link about a CTA train leaving the yard by itself is downright fascinating.
Interesting, maybe - but speculative, and not ultimately borne out.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:14 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As is hinted at but not quite said in the article, back in my day, people had to try a hell of a lot harder if they wanted to troll a large audience.

I think that's awesome.

Also, get off my virtual lawn.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:15 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This brings back memories of the Cola Wars and the movement to ban Jolt.

The 80's were weird.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


This brings back memories of the Cola Wars and the movement to ban Jolt.

The 80's were weird.


Back then, the things your mom worried about (you know, the same stuff these days she forwards emails to you about and posts to her Facebook status) was cutting edge news!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2013


This brings back memories of the Cola Wars and the movement to ban Jolt.

Everything turned out OK.
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on December 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Max Headroom interrupting Doctor Who is fine for ironic culture jamming, but if you want something sincerely odd, there's the "Vrillon of the Ashtar Galactic Command Incident" a.k.a. the still-unidentified 1977 Southern Television broadcast interruption. UFO cults these days can simply broadcast on public-access cable, but back then, it took some ingenuity to promulgate the word of Ashtar.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everything turned out OK.

Whoa, I never even heard of that, but I did fall victim to another test marketing around the same time, Cool Colt

It was aweful. It tasted like someone used a 40 to brush their teeth and then rebottled the rinse. Truly horrible.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember feeling conflicted when going to Pizza Hut because they served Pepsi.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I somehow also don't remember OK Cola at all, despite it looking like the most 1993 thing I can imagine that aren't my high school graduation pictures.

But it's Wikipedia page's section on composition and taste, despite being tagged for possibly containing original research, is a joy to behold:

OK Soda had a more "citric" taste than traditional colas, almost like a fruit punch version of Coke's Fresca. It has been described as "slightly spicy" and likened to a combination of orange soda and flat Coca-Cola. It has also been compared to what is known as "suicide", "swampwater" or "graveyard", all sobriquets of the resulting mixture of multiple soft drink flavors available at a particular convenience store or gas station's soft drink dispenser.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's kind of amazing to me that analog systems didn't have anything we would recognize as "security".

Your point reminds me of this rather creepy hack, which was entirely digital in nature, but the stations didn't bother following the basic security protocol of changing the default password.
posted by banal evil at 10:58 AM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


a woman lazily spanks his ass with a flyswatter

I'm campaigning here for more usage of the word desultorily, because I like it. The word I mean, desultory spankings are just not that hot.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your point reminds me of this rather creepy hack

The best part about that hack was that it ran, not over the news cast itself, but over the assinine pancake info-style-commercial.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:26 AM on December 13, 2013


I have always found the Max Headroom incident to be super creepy. It really does feel like some kind of intrusion from another world.

As for the story, this:
But for Marcus, it was enough. The spinning backdrop was telling.

"The background looked to be about eight-feet wide, industrial type metal, maybe a roll-down warehouse door," he said. That would have already limited it to certain places in the city where the video could have been filmed.
is obviously nonsense. They used a panel of corrugated sheet metal to simulate the moving Max Headroom background, as the article notes and then, for the spanking part, set it down behind them.
posted by Legomancer at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love stuff like this - thanks for posting!
posted by mannequito at 11:54 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the Tolmes News Service BBS, dial-up “modemers”

I used modems in 1987, I hung with people who did for years later. Nobody I knew ever called themseves that. Is that a regionalism or Knittel pulling a "hep dad" move? (I mean, Vice, so of course one suspects the latter).
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


TV signal hijacks never fail to fascinate me. They're right up there with numbers stations in the pantheon of addictively unsettling broadcast phenomena.
posted by anthom at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember when this happened, I was astonished that this was even possible. And then I assumed that it would be happening a lot -- if one group could figure out how to do it, others would soon follow. But it never caught on as a trend.

I hope this is solved before I die. I just want to know the story behind it all. The whole Brothers J & K story sounds perfectly cromulent to me.
posted by MoxieProxy at 12:18 PM on December 13, 2013


Stuff like this broadcast and the numbers station phenomenon are fascinating because they provide a plausible apophenia. There's just enough evidence of a pattern or a motivation that the pattern *should* become visible, but not quite enough for that to happen. So we keep looking for the missing dots to confirm or disconfirm.

For me, it's unexplained Cold War incidents like the Lead Masks case or the Tamam Shud mystery, There's just enough to suggest some possibilities, and you'd think the relevant de/classified material would have come to light by now, but no....
posted by kewb at 12:38 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since the Headroom incident, the interception of broadcast signals has become a popular trope in hacker fantasies

I would have thought Stephen King's "The Running Man" written in 1982 under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, and released as a film on 13th November 1987 was more widely known, but I expect the idea of hacking a TV broadcast was conceived somewhere even before that.
posted by walrus at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kudos to whoever did this for actually doing it though, of course.
posted by walrus at 1:06 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


re: TV Hijacking: In 1993, UK, I was watching "The Word" on Channel 4 in a friends room at uni (as we tended to do every Friday, in those days ...) and while Mark Lamarr was interviewing someone, the signal was hijacked. There was a woman, and a man, and some defiant dancing, and then the man spoke to camera and said something like "If at first you don't succeed...". Then it faded back out. Channel 4 seemed unaware, although a caller later on in the same show mentioned the incident and asked if they knew what was going on. Lamarr didn't know what they were talking about.

Never seen it mentioned anywhere since.
posted by memebake at 4:35 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't see this linked anywhere (haven't finished the article yet) but if you want to read someone on Reddit speculating on the possibility of having met the perpetrators of the Mad Max hack when he was younger then read this.

His story sounds highly plausible and is interesting even if it's not true.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 7:02 PM on December 13, 2013


Signal hijacks are just a great reminder that fancy modern things like TV stations and internets and such are basically fragile and contingent on nobody trying to mess with them. They're not fundamental features of the world, as much as they might seem like it.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:48 PM on December 13, 2013


Everything turned out OK.

Except for all the kids who spent the 90s sitting in their Scumpy Buddies glued to the Bonky Box.
posted by acb at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2013


Signal hijacks are just a great reminder that fancy modern things like TV stations and internets and such are basically fragile and contingent on nobody trying to mess with them.

When I was a kid we used to ride bikes past the big arrays for the cable company on our way to a corner market to buy candy and such until one day one of my friends figured out that if you chucked your pennies at the big metal dish it made an awesome sound. Word spread fast among the kids and soon everybody was doing it as they rode past the sotre (a hot-spot). Turns out that every time a penny hit the middle of the dish it sent a "spark" on the TV screen of everybody in town, which only fueled our desire to throw change at the dish. Reception got so bad just after school let out with all the kids chucking change that the cable company had to get a guard to yell at the kids. I wonder if they had just let it go what sort of profits in free change they could have made?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:10 AM on December 16, 2013


Oh, I almost forgot another awesome minor hijack of the local cable company my friends and I pulled off in those days! The cable company issued everybody a box with a remote control. Every remote operated on the same frequency so the same remote could work any tv in town as EVERYONE had cable (otherwise you had one channel). My friends and I used to sneak into backyards and mess with people, one old man (a friend of my dad) in particular who had a big lanscaped backyard and a huge picture window that looked out into it from a sitting room where he'd sit in his lazyboy watching a big console tv. We could hide in the bushes a short way from the window and turn the volume way down or way up, change channels, turn it on and off, etc. We'd start off slow and build as his temper would raise. Eventually he'd get up red-faced and yelling and smack the tv and curse at it. I'm sure the cable company got plenty of Mad Mildred calls from him. He never figured out what was going on.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:18 AM on December 16, 2013


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