Celebrate the anniversary of one of the most iconic hacking incidents in American history

It comes ’round but once a year. At the end of November, we gather with loved ones and reminisce about a simpler time. There may be some controversy over this celebration, but most of us still love it for what it represents. That’s right, I’m talking about the anniversary of the Max Headroom signal intrusion incident.

On November 22, 1987, would-be hackers interrupted Chicago’s WGN evening news broadcast for nearly half a minute, but their message was cut short by the network. Their later hijacking of WTTW’s late night broadcast of Doctor Who reruns was shown to Chicago viewers in its entirety. The perpetrators succeeded in putting out a more powerful signal than the one put out by the networks, a difficult but not impossible task in those analog days.

The individual who appeared onscreen wore a mask depicting “Max Headroom,” a satirical late-night host from a sci-fi TV show who became a kind of cult figure in the ’80s. Max, the officially licensed one that is, even showed up on Letterman once.

It was a simpler time, I suppose (Image credit: User Gia Luchiano on Youtube)

Our masked bandit of the airwaves proceeded to make cryptic and borderline unintelligible pronouncements referencing pop culture and Chicago broadcasting while someone in the background rotated a corrugated metal sheet back and forth to imitate Max Headroom’s signature digital backdrop. After a little over a minute of rambling, the broadcast cut to our host getting spanked with a fly swatter by someone off-camera, in tastefully safe-for-work fashion, I might add. Words really fail to do it justice.

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