It wasn’t much later than 9PM on a fine Saturday night dated, November 22, 1987. Television’s infamous Channel 9 was telecasting its usual local news. Dan Roan, Chicago’s most sought after newscaster was on air when the screens went black for some reason. Since, it was the 80’s these blackout screens were a normal thing. However, it wasn’t usual that the blank screens now blasted a loud radio static which was unbearable to ears. The sound was that of a screech coming through the power saw cutting into iron, or worse, nails on the chalkboard sort of noise which could drive you crazy. Within a fraction of next few seconds, a yellow man appeared with purple lines behind him. He had an all-yellow look, like that of the famous television character- Max Headroom. He was seen sporting the similar mask which had an irritable smile plastered on his face, slicked-back yellow hair and a yellow coat. Through the entire time that he was on air, he nodded his head and swayed back-and-forth, as if mocking the ones looking at him through the television screen. The opaque glasses which covered his eyes were rather frightening; it felt as though he was piercing through the souls of viewers via his eyes.
Well, this fiasco ended within a matter of few seconds, soon the screen went black again and Roan re-appeared. To the viewer’s surprise, Roan and the telecasting company did not know about the hacking and he went on speaking where he left before the interruption. The Americans were only digesting the fact, when a couple hours later, the similar sort of hijacking happened on another television channel telecasting Dr. Who. He was serving Leela, his companion a hot drink when the screens blurred out and produced the same yellow man from Channel 9.
This time, he did not merely nod his head but even mocked Dr.Who. “He’s [Dr. Who] a firckin nerd!” said Max with a laugh which was inhuman yet distorted.
“Yeah, I think I’m better than Chuck Swirsky [A local sportscaster], Frickin Liberaaaaaal!” Said the figure dressed as Max. Unlike, Channel 9, Max spent a couple minutes on air, this time. He took turns mocking Coca-Cola and Chicago Tribune media spokespersons. Humming annoying sounds and moaning. Before the screen went blank this time, someone else was seen slapping the bare ass of Max using a flyswatter. Without a fact, this was indeed, a hilarious and terrible an act, the motive behind which is yet not understood. It could b mere mockery at the system or a threat in, longer vision. Who knows?
You should be surprised to know, this was the first ever Television hacking which happened in American history of Television. No, this is not the end to the astonishing facts. The hackers are still unknown and still out there even after 30 years of FCC investigation. The reporters Roan and Swirsky, one who was interrupted on Channel 9 and another whose name was mentioned on the other channel, to this day are referred as ‘The ones in Max Headroom hacking.’
It has been three decades to the strangest crime in Television history, but it is yet unknown how long it will take for this hacking mystery to get solved. In Fact, the Federal Communications Commission is not even close to solving this mystery. Many said that this mockery was conducted by those who were rejected by the news channel or terminated. Roan however, believes that if any disgruntled employees of the company who pulled off the most shocking television crime, could not have been turned away in the first place. Well, whoever did this went underground faster than the FCC could get to them.
This hacking was however, very shocking considering the not-so-advanced technology reached back in the 80’s. We are far ahead from the 80’s now within merely three decades. But none of the advances made even today are sufficient enough to get a hold of the hacking masters behind Max Headroom Television hijack.
Article by Pooja.