One of the most unusual things to happen to a media house is a headroom hack. Hacking was considered rare until a headroom hack occurred on Nov 22, 1987, in Chicago.
Dan Roan, the Chicago sportscaster, covered the highlights of the Bear’s victory over the Detroit Lions when he suddenly disappeared from the screen 14 minutes after he started.
At first, people thought it was a glitch in the system, but they realized they were wrong when a new and unusual figure appeared on the TV.
Reports stated that the figure which appeared looked like the artificial intelligence television character, Max headroom.
Asides the way he dressed, the grey background behind the figure was the same as the one used by the television character.
For 30 seconds, everyone wondered how the frightening figure hacked a system that has never been hacked. They wondered about the identity of the intruder and his aim in distracting members of the public.
Exactly after 30seconds, the signal engineers broadcasting channel nine at WGN switched the transmitter’s frequency to allow Dan Roan to continue with his show.
Looking confused, Dan said:
“Well, if you’re wondering what’s happened… clearly as confused as the viewers…ha-ha…so am I.”
Dan continued his broadcast while the engineers took quick action to search for the masked intruder. They thought the intruder was an insider but efforts to find him failed.
They later released that the broadcast was a pre-recording by an unknown person in a different location.
The Max Headroom Second Hack
As if that wasn’t enough for the night, a second hack occurred two hours after the first Hack.
PBS affiliate WWTW was airing an episode on Doctor Who when the video cut out, and the familiar masked figure appeared.
Unlike the first Hack, the second one came with an audio recording.
The figure said:
“That does it. He is a fricken nerd.”
He mentioned a WGN pundit, who claimed to be better than him, raised a can of Pepsi while reciting the Coca-cola slogan (catch the wave), flipped off the camera, and began to sing “your love is fading.”
The figure hummed, muttered some phrases along the line, screamed, and began to moan.
While throwing jabs at WGN’s acronym and corporate parent, The Chicago Tribune, the figure claimed, “I just made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds.”