On November 22, 1987, an unprecedented event happened on two separate television stations in Chicago. One after another, each broadcast was hacked by an unknown individual or group. To this day, 30 years later, the crime has never been solved and it will forever go down in infamy.
The first incident happened at 9:00 P.M. on Channel 9's sports segment. Dan Roan was just starting to recap the NFL game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears when the signal mysteriously cut out.
What happened next had everyone scratching their heads.
The intruder was dressed up like an old television character, Max Headroom. The hack only lasted 30 seconds before the station managed to switch frequencies. The studio engineers immediately assumed that this was an inside job and started to comb through the building looking for the perpetrator. They found no one.
This wasn't a once off, before the night was over, Max Headstrong had struck again.
Almost exactly two hours later at 11:15 P.M., the masked hacker struck again but this time it was a little different. Whereas the first time there was no audio, this time the hacker went above and beyond. Viewers were watching an episode of Dr. Who on WWTW when the feed was cut. Max Headroom appeared again, this time for a little on air spanking.
This hack lasted over a minute and a half, because WWTW had no engineers on site in order to interrupt the hack.
Some viewers were creeped out by what they saw, but generally most people thought it was kind of funny. On the other hand, the FCC was less than impressed. They used all of their resources in an attempt to find and prosecute the people responsible.
“I would like to inform anybody involved in this kinda thing, that there’s a maximum penalty of $100,000, one-year in jail, or both,” Phil Bradford, an FCC spokesman, told a reporter the following day. “All in all, there are some who may view this as comical,” WTTW spokesman Anders Yocom said. “But it is a very serious matter because illegal interference of a broadcast signal is a violation of federal law. ”
It has been 30 years since the hacks took place and whoever was responsible has never been caught.
What would you do if this happened while you were watching television?