Posts Tagged

Prank

A Clever 1960s Prank Convinced Swedes They Could Watch TV In Color With?

A man demonstrating how to put pantyhose on your televsion
SVT

Answer: Pantyhose

When it comes to a good prank, the best pranks have a long reach but are completely harmless. In that regard, a 1962 April Fool’s Day prank perpetrated by the staff of SVT (Sveriges Television)—then the only station in Sweden and broadcast in black and white—is pretty great.

That evening, the station aired a segment led by Kjell Stensson, who they labeled as their “technical expert”. Stensson carefully explained to the audience that a new discovery had revealed it was possible to enjoy black and white television in color thanks to the light scattering properties of nylon pantyhose. The viewer simply had to stretch the pantyhose over the screen. Naturally, to extend the life of the prank, it was explained that viewing distance was critical and it would likely be necessary to move your head around a lot to get the right viewing angle for the full effect.

Thousands of people fell for the prank and it remains a memorable cultural event—many people in Sweden today recall their parents and older relatives trying, and failing, to experience color TV with a pair of pantyhose.





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For Their April Fool’s Day Prank In 1965, The BBC Claimed They Could Wirelessly Transmit What?

Midcentury family watching television on a black and white television set
Evert F. Baumgardner

Answer: Smells

In 1965, the BBC played a little April Fool’s Day prank on their viewers. During a news segment, news anchors interviewed a professor who explained that he had created a way to transmit smell through the airwaves from the studio to the viewer’s living room by breaking the scents down into their component molecules and recreating the scents at the viewer’s television set.

To demonstrate, he chopped up an onion while brewing a pot of coffee. Hundreds of viewers called in from across Britain to report the experiment was successful and that the smell of coffee and onions was impressively clear. Now, while we may laugh at them from the present, we can at least give them a sympathetic nod or two. First, the power of suggestion is, well, enormously powerful. Second, the whole concept of scents being released during movies was in the public consciousness by 1965 (as various companies and movie studios had dabbled with and given public demonstrations of the technology at that point). These included Smell-O-Rama in the 1950s, and Smell-O-Vision in the 1960s.

What’s fascinating about the prank is that it wasn’t a one-off experiment into the power of suggestion. Over a decade later in 1977, a professor at Bristol University, Michael O’Mahony, replicated the effect with audiences in the Manchester region by telling them, on the late evening news, that he was transmitting “pleasant country” smells to them. He asked viewers to call in and report what they smelled. Nearly 200 did within the next 24 hours, reporting the smell of flowers, baking bread, hay, and more. Two of the callers even said that they were having allergic reactions to the smell of hay.





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