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Slideshow

Top tech hoaxes of all time

Social media pranks and viral videos have nothing on these truly historical technical hoaxes

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The art of the hoax is woefully underappreciated. Properly executed hoaxes can be creative, cautionary, and (ideally) funny. The Digital Age has muddied the waters, though. Online scams, viral marketing, and even late-night TV gags have blurred the distinctions between hoaxes, pranks, stunts, and outright criminal fraud – so blurred them, in fact, that one might need an expert to distinguish them from one another. Luckily, one such expert exists: Alex Boese, author and curator of The Museum of Hoaxes.According to Boese, a hoax is "a deliberately deceptive act that has succeeded in capturing the attention (and, ideally, the imagination) of the public."

We take a look at some of the all-time great hoaxes in tech history.


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The Mechanical Turk

The concept of automatons (mechanical men, basically) was hugely fashionable among the nerdy hipster set in the 18th century. In 1770, Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled his Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing automaton that the inventor claimed could think, plan, reason, and defeat all comers in the sacred game of chess. For more than 50 years, The Turk toured Europe and America, baffling chess professionals and VIPs like Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon I. But the Mechanical Turk was no Deep Blue, the IBM computer that would defeat world champion Garry Kasparov some 200 years later. The ruse was eventually revealed by a subsequent owner: The Turk used old stage magic tricks and a sliding seat to conceal the human chess player hidden within.


  • The Mechanical Turk
  • Keely's etheric engine
  • Nylon colour television
  • The Soviet Union joins Usenet
  • The
  • Legislating pi
  • The spud server
  • The Microsoft iLoo
  • The tauntaun sleeping bag
  • The


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