Max Headroom Hack
A broadcast signal hijacking of two television stations in Chicago, Illinois was administered on November 22, 1987, in an act of video piracy. The stations’ broadcasts were interrupted by a video of an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask and costume, amid distorted audio.
The first incident happened for 25 seconds during the sports segment of WGN-TV’s 9:00 p.m. news broadcast; the second occurred around two hours later, for about 90 seconds during PBS affiliate WTTW’s broadcast of Doctor Who.
The hacker made references to Max Headroom’s endorsement of Coca-Cola, the TV series Clutch Cargo, WGN anchor Chuck Swirsky; and “all the best world newspaper nerds”, a regard to WGN’s call letters, which represent “World’s Greatest Newspaper”. A corrugated panel swiveled back and forth mimicking Max Headroom’s geometric background effect.
Not long after the incident, WMAQ-TV humorously inserted clips of the hijacking into a newscast during Mark Giangreco’s sports highlights. “A lot of individuals thought it had been real – the pirate cutting into our broadcast. We got all types of calls about it,” said Giangreco.
According to Motherboard, the incident became an influential “cyberpunk hacking trope”. Thirty years later, the identity of the hijackers remained unknown.