A Flashback To 1987 When The First Successful Television Hacks Were Carried Out Live On Chicago Stations

PictureDuring a regularly scheduled nightly news program on WGN Chicago in 1987, the broadcast was suddenly interrupted in what has been deemed as the first ever television hack in history. 

Dan Roan, WGN’s local sportscaster, was running through Chicago’s local sports news when without warning, the signal became distorted and flickered as the TV station’s broadcast transmission was hijacked. The incident occurred November 22nd, 1987 at 9:14 p.m. during the nightly news segment. The broadcast hijack lasted approximately 28 seconds before WGN technicians could switch the signal back to the newscast.

The mask worn by the figure in the video was from the short-lived 1980s science fiction series, Max Headroom. Max Headroom was the lead character of the show who was portrayed as the first computer-generated TV host who reported the news from the future.Almost two hours later that night, the same incident occurred on Chicago’s PBS affiliate WTTW-11 during a scheduled broadcast of Doctor Who. This time, the masked figure exposed his ass and appeared with a woman who began smacking him around with a fly-swatter.Speculation of the unusual incidents claim the intruders must of been located in a Chicago high-rise where they could of switched on their transmission equipment at a high enough location between the two studio’s downtown transmitters. This would allow the “hackers” to interrupt the two station’s receivers with high-powered microwave frequencies allowing them to take control. With television’s digital switchover, this would not be possible today. 

These successful television hacks quickly gained much attention from the public. Within hours of the incident, federal officials were called in to investigate these unusual broadcast intrusions. With “hacking” being a relatively unknown term in 1987 and the before days of the internet, officials were left clueless about who/what/how/why this happened. The pranksters were never found but their legacy lives on. Bonus: Eminem’s tribute to Max Headroom in his 2013 song “Rap God”.

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