Happy April Fool’s Day Everyone!
I had hoped to come up with the perfect practical joke for you this year, but I couldn’t think of one. Instead, I’ll share with you the story of my favorite practical joke…EVER!
When I was in college, a friend of mine named Richard bought himself his first computer. By today’s standards, this was a dinosaur, but back then his machine was ALLLLLLLL RIGHT! 32 meg hard drive, 3 1/4“ floppy drive, EGA 16 color graphics on a black and white monitor, built in beeping speaker…yeah, this was a dream machine!
Before the days of Microsoft Windows, you had to type out full length commands. Think of the command line prompt as being your entire operating system and that’s how computers were used those days. Richard had no experience with computers, so he paid me to tutor him on how to use it.
I used to loan Richard software so he could learn all the wonderful things his computer was capable of, and one day I decided to play a little trick on him. I found a fake virus program that when run, would do absolutely nothing until 15 minutes later. I renamed the file to “xrated.exe”, and put it on one of the disks I loaned him. Hey! I had to be sure he’d run the thing!
At about 3:00AM that night, we got a call. It was Richard, and he was surprisingly panicked. The conversation went something like this:
Richard: Neil, is that you???!?
Neil: Yes, I’m here. It’s three in the morning, what’s up?
Richard: I’m sorry for calling you so late. Something is very wrong with my computer!
Neil: What’s wrong?
Richard: It says “Congratulations, you have just won a free hard drive format!”
Richard: It says it’s formatting my hard drive!
Neil: Ok...this doesn’t make any sense. What were you doing?
Richard: I was playing a game and then BOOM! I got this screen! What do I do?
Neil: Ok, take a breath. Don’t panic – I’m sure we will figure this out. Give me a moment to think…
My brother was sleeping in the next bed over because he was visiting from out of town, and he started to snicker uncontrollably.
Richard: What’s that?
Neil: Nothing, my brother is in town, and he has a cold. Try pressing CTRL-BREAK.
Richard: You sure?
Neil: What choice do you have? Do it!
Richard: (the noise of a deranged man banging on a keyboard) It says “That won’t work!”
Neil: Ok, try pressing CTRL-ALT-DELETE.
Richard: It says “That won’t work either”!!
Neil: Ok. This doesn’t make sense. Let me think for a moment…what is it doing exactly?
Richard: It says I won a hard drive format. The hard drive light is on. It is counting heads and cylinders on the screen. What am I going to do?!?!?
Neil: Ok, I think I know what happened. Try turning your computer off.
Neil: Turn your computer off.
Richard: I can’t do that! It says if I turn the computer off, I will damage my hard drive heads!
Neil: Don’t worry, just do it.
At this moment, when the computer powered down, I could have sworn I heard Richard’s heart stop beating.
Richard: Ok…the computer turned on. Everything is ok. It’s working. What a relief! What happened?!?
Neil: I think I know what happened – it’s just a guess.
Neil: Well, when I gave you that software…I accidentally renamed “fakevirus.exe” to “xrated.exe”.
Richard: You renamed Fake Viru…YOU DID WHAT?!?!?
Neil: It was an honest mistake.
Richard: This…was…a JOKE?
Neil: Er, yes…
With the exception of one or two academy award performances, I have never witnessed a man cry, laugh, and swear at the same time. I think I broke his brain! For ten minutes he was mostly laughing, only now appreciating the full power of the dark side of the April Fools Day force.
The next day when I went to school, I heard someone yell from across the room: “That’s the man! That’s the man who played the joke of the century!”
Maybe I’ll find Richard on Facebook some day – I bet he remembers!
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