April 1 has long been a day to play jokes on others, possibly originating with the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, a time of merriment and rejoicing.
The first day of April has such a reputation for mischief that Poland's 1632 alliance with Leopold I was backdated to March 31 in order to avoid suspicion the alliance was a joke.
Every year, people attempt to think of more elaborate and original April Fools' Day pranks than ever before, but it might be difficult to top these famous historical pranks.
One traditional antic originates in the British Isles. In Scotland, a prankster will write a sealed message to another person and hand the envelope to a bystander to deliver. The recipient of the message will discover that it says, "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile." The recipient is then supposed to ask the hapless messenger -- the "gowk" -- to deliver yet another sealed message, with the same contents. The game continues until the messenger realizes that he has been tricked.
In modern times, it didn't take long after the invention of the Internet for people to discover that it was the perfect means for pranks. On April 1,
1984, creating one of the earliest Internet hoaxes, an individual with the address "chernenko@kremvax.UUCP" announced that the Soviet Union would be joining the popular network Usenet.
The message created quite a stir before it was discovered to be a hoax; security concerns had kept the Soviet Union from joining Usenet for six years. However, when the Soviet Union actually did join, one of its first sites was named "Kremvax" in honor of the hoax.
Ever since its infancy, the programmers at Google have been fond of April Fools' jokes. Their first appeared in 2000 with the debut of MentalPlex. MentalPlex, Google's home page announced, was a "smarter and faster" way to search the Web, in which users could simply stare at a moving spiral on their screen, think hard about their search term, and click on the spiral to receive results.
However, clicking inevitably resulted in errors such as "Multiple transmitters detected. Silence voices in your head and try again," or "Insufficient conviction. Please clap hands three times while chanting 'I believe,' and try again."
Google's pranks became more elaborate with time, culminating in 2012's Gmail Tap hoax. The company released a video announcing a new feature: Gmail Tap, an app which would have allowed users to use Morse code on their smartphones. Many people, amateur radio fans in particular, were taken in by the professional-looking introductory video and web page provided, and disappointed when the app turned out to be a hoax. Although other companies have created Morse apps for smartphones, Gmail Tap has yet to emerge.
Even the British Broadcasting Corporation is not averse to a good prank. On April 1, 1950, the company's respected news show "Panorama" reported that, due to a mild winter and the near-eradication of the spaghetti weevil, spaghetti farmers in Switzerland were harvesting a record-breaking crop. The broadcast was remarkably convincing, featuring footage of a family in Swiss clothes picking pasta from spaghetti trees.
Hundreds of viewers were taken in, and the incident became one of the most famous April Fools' jokes of all time. It is thought to be the first time that television was used in an April Fools' Day hoax.
In short, April Fools' Day has long been a fine opportunity for amusing, often highly elaborate pranks and hoaxes. Whether it be spaghetti trees or mental web searches, this April 1 is sure to bring more surprises.
Angelica Previte is a junior at Weber High School and an inveterate bibliophile. She can be contacted at email@example.com.