Back in the '80s when Sun Microsystems was a hot, hip Valley leader, the company's engineers staged a series of April Fools' Day stunts that involved non-destructive hardware mods to the workplace. The most famous was in 1986. Overachieving 30-year-old manager Eric Schmidt arrived at work to find a VW Beetle, its engine running, had somehow been made to fit through the door of his office, like a ship in a bottle.
Two years later, Sun's tinkerers converted the CEO's space into a golf course, complete with a sand trap and a peeing angel fountain.
In 1991, alpha-alpha geek Wayne Rosing found his office moved into a tank at San Francisco's Steinhart Aquarium. Hundreds of salmon and a couple of sharks swam among the desktop photos of Wayne's wife and kids.
But instead of blooming into something bigger and better, April Fools' Day in tech has devolved over the past two decades into lazy online hoaxes. The real-world craftwork of Schmidt's underlings — think about how much time they had to spend away from their keyboards to set up that shark tank — has been replaced by insta-Web product brochures and fake news stories.
Worse, the goal is no longer in-house camaraderie, but Internet publicity. Some companies notify the press of their hoaxes a week early, in hopes of securing coverage. We thought about running their emails as they came in, just to pop their bubbles. But there's no laugh in giving away an unfunny joke. Look, if you want attention, why not ship a real product? That seems easier.