Eventually, technology pranks will become reality

Almost 25 years ago, tricksters at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco tried to get unwary press to report on their fake Mac products. Now, most of the then-improbable technology is a shrink-wrapped product.

At the 1990 Macworld Expo in San Francisco — held on April Fools Day that year — a group of tricksters tried to prank unwary press into writing about a new company with interesting and astounding (for the time) fake products. On this April Fools Day, it's interesting to find that the fantasy products are mostly reality.

Eventually, technology pranks will become reality

I wrote about this a number of years ago in a post titled April Fools Day: The 'Rosebud Technology' hoax & Xanthoma. The tricksters created a fake company called Rosebud Technology, which gained a strong sense of reality then with press releases and product announcements, as well as t-shirts that were worn on the Expo floor. At least one news outlet reported on the announcements. I had one of the t-shirts for years in a box, but it was destroyed when our rental storage compartment was flooded. Sigh.

The principal products in the Rosebud line were PowerLink and Silicon Valet. PowerLink was supposedly an Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) device that would allow a Mac to communicate with another Mac, or printer, over the existing electrical wiring in a building. They claimed their “AppleTalk-compatible protocol allows you to transfer data at many times the speed of a modem!”

Silicon Valet (pronounced Val-lay, get it) was an “elegantly simple engineering breakthrough” that connected your Mac to any phone plug or AC wall outlet. This would allow your Mac to control any connected electrical device, using its SLED, or SmartNode Logic Emulation Driver software.

Movie buffs remember that Rosebud was really the brand of sled that Citizen Kane rode as a kid.

At the time, I recall owning a powerline phone adapter, which let me use my 1,200-baud modem (it could have been 2,400-baud, I don't remember) upstairs in our apartment, which was a pre-1906 San Francisco Earthquake barn and only had a wired phone line on the ground floor. But nobody thought of using the technology for networking computers. There were the AppleTalk-compatible PhoneNet adapters from Farallon Computing, which let Macs network over phone lines in a building. But no powerline versions existed at the time. At that time, PCs still didn't come standard with Ethernet networking; Macs had always had AppleTalk built in.

Nowadays, powerline networking commonplace. My wired Ethernet network in our apartment died a while ago, and I was considering Netgear's Powerline 500 Nano adapter the other day. Its performance is good (the "500" is 500 mbps) and inexpensive.

The other Rosebud "product," Silicon Valet, is now mostly reality with the arrival of the Internet of Things. Almost all new consumer devices for the home have a connection, either to the Internet itself, or to a mobile device nearby over wireless connection.


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