March 25, 2009, 11:59 AM — Ah April Fool's Day. The one day each year when you are all but guaranteed to put a smile on someone's face ... your own.
Sure, you could wait to see what havoc the Conficker worm wreaks on April 1 when it tries out a new communication scheme. But what's the fun in that? I say it's better to arm yourself with some good pranks.
[ For more tech geek fun read Favorite software Easter eggs and Myths, gods, and titanic disasters: How servers really get their names ]
A word of caution: Pick your target and your timing carefully. Jay Koch didn't follow this advice. On April 1, about 10 years ago, he and his help desk cronies sent out a company-wide e-mail that said: "As part of our inventory process, the Tech Team needs you to send us some information on your keyboards. Please send us this information from the underside of your keyboard: Model Number; Serial Number; Thurman Number."
Most people caught on quickly that there was no Thurman number, recalls Koch, but "one of our marketing people came in late. Because she talked kind of loud, and she called me on her speaker phone, about a dozen people in the open area in front of her office could hear this conversation:"
Maryann: I can't find the Thurman number.
Jay: It should be right there.
Maryann: I don't see it.
Jay: You might have to hold it just right in the light.
Maryann: What do you mean?
Jay: Hold the keyboard up over your head.
Jay: Now tilt it back and forth in the light, you might have to catch the light just right.
Maryann: I'm trying that, but I still don't see any Thurman number.
By now, the people outside her office were roaring in laughter. Jay finally gave in and said, "Maryann, do you know what day it is?" Not surprisingly Maryann didn't speak to him for about two days.
Ok, so that wasn't very nice. And these days, who wants to risk sending a joke e-mail to the entire company. But see what I mean about picking your targets wisely? My advice: Keep your pranks harmless and easily reversible and don't prey on someone who's rushing to get a project out the door.
Here are 5 favorites to get you started.
One blind mouse
The effect: This classic prank, elegant in its simplicity, renders a mouse useless and is pretty much guaranteed to result in your target getting annoyed and "hitting the mouse on their desk," says Ronnie Manning, whose coworkers have been subjected to the prank for the last several years. "Every once in a while," Manning says, "you get someone who gets ready to call help desk to get a new mouse – then you let them in on the prank of course."
What you need: Clear tape, optical mouse
- Apply a small piece of tape over the mouse's laser sensor. If you want to get fancy you can color the tape to match the mouse.
- To undo, remove the tape
The effect: "By far, the easiest prank out there is to get into someone's word processing program and mess with their spellcheck settings," says Alyssa Royse. "I mean, I certainly wouldn't do something like change the settings so that any time someone typed 'and' it was replaced with 'Alyssa is the coolest chick in the world,' but... the possibilities are endless, and simple to both 'do' and 'undo'."
What you need: Access to your target's computer; Microsoft Office
Time: 2 minutes
- In Office (Word, Outlook, Excel)
- Click Tools --> AutoCorrect Options
- In the "Replace" field type the common word you want to replace (e.g., "the")
- In the "With" field type the obnoxious phrase you want to see appear (e.g., "Alyssa is the coolest chick in the world")
- To undo, delete the replace/with pair.