Ah, the Missing Link – a little refuge of insanity for those of us confined to the more arid regions of the enterprise -- IT.
Here, in descending order, are the top 10 wackiest tech-related stories of 2002. Actually, some of them are barely related to IT, but that's close enough for TechTarget news editor Ed Parry, who is easily amused.
Like you did last year, you'll read these stories, which are real, and think to yourself, "Dang, I'm glad that wasn't me."
Honorable mention: Mountaineer saved by the bell
OK – so it's really the top 11 wackiest stories of 2002. You'd have to be desperate to want a call from a telemarketer. Leonardo Diaz was desperate, all right. He was stuck more than two miles up in the Colombian Andes when a blizzard blew in. The prepaid minutes on his cell phone, which was packed with his stuff, had expired, so he couldn't call for help, and there were no Saint Bernards with little kegs around their necks to come to his rescue. After 24 hours of shivering and drinking his precious brandy, Diaz's cell phone rang. It was a phone company worker calling to sell him more minutes! Little did she know when she placed the call that she'd be buying him precious time. She literally "talked" him through the ordeal and kept him awake and alive until rescuers could get to him.
10. Hey, lady, nice can!
Jim Croce was wasting his breath wanting to put time in a bottle. If he'd been a real entrepreneur, he would have put air in a can. A woman shelled out $15 for an empty can on eBay. Well, it wasn't totally empty – it was filled with genuine Saskatchewan air, an inviting blend of oxygen and nitrogen with lesser amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, neon, helium and other gases packed fresh from the Great White North. This can was up for bid for 10 days before some airhead from the U.S. bought it.
9. Smashing, baby!
Wisconsin may be best known for its fine cheese, but the state is getting a reputation for badgering technology. One man made news for barbecuing his slow modem. Another man, soured by his lemony computer, opted for a more public execution. He took his machine back to the store where he bought it, whipped out a sledgehammer and smashed the PC to pieces. He looked at the other customers, wished them "good day," walked over the computer carcass and out the door. If nothing else, this story proves that sledgehammers are both reliable and scalable.
8. When a post becomes a pink slip
The Internet has an amazing knack of turning a boast into a bust. Case in point: a car mechanic. His motor mouth threw a monkeywrench into his career when he cruised into an Internet discussion forum on Ford Mustangs and tooted his horn about how he had taken a customer's car on a 140 mph joyride. Whaddaya know -- the car owner read the mechanic's post, confronted the repair shop's owner and got the guy fired.
7. Giving Gates goose bumps
Penguins may be after Bill Gates' Windows, but geese had their scopes on his windows; and his roof; and his yard. Putting the "gag" in "gaggle," a group of overly regular geese turned Mr. Microsoft's mansion into their own lavish lavatory. Little did the foul fowl know that they were cooking their own goose. Gates asked wildlife officials in Washington state to stop the scatological sorties. Translation? Goose hunt!
6. Mind your scanners
An 11-year-old girl in the U.K. found out the hard way that a scanner doesn't take any lip. The girl was trying to scan her face, but the scanner had other ideas, grabbing her lip and holding on tight. Evidently the girl's kisser got caught in a roller on the scanner. Firefighters had to come in and perform some, um, lip service for the poor girl. Fortunately, her face-off with technology was no kiss of death and won't leave any lasting scars.
5. Hentel inside
What do frog legs, alligator, Chicken McNuggets and computer chips have in common? They all taste like chicken (except maybe for the McNuggets). Plucky scientists in Delaware found that chicken feathers work well in computer chips because they have hollow but sturdy shafts that conduct electricity like Judge Judy conducts her courtroom. The researchers used soybean resin and feathers to create a chip that looks and feels like silicon -- maybe it tastes like silicon, too.
4. My Mac, my muse
John Swerdan -- what the Archies were to sugar, he is to Macintosh. The schoolteacher from the San Francisco Bay area wrote and recorded an album of love songs inspired by his Mac. How very "PC" of him. Some of the song titles: "Startup/Hard Drive," "Quickdraw Bill" and "Poor Sad Mac." Why not "Get a Jobs"? The album, "StartupSounds," was available on Swerdan's Web site, but no one is buying it. Kinda like Mariah Carey's last CD.
3. Putting the "pee" in "peeved"
This story was a wee bit interesting. A man in South Carolina wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to change a state law that bans Web sales of urine to beat drug tests. The man, who sold his own clean waste water for $69 a pop over his Web site (complete with a "warmer" to give the specimen the feel of authenticity), claimed the law would allow employers to discriminate against pregnant women, people on certain medications, and those genetically prone to certain diseases, not just drug users. Of course, the law impeded his cash flow, too. But evidently his case wasn't the High Court's No. 1 priority. The court didn't think the case held much water and refused to hear it.
2. Microsoft meets Mephistopheles in Google search
Is Microsoft hell on earth? Is Bill Gates out to possess the very soul of computing? There's probably no shortage of IT people who would say "yes," and for a brief period they could point to Google to prove that they were not simply demonizing the company. For a brief period in the fall, if you typed "go to hell" (with the quotation marks) into Google's search box, the first result of 213,000 was Microsoft's home page. Insert scary Exorcist music here. Hell.com owns the top spot now, but some customers still feel bedeviled by Microsoft.
1. Safe sex meets trustworthy computing
And finally, the freakiest link of them all. When you own the biggest firm and have the deepest pockets, you deserve the biggest... condom? The city of Hyderabad, India, giddy at being the site of Microsoft's first software development center outside the U.S., saluted Bill Gates with an 8-foot tall inflated prophylactic. Why not just erect a statue or roll out a red carpet? Why a Trojan the size of a horse? This was Hyderabad's way of showing Gates and wife Melinda that size matters – the size of their check. The couple had donated a $100 million gift to help raise AIDS awareness in India. By the way, Microsoft has donated four times that amount to spread Windows and .NET awareness in India.