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Joking around

In the 1800s, students in many parts of the United States played April Fools’ jokes on their teachers. Sometimes all the students would run into the woods before school started and stay out until lunchtime. In other places, all the students would rush into the school, locking the teacher out.

The media of the times got into the act too. In 1878, a year after Thomas Edison, right, invented the phonograph, a New York newspaper printed an April Fools’ story about him. They reported that Edison had invented a “food creator” that could turn dirt into cereal. Many newspapers reprinted the story, thinking it was true.

Playing on the Net

April Fools’ Day is a major holiday on the Internet. Google employees especially love that day, playing pranks year after year.

On April 1, 2000, they announced a new search engine that could read your mind. They called their breakthrough MentalPlex Technology.

Users were told to take off their hats and glasses and then look into the MentalPlex circle, think about what they were looking for, and then think about clicking. There was no need to type anything into a keyboard.

On April Fools’ Day, 2011, Google announced new technology that would allow people to control Gmail by making motions with their bodies. No keyboard was needed.

Google claimed it was also coming out with a new Google Docs Motion program, where people could create documents with their bodies. For example, you could create a chart by doing gymnastics. The webcam would see your moves and translate them into diagrams on the computer.

Other companies get into the spirit of the day too. In 2009, Expedia, a travel site, offered flights to Mars for only $99. It claimed you could save more than $3 trillion.

Centuries of Tricks