December 8, 2004 2:43 PM PST

Internet hoax hoodwinks McNealy

SAN FRANCISCO--Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Scott McNealy showed a photo during a Wednesday speech to illustrate how rapidly technology improves--but instead illustrated another computing phenomenon: how easy it is to fall for an Internet hoax.

At a keynote address here at the Oracle OpenWorld show, McNealy displayed a picture supposedly from the magazine "Popular Mechanics" showing how people in 1954 envisioned the home computer. His point was to show how far computing has advanced beyond what was expected. Alas, in reality the photo he used is a doctored picture of a nuclear submarine control room mock-up, according to the myth-debunking site Snopes.com.


The black-and-white photo, which has circulated by e-mail and Web postings, shows a man in an Eisenhower-era suit standing before a long panel studded with dozens of gauges and a single steering wheel. A bulky monitor looms above, and a keyboard is placed in front.

According to Snopes, the original image is a U.S. Navy photograph taken of a Smithsonian exhibit. The modified version was submitted to an image modification contest.

Hoaxes are nothing new for the Internet. There have been bogus MP3 viruses, virus repairs and e-mail taxes.

McNealy might be a hornswoggled high-tech CEO, but he showed some rightly skeptical instincts. "Being from Detroit, I have to wonder: What is the steering wheel for?" he asked the audience of thousands at the show.

And his next point certainly made sense: "It's hard to imagine where we'll be 50 years from now," he said.

McNealy shouldn't feel too bad about his gaffe; he has good company. Lotus founder Mitch Kapor posted the same bogus photo to his blog in November, later noting his mistake.

5 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Not a HOAX - a JOKE. Behold the power of Fark.
CEOs and founders should do fact-checking on branny-new information like this, before using it in presentations.

Good job to Farker <b>lukket</b> for his future Snopes entry ;-)

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1115586&#38;mode=voteresults" target="_newWindow">http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1115586&#38;mode=voteresults</a>
is the URL for the contest this came from - check it out. Fark.com is teh r0x0r!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Components of "Home Computer" photo
Having been a nuclear reactor technician (many years ago), I instantly recognized the US Navy's nuclear-powered submarine's maneuvering room in the background and expected the photo to be a hoax or photographic humor.

The background is a photo of the National Museum of American History's "Fast Attacks and Boomers: Submarines in the Cold War" exhibit of 2000. The large wheel controls the main engine ahead throttle; the small wheel controls the astern (reverse) throttle on a single-screw submarine.

The maneuvering room exhibit is in three consoles: Left - Main propulsion panel, Center - Nuclear reactor plant control panel, and Right - Electric plant control panel. The mock-up is not exactly correct for purposes of national security.

The keyboard and printer in front is a DEC Model LA36 DECwriter II Teletype Terminal, which was introduced in 1974. The printer is dot matrix, printing at 30 cps. The interface is RS-232/V.24 (remember that?).

The TV is a 1956 Crosley Ridgewood 21" console, less the swivel stand which was a standard part (apparently cropped from photo).

The gentleman (I understand he was one.) is Mr. Edward G. Wellmeier of Dayton, OH (now deceased). Photo was taken on Easter Sunday, 18 April 1954 (probably the source of the "1954" in the composite photo). He ran the Wellmeier Hardware and Glass Company at 600 Xenia Avenue, which I understand is still in business.

Disclaimer: I had nothing to do with the construction of the composite photo. I just tracked down the original images and did a little bit of research about their backgrounds.

Cordially,

/Russ/

Russ Russell, CM, ENP, PMP
9-1-1 SME Consulting
Posted by Russ911 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Drew said; it was not a hoax
What Drew said; it was not a hoax; the image came from a
Fark.com Photohop Contest. McNeely really should have known
better.

Way to go, lukket !
Posted by dpgnome (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
More hoaxes
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.state.gov/p/nea/disarm/" target="_newWindow">http://www.state.gov/p/nea/disarm/</a>
Posted by anandpur (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shankland needs a new job
His Sun &#38; McNealy bashing is getting old.
Posted by felgercarbnaysay (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.