On the evening of November 22, 1987, Chicagoland residents catching the sports highlights on WGN's Nine O'Clock News or watching the new episode Dr. Who on WTTW witnessed one of the greatest hacks of all time, known today as The Great Max Headroom Signal Intrusion.
During the Chicago Bears game highlights, WGN's signal, transmitted from atop the 100-story John Hancock Center from the Magnificent Mile was hijacked. For 30 seconds, all audio was cut except for a distorted buzzing sound, while an ominous figure in a Max Headroom mask flickered and glowed into hundreds of thousands of living rooms. The hijack was stopped after WGN engineers switched the frequency of their studio link.
"Well, if you're wondering what happened, so am I.", quipped a befuddled Dan Roan, sports anchor of the hijacked broadcast after engineers regained control of the station
At 11:15 later that night, viewers of PBS affiliate WTTW's broadcast of Dr. Who were subjected to the same ominous figure, this time with audio. For a minute and a half, the figure moved about the screen, uttering strange things and waving around a rubber hand until bending over and being smacked in the ass with a fly-swatter.
The audio is hard to make out over the modulation, but this is generally what Max had to say to the world:
"He's a freaking nerd!"
"This guy's better than Chuck Swirsky. Yeah, I think I'm better then Chuck Swirsky (WGN-TV play-by-play comentator for the Bulls at the time)
"Catch the wave."
"Your love is fading." (hums the theme song to the 1959 TV series "Clutch Cargo")
"I still see the X! I stole CBS! I stole some DX!"
" (unintelligible) Oh, I just made a giant masterpiece printed all over the greatest world newspaper nerds."
"My brother is wearing the other one."
"They're coming to get me!"
You can watch the entire thing, remastered with higher quality audio below: