Downtime

Nov 23 2017   1:18PM GMT

When Richard & Judy inspired Google

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

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Did anyone else catch Richard & Judy on 1 April 2003? In case you missed it, they pranked the nation with a segment on a device they claimed could convert sampled speech into other languages in real time. This television event has never left us.

What seemed so puzzling about this choice of April Fool’s joke was its feasibility. Watching Richard Madeley marvel at this breakthrough didn’t seem remarkable at all. Then, at the end of the episode, they revealed the whole thing was a wind-up.

Of course this isn’t a real invention, they chuckled, suggesting there was no way such a device could ever exist. But why not? Why should we be sold these lowly standards of innovation? By 2003, it should have already been in every home.

The whole experience left a sour taste that’s endured for 14 years, and should be up there with the “You Say We Pay” scandal and that Ali G impression in any list of the pair’s historic misdemeanors.

But, as conceivable a technology it may have seemed, it has continued to elude the world. This has allowed the stunt to exist without any substantial proof Richard and Judy were wrong to make the public feel stupid for believing the world’s leading innovators were actually doing their jobs. Until now. The arrival of Google’s Pixel Buds means the real thing is finally here. And not before time.

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