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The eight most brainless tech rumours ever

Some of the most ridiculous technology rumours have been collected together to provoke your giggles, on a guided tour through a jungle of fallacy and confusion. Just watch out for leeches

To work at CNET UK, you have to take the managing director out on a date and make her laugh. The rule is simple: if she don't laugh, you ain't staff.

There. That was a rumour we just started. See how easy it is? The great thing about rumours is they only need the tiniest speck of something that sounds like truth to be credible, and if they're proven wrong -- hey, there'll be another one along in a minute.

We've picked eight stonkers from tech history that teased and twisted the minutest grains of plausibility into epic tales of technological wonder and horror. We begin with a story that proves that there are limits to the pestering power of children.

The hoverboards from Back to the Future II are real. Mattel makes them, and the film's director Robert Zemeckis confirms they were just so dangerous they had to be kept out of the shops. Kids were desperate to get their hands on them back in the 80s. Ourselves included.

Problem was, it was all an enormous rumour spurred on by Zemeckis, who was growing tired of having to explain how he developed the hoverboard effect in the movie. But for years school playgrounds buzzed with the hopeful voices of kids firmly convinced the whooshy boards were real, and that it was just a matter of convincing shops to start stocking them. Awww.

"Are we all going to die next Wednesday?" asked the Daily Mail. It was one of a plethora of similar headlines chosen by the world's newspapers prior to the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland last year. The LHC was going to kill us all and the very fabric of time itself would crumble.

To be fair, the LHC still hasn't been properly switched on. But even when it does, it will not kill us all. We dragged the utterly charming physicist Dr Pamela Gay into our podcast studio to explain why this rumour is utter male cow waste. Of course, it won't stop the tabloids making a massive deal about the enormous circular contraption when it finally does get fired up. Just do yourself a favour and ignore them.

At the turn of the 20th century, Royal Society physicist Lord Kelvin made the remarkable statement that he believed the discovery of X-rays to be "a hoax". From any munchkin in the street this could be dismissed as drunken babble. But Lord Kelvin had a respectable track record of saying some pretty clever stuff.

The rumoured fallacy of the X-ray discovery obviously went nowhere. In fact we can now explore the universe beyond X-rays, imaging cosmic objects with gamma rays as well. Interestingly, Lord Kelvin also famously claimed research into aeroplanes was a duff idea, believing no such craft would ever be "practically successful". To his credit, he apparently later retracted his criticism of X-rays and even had his hand X-rayed (thanks to a reader for pointing this out). Hey: we're all wrong sometimes.

In the 1980s, the record labels were adamant: "Taping music from friends' collections will kill the music industry!" they screeched. The low cost of cassettes, combined with the relative ease of copying music from other sources, worked the execs of the world's major labels into a well-paid panic.

Tapes didn't kill the music industry, as you may have noticed. But today the same lather surrounds illegal file-sharing on the Internet. The only reason the music industry is in a position to worry about file-sharing is because the rumour it started in the 80s was nonsense -- cassettes didn't kill music any more than VHS killed the movie industry.

Apple wanted to buy Nintendo back in 2006. Undoubtedly the result of an Apple fan having a mushroom-based trip while playing Super Mario Bros, we have to hold up our hands and say we didn't exactly ignore it -- it made the number one spot on our list of the Top 10 Apple rumours of all time.

True, Apple did want to spin-jump its way into the gaming sector. But it never needed Nintendo. What it needed was to pair some compelling hardware of its own with some original games makers. Y'know, like Electronic Arts and an iPod touch. Today, the App Store, thanks to the iPhone, is one of the fastest growing game markets in the world. Batteries included, Nintendo not so much.

In early 2008 there was an interesting rumour about none other than CNET Networks -- us, before we were bought by CBS. Google was massaging the idea of getting into the business of producing original content, and wanted to do so by buying CNET.

Naturally we were quite surprised. For all we knew it was speculation, hand-crafted by someone who should've known better. But nonetheless it sent the company's share price up, and caused numerous high-profile news outlets to question the authenticity of the claim.

A little later CBS piped up and bought us. We'll never know if Google had any real intentions of snagging us.

In 1999, everyone thought they were going to be killed. Planes were going to fall out of the sky and crush the world's children, nuclear weapons were going to launch themselves and flambe every continent. It was all the fault of the 'Millennium Bug' -- the Y2K time bomb inside every piece of computing equipment whose internal clocks weren't capable of handling the transition into the four-digit date format.

Enormous amounts of cash were funnelled into fixing software and hardware. PC magazines went ballistic, shipping promotional CDs containing diagnostic software from companies hoping to sell 'fix-it' products. Reputable software engineers will tell you there could have been serious problems with important economic systems if the bug hadn't been fixed. But in the end it was a fearful rumour that caused no notable global catastrophe, and in most cases was blown out of all proportion.

If we did a feature called 'The ten dumbest things ever said on the Internet by anyone ever', Bill Gates being the Antichrist would be items one through to ten.

About a decade ago a rumour circulated that if you converted the letters of 'Bill Gates III' to ASCII numerals (the letter B is represented in ASCII as 66, for example), then add them all up, you get the number 666.

The theory circulated the inboxes of every impressionable moron on the planet at the time. On a scale of one to ten in terms of how dumb something is, this 'rumour' would be past ten and right off the scale. But still people continued to milk it for all it was worth. Apparently there was even hidden code inside Microsoft products that supported the idea.

If, like us, you think this rumour is the result of someone's brain having broken, consider writing for CNET UK. All it takes is a date with a lovely lady.