But the first viral videos were porn (often of suspect legality), on USENET, long before the 1990s.
The internet is mourning the sad death of George Thomas Thornton, the man who gained immortal fame for blowing up a dead whale on TV and so created what was probably the first truly viral video. The video of the infamous exploding whale. Thornton became famous when a video showing his rather ill-advised decision to get rid of …
This story circulated for years on bulletin boards and Usenet before it became a video sensation. All we had to go on was the original Dave Barry column, which begins:
'I am absolutely not making this incident up; in fact I have it all on videotape. The tape is from a local TV news show in Oregon, which sent a reporter out to cover the removal of a 45-foot, eight-ton dead whale that washed up on the beach. The responsibility for getting rid of the carcass was placed upon the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.
'So anyway, the highway engineers hit upon the plan — remember, I am not making this up — of blowing up the whale with dynamite. The thinking here was that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by sea gulls, and that would be that. A textbook whale removal.
There was an explosives expert at hand. He told Mr. Thornton that he was using not enough dynamite to blow the whale into small bits, and the amount that he was using would send chunks all over. He was ignored, and it was his new car that got smacked with ballistic whale blubber.
The reporter on the scene later wrote his autobiography and gave the whale top billing:
And if you think the state of Oregon learned its lesson about trying to get rid of large beach debris by blowing it up, look up the tale of the New Carissa.
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