To the world, a message from God

The first Emergency Broadcast System test

“Hey Tom, it looks like the front end is almost good to go.”

Johnny finished his last line of code. Excitedly, he ran the compiler to see if all was functional.

Tom nodded quizzically. A working interface was the easy part. The difficulty was reverse engineering the Omniscience API — a process which was almost complete.

What Tom, Johnny, and their crew of hobbyists were doing was going to change the world. It all stemmed from an event that occurred 50 years earlier, a moment that made Tom never forget the Emergency Broadcast System.

The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) was an emergency warning system in the United States, used from 1963 to 1997. The EBS was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis.

On February 20, 1971, Tom was a 7-year-old boy watching Saturday morning cartoons. At precisely 9:33AM, the EBS played the wrong tape during a test of the system. As a result, an EBS activation message authenticated with the codeword “hatefulness” was sent through the entire system, ordering stations to cease regular programming and broadcast the alert of a national emergency. A cancellation message was sent at 9:59 AM EST; however, it used the same codeword. A cancellation message with the correct codeword, “impish,” was not sent until 10:13 AM EST.

This event was a false alarm, and exposed major flaws in the system. After decades the EBS was replaced entirely by a streamlined system known as the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The difference between the two systems was drastic.

The EAS’ central control was powered by remote satellite that had the power to suspend the operations of AM and FM radio stations, VHF, UHF, and cable television. As of May 31st 2007, the EAS also forced private digital radio and satellite television broadcasters to participate.

But there were other undocumented powers the EAS had that were farther reaching. It had the ability to send simultaneous text messages to every device connected to the Internet, including cell phones, desktop computers, and gaming consoles. It could send messages to technologies considered obsolete: fax machines, teleprinters, vibroplex morse keys.

So efficient was the EAS that other nations based their own national warning systems on it. Each nation routed their own system through a dedicated satellite switch — which was a failsafe in case of any terrestrial communication jammers. Every warning system utilized the same API.

This was known as the Omniscience API.

It took 25 years for the Omniscience API’s reverse engineering to near its completion. It had to be done in secret lest the authorities got wind and unceremoniously brought it down — replacing it with a back up. For this reason, only Tom and and Johnny knew exactly what the Omniscience API was. The rest of the team simply knew they were doing God’s work.

When the reverse engineering was complete — thoroughly tested and deemed cross compatible — Tom and Johnny brought the whole crew together.

“To be compatible with as many communications mediums as possible, the message will need to have less than 100 characters. Here’s what we got.”

The projector flashed the message across the whitescreen:

This is God. If you don’t stop all your wars within a week, I’m just going to end the world.

Rashid had a question. “How do we make an allowance for a specific deity’s name?”

“There’s an insert function that automatically maps itself to the target’s higher power along with the language translator,” Tom answered, “If the target doesn’t believe in a diety, we adjust to near equivalency.”

Cindy, the beta tester, followed up. “What happens after that week passes? Assuming all the wars end: how long until tensions boil over and war breaks out again? Assuming the wars don’t end: how will the world react when there is no divine retribution — since we are not God?”

“If it doesn’t work,” Tom answered, “Either everyone’s going to have to sort out why God is allowing wars to go on, or they’re just going to have to question God altogether.”

Johnny paused for a moment to choose his words. “Of course, this is a big crap shoot. This may result in nothing, but we have to try for the good of humanity.”

One month later, a young man stirred his long island ice tea in the back of a Miama night club. “Hey remember when we all received that barrage of text messages?”

“Yeah,” his friend laughed, “I’d like to meet the guys who pulled off that prank.”