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The Competitive Eater Who Helped Bring Back Crystal Pepsi

In 1992, after a string of test market successes, PepsiCo launched a brand of clear soda, Crystal Pepsi, nationwide. After early buzz that included a Van Hagar-soundtracked Super Bowl ad and some initial success, the cola’s popularity petered out and by 1994 PepsiCo had stopped production. More than 20 years later, Crystal Pepsi is poised for a comeback, and it's all thanks to a persistent competitive eater and a whole bunch of vomit.

Kevin Strahle, a.k.a. L.A. Beast, runs a YouTube channel where he takes on extreme eating challenges and stunts. In 2013, he bought 20-year-old Crystal Pepsi off eBay for $80 and filmed himself chugging it. In the video he expresses surprise that the stale soda tastes "amazing," but he soon becomes queasy, asking, “Is it supposed to sit in your stomach like that?” before he barfs it all out in a wide, crystal clear spray. The video currently has over 11 million views on YouTube.

“Since that day,” Strahle says over the phone, “I’ve been passionate about Crystal Pepsi.” The video helped grow his fame on the Internet, and L.A. Beast's YouTube channel currently has 1.2 million subscribers.

This April, Strahle bought another bottle of Crystal Pepsi with an even grander goal in mind. In a video titled “Pepsi Needs To Bring Back Crystal Pepsi (Warning: Extreme Rainbow Vomit)", Strahle drinks five squirt bottles of colored milk through his nose, chugs a SURGE (another once-discontinued soda), and pounds a yellow-tinted 20-year-old Crystal Pepsi. He then takes a homemade painting of a Crystal Pepsi bottle and upchucks neon puke all over it.

“I have spoken on the phone with Pepsi Cola,” Strahle says into the camera with a pro-wrestler’s intensity, “And they have told me on several different occasions that they do not have the time, the energy, or the money to spend on a campaign such as bringing back Crystal Pepsi.” Strahle's plan was to circumvent the company and launch the campaign himself. He sold the vomit-covered painting on eBay for $5,000, which he then used to help fund his efforts. He bought billboards in Los Angeles and urged his fans to swarm Pepsi’s social media accounts with the hashtag #BringBackCrystalPEPSI. The soda’s Instagram page was flooded with over 50,000 comments about the campaign and a Change.org petition has so far gathered almost 35,000 signatures.

On June 8th, Pepsi sent Strahle a letter informing him his plan worked; Crystal Pepsi is coming back:

“Everything has just kind of exploded,” Strahle says. “It’s awesome. I’m speechless.”

Whether PepsiCo plans to issue the soda as a limited release or goes for a full rollout with Crystal Pepsi is still unknown, but the above letter has been confirmed as real.

The man who PepsiCo cordially calls “Mr. Beast” actually used to work for the company. “I worked on the trucks delivering Pepsi in the summers in college,” he says. From 2008 to 2010 he stocked shelves for the soda manufacturer and hoped to move his way up to sales, but was told he “wasn’t persistent enough to be a salesman.”

“I have never forgotten that,” he says. “The satisfaction’s there.”

As for other discontinued products he’d like to lend his powers of resurrection to, Strahle has some ideas. “People have already started saying they want Dunkaroos back and 3D Doritos. I think another drink from my childhood I can get behind is Hi-C Ecto-Cooler. I was on eBay and like the top bid for one original little juice box sold for like $800 dollars. The potential for those guys to make money is insane.”

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Computer Users, Rejoice: You're Finally Allowed to Create Easy-to-Remember Passwords
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To keep your personal data secure, it’s important to craft a strong password—and for nearly 15 years, savvy computer users have heeded the counsel of Bill Burr, the man who quite literally wrote the book on password management. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that Burr has admitted that some of his advice was flawed. While working as a manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2003, Burr wrote a primer—officially known as “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A”—that instructed federal workers to create codes using obscure characters, a mix of lowercase and capital letters, and numbers. For security purposes, he also recommended changing passwords on a regular basis. At the time, however, Burr didn’t have a ton of data to rely on, so he ended up using a paper published in the mid-1980s as a primary source for the manual. Burr’s primer eventually became widely used among federal workers, corporate companies, websites, and tech companies alike. But in hindsight, experts say that Burr’s directives didn’t actually improve cybersecurity: The NIST recently gave his primer received a full overhaul, and they opted to eliminate the now-famous rules about using special characters and switching up codes. These rules “actually had a negative impact on usability,” Paul Grassi, the NIST standards-and-technology adviser who led Special Publication 800-63’s rewrite, told The Wall Street Journal. They make it harder to remember and type in codes, plus those parties who did change their passwords every 90 days typically only made minor, easy-to-guess alterations. Plus, research now shows that longer passwords—a series of around four words—are ultimately harder to crack than shorter combinations of letters, characters, or numbers. (And at the end of the day, computer users ended up paradoxically choosing the same “random” passwords used by millions of others.) The NIST now recommends long, easy-to-remember passwords (not the “#!%”-filled ones of yesteryear) and for people to switch codes only if they suspect that their existing one has been stolen. In short, it's probably time to change your password—and this time around, you might even have an easier time remembering it.
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Hacked Rotary Phone Demonstrates How the Internet Works
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Untangling the inner workings of the internet gets complicated fast, partly because the World Wide Web isn’t a single entity. Rather, it’s a vast network of networks in communication with one another. To demonstrate this complex process at work, a group of students from Copenhagen reduced it to something most people are familiar with: a rotary telephone.

As Co.Design reports, the Internet Phone looks like an old-fashioned telephone with a rotary dial, but students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design have modified it to function like a web browser. To use it, callers dial the IP address of whichever website they wish to visit. When the call is answered, a voice reads the text aloud as it would appear on the webpage.

If a caller wants to hear the raw HTML, they can switch the phone to “developer” mode. There’s also an “article” option for skipping irrelevant content and a “history” mode for redialing the last five IP addresses that were called.

It may be hard to connect the act of calling a website on a rotary phone to opening a site on your smartphone, but the two aren’t that far apart. The students write in the project description:

“Each step in the user experience is comparable to the process that a browser takes when retrieving a website. Looking up the IP addresses in a phone book is similar to how a browser gets an IP address from DNS (Domain Name System) directories. Dialing the twelve digits and waiting for the phone to retrieve the HTML content mimic how a browser requests data from servers. The voice-to-speech reading of the website is comparable to how a browser translates HTML and CSS code into human understandable content.”

After watching the reinvented phone in action, check out these other practical uses for retro technology.

[h/t Co.Design]

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