Color Televisions Were All the Rage in the 1960s (They Were Also Radioactive)

A century ago, it wasn't unusual to have at least one dangerously radioactive object in your home. Radium was used to make a long list of everyday items—including toys, chocolate, watches, and cosmetics—before the risks were understood. By the 1950s and '60s, it was common knowledge that radioactive materials weren't something you wanted to be exposed to on a daily basis, and manufacturers (for the most part) were no longer adding them to their goods on purpose. But radiation did inadvertently show up in one of the hottest products of the age, and it was pumped into thousands of living rooms across America before the mistake was caught.

Testing in 1967 revealed that large-screen models of GE color televisions sets were emitting radiation that exceeded safe levels, according to a recent story by The Atlantic. After further investigation it was clear that the problem wasn't limited to GE: Radiation was detected in color models made by nearly every television company at the time, which meant as many as 112,000 sets were radioactive.

The radiation was thought to be linked to the high voltage required to power early color televisions, and according to health officials, it was about 10 to 100,000 times higher than the acceptable rate. In light of the alarming information, the surgeon general released a statement assuring consumers that the radiation levels likely weren't strong enough to hurt them—but there was a catch. Radiation escaped the television at a crescent-shaped angle that sloped downwards, meaning that people were relatively safe when they watched their sets at least six feet away from the screen. But viewers who preferred laying on the carpet beneath their set, or who put it on a high shelf, may have been placing themselves directly in the path of the radiation leakage.

It's unclear what long-term health effects radioactive color TVs had on their owners—if any—but they definitely left an impact on our collective psyche. Even today, kids are lectured for sitting too close to the television set, and though the reasons parents give vary ("it rots your brain," "it'll hurt your eyesight"), their concern may have roots in the radiation scare of the late 1960s.

In 1968, Congress passed the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act, which enabled the FDA to regulate radiation emissions in electronics. Television manufacturers made color sets safer by installing glass plates to block excess radiation, and radioactive TVs soon disappeared from stores.

The FDA still regulates radiation in electronics today, and as the technology evolved, the chances of getting a harmful X-ray blast from your television set have greatly diminished. That means the hazards of binge watching are mostly limited to eye strain, myopia, and the usual risks that come with sitting still all day.

[h/t The Atlantic]

Your Smart TV Is Vulnerable to Hackers, According to the FBI

Ahmet Yarali / iStock via Getty Images
Ahmet Yarali / iStock via Getty Images

By this point, many of us have had the experience of mentioning a product or service out loud during a conversation, only to have an ad for that very thing pop up on a smart device mere moments later. And, although you may have gotten used to the idea of your gadgets keeping tabs on you, you might not realize that your new smart TV’s monitoring capabilities make it extra vulnerable to hackers.

KATV reports that the Portland, Oregon branch of the FBI released guidelines last week as part of its “Tech Tuesday” initiative to warn people about the risk of hackers gaining access to unsecured televisions through the routers. Because smart TVs likely have microphones and even cameras, successful hackers could do anything from petty mischief to serious stalking.

“At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the FBI says. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”

Before you head back to Best Buy, brandishing your receipt and begging for a refund, there are a number of safety precautions you can take to make yourself less of an easy target for cyberattacks.

The first step is knowing exactly what features your TV has, and understanding how to control them—the FBI recommends doing an internet search with the model number and the words microphone, camera, and privacy.

After that, you should delve right into those security settings. Disable the collection of personal information if you can, and learn how to limit microphone and camera access. If you don’t see an option to shut off the camera, black tape over it does the trick.

And, even if it’s not the most riveting reading material, it’s worth perusing the fine print on your device and streaming services to find out what data they collect, where they store it, and how they use it.

Check out all of the tips here, and then see what other everyday objects might be susceptible to hackers.

[h/t KATV]

Hotel in Japan Is Offering Rooms for $1 Per Night—If You Agree to Livestream Your Stay

DragonImages/iStock via Getty Images
DragonImages/iStock via Getty Images

Many people are happy to document their vacations online without getting paid to do it. Now, as The Washington Post reports, exhibitionists who can't resist low prices are now eligible to book a hotel room in Fukuoka, Japan for just $1 a night. In return, they must agree to livestream their experience.

Tetsuya Inoue, the manager of Asahi Ryokan in Fukuoka, got the idea for the marketing stunt after one of his guests broadcast his stay voluntarily. Inoue figured that if people are already comfortable sharing their private moments in the hotel with the world, he might as well use that to his advantage.

The "One Dollar Hotel" promotion is a way for Inoue to bring attention to the 30-year-old guesthouse, which is owned by his grandmother. For $1—a fee that covers lodging, taxes, and tips—customers have access to a room that normally costs $27 a night. As guests eat, sleep, and get ready for the day, a camera installed in the room livestreams their every move to the hotel's YouTube channel. The only place where they have privacy is in the bathroom. Signs in the room warn guests not to engage in any "lewd acts" and to keep passports and credit cards out of the camera's field of view.

In addition to generating publicity for Asahi Ryokan, Inoue hopes that his YouTube videos will eventually become popular enough to monetize. Five guests have agreed to the deal so far, and after launching in October, the One Dollar Hotel YouTube channel already has close to 15,000 subscribers.

[h/t The Washington Post]