Oogachaka, oogachaka … readers of a certain age will remember the night in late January 1998 when the titular character on TV’s Ally McBeal danced with a computer-generated baby. The iconic scene—meant to convey Ally’s concerns about her biological clock—not only propelled the show into a hit but also birthed the digital meme.
Alternately creepy and cute, the Dancing Baby was already a cult hit prior to Ally McBeal. A teenage Rob Sheridan (now a graphic designer famous for his work with Nine Inch Nails) had found the curiously mesmerizing .avi file online and begun distributing it on “The Unofficial Dancing Baby Homepage.” (Check out the quintessentially 1990s web design, tiled background and all.) Ally’s dance took the internet oddity mainstream. Soon, you could buy T-shirts featuring the Oogachaka Baby at the mall.
The term “meme” was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to mean “cultural unit of information.” Archaeologists have traced #meme use back to mosaics created in the year 3 B.C.
Liked this post? Check out other Tech Time Warp installations here.
Photo: GaudiLab / Shutterstock