It was called “Keygen”, a tool for stress-cracking Vista activation keys by churning through the vast number of possibilities one at a time at a claimed rate of 20,000 an hour.

Now the unknown coder who created this tool has admitted it was a joke. “"I have never gotten it to work, everyone should stop using it! Everyone who said they got a key is probably lying or mistaken!," he said on KezNews.

One doubting poster to the site had already claimed that Keygen would have needed to take “1.35 quintillion years to check all possible 25-character combinations”, a comically large amount of time that roughly equates to the disintegration of the known universe into a dark void of photonic dust.

This is the paragraph where I could have made a cheap quip about that being only slightly longer than Vista takes to load and, on some days when it’s taken against Outlook 2002, to shut down too. But I won’t.

In fact, any program attempting a force hack on a 25-character strong string would have hit on the correct key by chance long before the universe ended, so the 1.35 quintillion year (that’s 10 to the 18th) quote is fanciful nonsense.

What’s more interesting is why people makeup this stuff, why some people take it seriously, and why some people don’t believe them when they subsequently claim the claim to be untrue. Some users do apparently believe it to work, and have sent in video proof to back up the unlikely assertion.

So this is a hoax, that in order to be a hoax has to initially claim to be genuine (ie, nobody would be interested if he’d admitted straight up that it was a hoax), but which becomes more significant because some people subsequently say it is not a hoax at all.

I’ll file it with that other event oddity, the great “Did Scott McNealy really think that a picture of a nuclear submarine was a 1950’s sketch for a future computer?”

I’ve never believed that one myself.