Microsoft is Not Run By Nerds
March 1998

There's one in every class. You remember, don't you? The one person -- usually male -- who always had the right answer. Not just a good answer, or even a correct answer, but the best answer to any question. It was downright annoying, that this person had to be so technically precise, so attentive to minute details, so thorough as to be boring and dull. But no matter what people may think, this description does not apply to the chieftains at Microsoft. These people may be many things, including clever, resourceful, and powerful. But these men are not real nerds, and they certainly never will be. There are three reasons why this is so, having to do with three essential features of a true nerd.

1. A real nerd chooses the technically correct over the expedient. A real nerd would never build something as dopey as Windows, because he would never stand for the convoluted and twisted contraptions in the structure of the operating system. A real nerd would choose precision and correctness, not .DLL files that have inconsistent numbering schemes, memory management that borders on chaos, and file formats that change with the tides. A real nerd would never dare to put his seal of approval on something that makes errors as often as you or I would goof on a calculus exam. He would only sell something that worked, that produced reliable answers, that was predictable to a fault.

If there is one thing the consumer has learned in the past eight years, Windows' main fault is that it is not predictable; it is random, or non-deterministic. You will learn to call the roll of the dice before you'll figure out which error Windows will produce next. Random failures are not the mark of a nerd, but the mark of a charlatan, a poseur, someone very mediocre who is masquerading as a nerd.

2. A real nerd is truthful to a fault. A real nerd does not hoodwink or deceive others, and he does not cheat even when everyone else in class does. A real nerd is desperately, boringly honest, brutally truthful, and has a guileless sensibility bordering on the immature. True nerds would never think of answering to the U.S. Senate or the DOJ with anything other than honest, objective answers instead of deceptions, innuendos, and half-truths.

The real nerd was the one everyone else cheated on, remember? The real nerd was the one anyone else could hoodwink because of his honesty and simplicity. The real nerd was the one who told the truth, no matter what the consequences -- to himself or to his fellow classmates.

If there is one thing we have all learned in the past eight years, Microsoft has no qualms about promising what they cannot deliver, spreading innuendo and rumors about the competition, and shafting both friends and enemies alike. Deception and shiftiness are not the marks of a true nerd, but rather the signs of a moral weakling.

3. A real nerd never pushes people around. The nerd was always the one who got beat up, remember? He didn't have a squad of goons out looking for somebody else's term paper, and he didn't make declarations of war on smaller people. The nerd was never the bully, the oppressor, or the instigator of trouble. If there is one thing that we have learned in the last eight years, the elite staff at Microsoft not only defend themselves quite well (by whatever means necessary), but they often go out of their way to make life miserable for others. Small companies find their cash flow squelched, and then are offered a chance to escape by signing over their "crown jewels" -- their software innovations. This is not the mark of a true nerd; it is the mark of the big kid who always asked you for a quarter in the hallway between classes.

For these three main reasons, it is obvious that Microsoft is not ruled by nerds; instead, their persona is a fake, a fraud, a wolf in sheep's clothing. The technical sloppiness, the deceptive propaganda, and the bullying attitude of Microsoft have shown us what kind of people really live behind the Microsoft mask. To nerds everywhere who looked to Microsoft as some kind of "nerd messiah" who would right all the wrongs suffered by intellectuals and school brains, these clever folks have pulled off yet another schoolboy prank, a prank played by bullies on a schoolyard full of nerds.

Most recent revision: March 21, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.