August 1999

There is nothing more disgusting to an open-minded, freedom-loving person than the condescending, snobbish attitude of a big-shot politician or corporation: "We know what's best for you." This attitude smacks of centralized control typical of a dictatorial state or a slave plantation. Sometimes this mentality is found among powerful political classes who want to mandate certain types of behavior. However, this decade has seen the rise of a commercial class which is able to force its own viewpoint into the mainstream of society without signficant public debate, and certainly without suffering from the counterbalancing force of the ballot box. They simply manipulate public opinion more smoothly and more pervasively than the political class does.

The Orwellian "truthspeak" is now found in commercial advertisement, which is a daily event. Politics occurs occasionally, but commerce is a constant feature of life. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the appliances we buy are decisions we make based not on reality, but rather based on our own ill-informed perceptions of reality. Nowhere is that more true for the average shopper than in the computer marketplace.

The latest news about Microsoft is that once again they are telling the public, "We know what's best for you." See the article HERE. Microsoft is planning to remove support for "legacy" software in its next versions of Windows. Just what do they mean by "legacy?" That codeword means anything that you are already using if you own a Windows-based computer. Sure, the next round of so-called "upgrades" only removes support for DOS applications. Later Microsoft can remove support for other things too -- pure Java, Windows 3.1, whatever they want to eliminate. Then they have the gall to call this reduction of choice, this removal of capabilities, this crippled system an "upgrade" and to charge extra for it!

Down the road, they can eliminate Windows95/98 application support, too. This is all designed to force people to abandon their current software applications and start over from scratch -- buying, installing, debugging, learning, and adjusting -- with all new programs. Wasting time and money. Risking damage to their original data, as well as their comfortable personal routines or business processes. Later on, when Microsoft rigs a 64-bit version of their Windows kludge, then they can discontinue Win32 support, too, and force people to start all over once again, like some poor addicts being strung along by a dope dealer.

This routine only works effectively if it is done by a monopolist. If there was a significant market share for a non-Microsoft operating system in the consumer desktop space, then everyone who wanted to could escape from the corrupt and contemptible manipulations of the Redmond cabal. Since OS/2 continues to have superb DOS support, the best Java support, and excellent Windows 3.1 support (plus thousands of native OS/2 applications), OS/2 would be a veritable "escape hatch" for the poor suckers who are tired of being jerked around by Microsoft. Unless, of course, somebody told them such freedom was not really freedom at all -- that only Big Brother Bill could watch over them, protect them, and nurture them. Who would tell them that?

There are three main groups of people who have a vested interest in keeping Microsoft in power and reducing customer choice. These groups are computer hardware makers, computer software makers, and the PC media. When consumers are stuck like hamsters on a treadmill, constantly doling out money because every new operating system requires more hardware, and every new computer forces a new operating system on you, and every new application requires you to change operating systems -- well, they say it's "good for the economy." And after all, "We know what's best for you." These three groups of hypocrites actually advise us in THEIR OWN best interest; they know that keeping computer users dependent on them is in their best interest.

Hardware vendors are only too glad to sign on to the new, slower, bulkier operating systems from Microsoft, because that means more hardware sales. Software vendors love to tell people that they are discontinuing support for anything that is older than two years, so you must spend more money just to "keep up" with some mythical improvements which are not really improvements at all. And the computer industry pundits love to rake in advertising dollars when everybody gets ready to play another round of musical chairs with their computers.

I can hear ol' Bill right now. "Nobody should have to drag you peons kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. Get rid of your old DOS programs. We know what's best for you." Meanwhile, Windows has dragged millions of people *BACKWARDS* neurologically into the sixtieth century B.C. -- you know, before writing was invented -- teaching people to forget about using text and go backwards to the caveman days with little icons everywhere instead of words. Nick Petreley wrote it in InfoWorld magazine in 1995, and it's still true: people are more productive with text than with pictures -- once they learn the language. This does not mean that a GUI is useless; graphics has its place. However, text-based products are better for many kinds of computer tasks. Windows is a "great equalizer" in that it makes fast computer users slower. By placing a small number of icons on the screen and thus reducing choice, an illusion of simplicity is created. Removing DOS support will make it harder for the more experienced computer users to enjoy their work, and will make them less productive. Just think of Bill Gates as the mirror image of "The Rainman" -- a graphical Rainman. If Mr. Gates was honest, he would admit that he is merely imposing his own neurological view of the world onto others.

I can hear the PC pundits right now. "This new version of Windows will do just what the others did, increase your productivity. We know what's best for you." Meanwhile, white-collar workers in America now work an average of 49 hours a week; in the days of DOS they worked 41 hours a week. It sure is easy to look more productive when you donate eight unpaid hours a week to the boss!!! That time is stolen from the family. That unpaid salary is stolen from the workers. Do we really need to donate more time to the workplace, just to fix more Windows bugs? The PC pundits don't care; more bugs from Microsoft mean more magazine sales, and more listeners to their computer call-in shows on the radio. If the PC media as a group would boldly stand up and be honest, they would stop telling us they "know what is best." They would tell us the truth, that the emperor has no clothes on.

I can hear the hardware vendors right now. See the article HERE. "So what if you can't use your old modem, if floppy drives have been discontinued, if you can't use your parallel port scanner you just bought because all the new PCs come with no parallel port. Who cares if you can't use an external serial modem now that new PCs come with no serial ports. Grow up and accept the future. We know what's best for you." Working hand-in-glove with Microsoft, this unnecessary removal of capabilities (hypocritically called "progress") aims to eliminate alternative operating systems. Meanwhile, new and untested technologies like FireWire and USB will cause grief for millions, and lead to yet another round of struggles with new hardware, cabling, and learning another set of debugging techniques -- just when people had almost figured out the old bugs!!

I can hear the software makers right now. "Isn't it about time you dumped your old, text-based software and bought new programs from us? These are 32-bit programs. We know what's best for you." These are also slower, less reliable, and overloaded with more and more features that get in the way of those of us who prefer simplicity and reliability. The problem is that there is no money in simplicity and reliability, and so the software vendors refuse to provide it. If only they had the integrity to stand up and tell us that.

I'm not going to stand up and say, "Use OS/2, everybody. I know what's best for you." I don't believe that everybody should be dictated to, that choice should be eliminated, or that OS/2 can solve everybody's problems. It can't, because no software can. However, there are millions of people out there who would be much, much happier, productive, and successful using OS/2 than what they are using now. I know, because some of these people e-mail me each month and tell me they are dumping Microsoft products and upgrading to OS/2. You see, some people have actually figured it out: if you carefully examine the choices, you will find out what's best for you.

Until somebody who "knows what is best for us" discontinues support for it, of course.

Most recent revision: July 25, 1999
Copyright © 1999, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.