Part 2. The Cable Guy
Whenever you buy a new home, you usually expect it to come with a set of basic home
appliances. In particular, you expect a stove, a refrigerator, and perhaps a dishwasher
to be included as "standard equipment" or built-in furnishings. On the
other hand, the housing contractor expects you to furnish your own beds, your own
couches, your own chairs, and your own dining furniture. You are also expected to
provide your own entertainment equipment and electronics; the contractor just does
the house wiring.
Now if you happen to live in a totalitarian country, you can probably expect that
all the home appliances will be identical no matter where you buy your house. You
don't expect much in the way of choice. You probably would not expect to have much
choice in the "extra" appliances, either, including your choice of entertainment
equipment. Your phone would probably be provided by the State. "It's all part
of the furnishings," says your local Party boss.
At least you would have some choice about where to plug in the various devices.
You could choose to turn things off or to unplug them if you didn't like the devices,
even in a totalitarian state. The phone might be bugged, but you could always choose
not to use the phone. If you didn't like the television programs -- or if you were
smart enough to not believe them -- you could just turn the set off. The house wiring
would at least give you that degree of choice.
Back in the Free World, think of buying a computer as getting a new "house"
for your data. It comes with several "major appliances." Most of the time,
you must settle for Microsoft "appliances," such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
Just like a totalitarian regime, the Microsoft Party has made the decision for you,
so you don't get to choose the brand. You get the same things, no matter who you
buy the machine from.
But there's another twist. Just as the "appliances" are considered part
of the house, so is the "wiring." In this case, the "wiring"
of your software is the operating system. While the totalitarian regime at least
allowed you to pull the plug, the Microsoft stuff is pre-wired. You can't unplug
the "phone," because Microsoft Network is right there all the time. You
can't unplug the "television," because Internet Explorer is hardwired
into the system.
"It's part of the house wiring," says the The Cable Guy.
Yes, totalitarian Microsoft is now trying to claim that telephones and televisions
are merely extensions of the electrical outlet! Not satisfied with owning the appliance
market, Microsoft wants to become The Cable Guy, too. By attempting to build e-mail,
Internet, and other capabilities as part of the operating system, Microsoft attempts
to leverage monopoly control of the "house wiring" (operating systems)
to include any communication device. Not satisfied with removing your choice of
appliances, The Cable Guy is trying to out-total the totalitarians, making sure
you can never choose to disconnect from Big Brother in Redmond.
Sure, you can choose to disconnect your phone line from your PC -- and then you
will get the same mind-numbing advertisements scrolling across your screen hour
after hour. Soon you'll be begging to get some fresh material. You'll beg The Cable
Guy to hook up some WebTV or MSIE or some satellite box so your PC will be usable,
so you won't go nuts.
Yes, the old-time totalitarians made life rough; but unlike Microsoft, at least
the hard-liners didn't find a way to make you beg and plead for them to give you
Most recent revision: December 4, 1997
Copyright © 1997, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.