Understanding Microsoft

Part 21. The Nanny

"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." -- William Ross Wallace

With movies depicting young ladies performing child care as diabolical murderesses, and the recent court case of the British "au pair," some people are getting a little antsy about who's rocking the cradle while they're at work. With school systems teetering on the edge of behavioral anarchy, and role models proving to have the moral backbone of an earthworm, people are searching for some kind of reliable guidance in child-raising. And Microsoft is johnny-on-the-spot ready to provide all the answers.

Nowadays it has become fashionable to dump the classic role models of the past. Perhaps you recall them: political leaders like Lincoln, Washington, and Churchill; spiritual leaders like Ghandi, Jesus, and Martin Luther; and intellectual leaders like Einstein and Thoreau. For some reason, perhaps political correctness or maybe just a fascination with newness that leads to a distrust of the old, a generation in search of role models has turned to the world of cartoons, entertainment, and sports -- the world of fantasy and playtime -- in a desperate attempt to latch onto something of eternal value.

This may explain why television shows and the toys they spawn are considered such heroic and vital "friends" to many young children. Parents may weep and moan at the cost, but they will bend over backwards to find an Elmo or Barney doll. Microsoft has decided to provide for this craving for the purple dinosaur Barney with an electronic, remote-controlled doll (running Microsoft programs inside, of course).

But don't dare call it a toy. Microsoft insists that this is an "educational figure" designed to "teach children to clean up after themselves." The children will no longer need to be punished for disobedience, or bribed or cajoled into performing acts of personal hygiene; instead, simply break out the Barney and let Microsoft and your television remote-control your children for you! What a breakthrough for convenience, education, and family harmony! Now parents will soon find the child-raising gurus pontificating on the obsolescence of discipline and punishment.

Don't think that Microsoft will be happy stopping there. Given their ravenous cravings for dominance in every field they enter, prepare to see the rollout of an entire fleet of remote-control child-training devices, all based on popular cartoon characters, of course. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the first wave of Microsoft's move into a new market, the market for child care. Electronic nannies that allow you to watch your children with hidden cameras and microphones, coupled with fantasy characters that remove the element of obedience from "oppressive" parental rule, will soon be promoted as minimum requirements for successful parenting. Expect to see Microsoft begin rocking your cradles soon.

Most recent revision: January 12, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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