Part 59. The Saboteur
In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, many laborers wisely recognized
that their jobs were going to disappear when the machines moved in. Of course, it
wasn't so bad to have hard work done my machines, but the fact was then (and still
is true) that the displaced workers would not be retrained to qualify for better
jobs. Instead, they would be thrown out to fend for themselves. So, a number of
these workers decided to try to destroy these new machines. In Europe, this took
place when some workers threw their wooden shoes (French word sabot, or boot)
into the mechanisms to cause physical damage. From this act we get the word sabotage,
or saboteur: one who damages industrial equipment intentionally.
Now in the late twentieth century, it is not generally the workers who get upset
about technology and therefore decide to damage industrial equipment; instead, it
is more often done by rival corporations. Bitter competition and mean-spiritedness
is rampant, causing some companies to decide that playing fair is just not an option.
Rather than devote resources to improving the quality of their own products, their
marketing, or their cost structures, some businessmen have decided to take the cowardly
option of attacking their opposition using various forms of willful, intentional
sabotage. This damage may be inflicted on manufacturing facilities, key employees,
or on the final products themselves.
Microsoft has found a very original way to damage the competition: they simply design
their products to fail to cooperate with the alternative systems. For example, the
boot system of Windows98 intentionally moves some of the key boot sector data structures,
making coexistence with superior products such as Linux and BeOS nearly impossible.
Since the Microsoft product is usually preloaded on PCs because of Microsoft's preload
distribution monopoly leverage, the computer user who merely seeks to add additional
features to his or her computer is penalized by Microsoft in an attempt to prevent
alternative products from sharing the same hard drive with the monopoly products.
It is an interesting coincidence that Microsoft chooses to throw its "boot"
sector into the mechanism of the PC -- just like the original saboteurs throwing
their "sabots" into the wheels of progress. In any other industry, of
course, Microsoft would be up on charges of industrial sabotage. However, people
seem to have a "blind spot" when it comes to software. They fail to recognize
that Microsoft is intent on preventing progress, because progress would mean the
eventual elimination of all jobs at Microsoft.
Most recent revision: July 15, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.