Accidental Empires, Chapter 15 — Future Computing

minority-reportThere is so much wrong and yet a lot that’s right in this chapter, which was the last one in the original hardcover edition. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed by it or proud. How does computing today compare with my predictions from 1992? 

ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

FUTURE COMPUTING

Remember Pogo? Pogo was Doonesbury in a swamp, the first political cartoon good enough to make it off the editorial page and into the high-rent district next to the horoscope. Pogo was a ‘possum who looked as if he was dressed for a Harvard class reunion and who acted as the moral conscience for the first […]

Accidental Empires, Chapter 14 — Counter-Reformation

os2warpACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

COUNTER-REFORMATION

In Prudhoe Bay, in the oilfields of Alaska’s North Slope, the sun goes down sometime in late November and doesn’t appear again until January, and even then the days are so short that you can celebrate sunrise, high noon, and sunset all with the same cup of coffee. The whole day looks like that sliver of white at the base of your thumbnail.

It’s cold in Prudhoe Bay in the wintertime, colder than I can say or you would believe—so cold that the folks who work for the oil companies start their cars around October and leave them running twenty-four hours a day clear through […]

Accidental Empires, Chapter 13 — Economics of Scale

redmond_aerialACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

ECONOMICS OF SCALE

We’re at the ballpark, now, and while you and I are taking a second bite from our chilidogs, this is what’s happening in the outfield, according to Rick Miller, a former Gold Glove center fielder for the Bosox and the Angels. When the pitcher’s winding up, and we figure the center fielder’s just stooped over out there, waiting for the photon torpedoes to load and thinking about T-bills or jock itch endorsements, he’s really watching the pitcher and getting ready to catch the ball that has yet to be thrown. Exceptional center fielders use three main factors in judging where the ball […]

Accidental Empires, Chapter 6 — Chairman Bill Leads the Happy Workers in Song

Young_Bill_Gates_4ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER SIX

CHAIRMAN BILL LEADS THE
HAPPY WORKERS IN SONG

William H. Gates III stood in the checkout line at an all-night convenience store near his home in the Laurelhurst section of Seattle. It was about midnight, and he was holding a carton of butter pecan ice cream. The line inched forward, and eventually it was his turn to pay. He put some money on the counter, along with the ice cream, and then began to search his pockets.

“I’ve got a 50-cents-off coupon here somewhere,” he said, giving up on his pants pockets and moving up to search the pockets of his plaid shin.

The clerk waited, the ice […]

Accidental Empires, Chapter 5 — Role Models

altost1ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES

CHAPTER FIVE

ROLE MODELS

This being the 1990s, the economy is shot to hell and we’ve got nothing much better to do, the personal computer industry is caught up in an issue called look and feel, which means that your computer software can’t look too much like my computer software or I’ll take you to court. Look and feel is a matter of not only how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but what dance it is they are doing and who owns the copyright.

Here’s an example of look and feel. It’s 1913, and we’re at the Notre Dame versus Army football game (this is all taken straight from the film Knute […]