(This article was not written by Edward R. Murrow, but in his style, by Gordon E. Hull.)

"EDWARD R. MURROW" on "PC Problems, As Typed On A Macintosh"

   This . . . is Tuesday, February 17th. The clouds above me are an ominous gray. They've already deposited their payload of wetness upon all that lives--and does not live--underneath their blanket shadow. Above these very clouds is the same brightly blazing sun that will greet the inhabitants of the West Coast a few hours later.

   But clouds are not limited to the open skies. Clouds lurk within man-made structures. Such clouds are currently inhabiting a single-residential dwelling on (address), in a small Georgia hamlet they call (township). (XXXX) is the number on the mailbox.

   They are clouds of confusion. They are clouds of frustration. They are clouds placed there some four and a half months ago, with the arrival of a new machine at this particular address that has confounded its once trusting owner.

   But he trusts no more, having heard the platitudes & empty explanations of those who sold this machine to him. He only wants it to work . . . to perform . . . or he wants his money back.  It is as simple as that.

   This man is no simpleton.  He is an educated man, now some forty years of age. In addition to the lessons learned in the school of life, he also received the perfunctory education as prescribed by his state, county, and city at the appropriate time. Indeed, he went beyond the basic instructional parameters to receive a bachelor's degree in his chosen field, communications. And although this reporter died when this man was only seven years of age, his grasp of my style has allowed him to convincingly emulate it . . . if then, probably, only for entertainment purposes.

   As I said back in the 1950s, when the charlatan Joseph McCarthy was ruining the reputation of decent Americans by the dozen . . . now is definitely not the time for those good men & women who oppose this shameless brand of computer chicanery to remain silent. Ostensibly good people, who operate what they now call "clone shops" in the computer milieu, should come to the aid of those in Microsoft-induced peril, and offer immediate comfort and assistance. This is the only human thing to do.

   The cynical and brazen once scoffed at those who bought computing equipment manufactured by a California-based concern, named after a patriotically American fruit. They pointed to its flaccid market share & idiotic business practices. They triumphantly hoisted their 92% market garnerings and shrieked "Seig Heil!" to one Bill Gates, possibly the New Hitler of our times.

   They confidently sold these devices to the scared and frightened, took their money . . . and then, when things--both tangible and intangible--began to unravel inside the miniscule silicon channels, offered only the weakest of verbal anodynes. They uttered little more than computer clichés, such as, "This is a part of it. This isn't like a Macintosh. Get used to it. What you're going through is all part of the process."

   This "process," as it has been called, simultaneously deflates the wallet & increases the blood pressure of the customers . . . the innocent & lamb-like, who watched their computerized world shatter like so many window panes in 1940 England.

   And now, they sit.  Sit and wait.  They wait, and wonder when the (names) and (names) and (names) of the "clone shop" world will bestow upon them . . . that which they cannot provide for themselves: The cryptic, evasive knowledge that turns a hulking, creme-colored tower of lights, silicon, and wires into a device which may, if placed into the wrong hands--or configured with the wrong BIOS instructions--destroy the earth.

   Perhaps it is little more than an inverted TCP/IP protocol. It could, perhaps, be more devious and incriminating . . . a faulty modem that could have been detected, removed, and replaced . . . if only someone--and it would only have taken one someone--with curious, correctly focused eyes, had been looking with appropriate attitude for the moment . . . one of, "let us search for, detect, and correct these problems for this man, our customer."

   But, as this reporter sends these frail words through the Internet to a pre-determined set of eyes, this expensive, potentially impressive machine sits dark and mute . . . a testament to the incredulously mammoth industry which produced it . . . and a perverse monument to remind us that only in a democracy is the majority assumed to be right. In commerce, the ranks of the truly informed & enlightened--and therefore right--may be found under the demographic umbrella displaying unimpressive, single-digit percentages . . . so sparse and diluted is the legion.

   But through it all, the customer waits.  In anguish & frustration, he waits.  Waits for the call which may not come. Not today . . . not tomorrow . . . not the day after. The orgasmic chime of the cash register pealed months ago, however--and the deal, as they say, is done. And in American business, that melodic peal is the equivalent of a musical composition's coda . . . it is the end, according to most.

   Good night and good luck.

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©1998, Gordon E. Hull