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Industrial strength

When all the wares are soft.

Isn’t the computer industry wonderful? Could I have supplemented my income for 16 years writing short, humorous articles about toothpaste? So why don’t other companies behave like software companies? That way, they too could enjoy record-breaking growth followed by dire poverty.

Here then are a few examples of how other industries might behave in order to follow in high-tech’s footsteps.

Television

In order to watch “The Simpsons,” you must first download and install your Fox Network driver. But the Fox driver conflicts with UPN’s, and now everyone on the Enterprise looks like a Ferengi. You call Fox tech support and wait 45 minutes before speaking to a “technician,” who insists that the new Fox driver works properly on all “standard” programs.

Eventually you download a UPN driver patch for Fox compatibility. It wipes out your cable interface. The only solution is to buy the latest and greatest OS, Bubetube 2002, then reformat and reinstall your entire television.

Two weeks later, Fox and UPN are working, but Bubetube 2002 doesn’t support legacy technology-ABC, NBC, and CBS.

At this point, you swear off the commercial stuff and decide to watch only quality television. But the PBS nag screen keeps reminding you to register.

Breakfast cereals

Like millions of other people, you buy a box of Kealover’s latest way to start the day, Mutant Process Rocket Fuel. You know that it must be tasty and healthy, because Kealover (a subsidiary of Industrial Food and Power) spent three months beta-testing the cereal.

But the cereal, when you get it home and try it, tastes like mud cakes cut with battery acid. You call Kealover tech support and wait 45 minutes before speaking to a “technician,” who insists that you are the only eater who has called with such a complaint. The next day, you read in BreakfastWorld that 50,000 people have phoned Kealover about the poor taste of Mutant Process Rocket Fuel. You call again, wait another 45 minutes, and are told that you are the only eater who has called with such a complaint.

Three weeks later, Kealover admits to the problem, which only occurs when Mutant Process Rocket Fuel is interfaced with whole milk. Beta testers, it turned out, were all using skim milk or a soy-based imitation. They therefore experienced the intended taste: mud cakes cut with battery acid and heavily laced with sugar. Kealover promises a fix, which three weeks later you’re able to download from the Internet via your cereal port.

Unfortunately, Mutant Process Rocket Fuel 1.02 contains a virus that tends to crash human beings, sometimes creating a fatal error. Fortunately for Kealover, however, no one can sue. Mutant Process Rocket Fuel is sold “as is,” and there’s no way to open a box without breaking-and therefore acknowledging that you accept-the eater’s agreement.

Lemonade stands

Your neighbor’s 10-year-old kid sets up a lemonade stand in her front yard to earn a few extra dollars. Wanting to encourage her, you shell out 50 cents. She hands you the drink in a paper cup, sealed with a statement to the effect that the recipe is and shall remain her private property.

The lemonade is delicious.

The next day her business is wiped out by the release of Microsoft Lemonade.

Automobiles

You’re not sure you want to buy the new Ferd Impailya XXX. After all, your current car runs just fine. Besides, you don’t want to deal with the learning curve involved with Ferd’s extensive revamp of the driver interface.

Ferd created this new DI after thousands of hours of usability tests and extensive interviews with the survivors. The XXX is the first American car with the gas pedal on the left and the brake pedal on the right. As a security precaution, the key in the ignition will not start the car unless a second key is in place under the chassis. In order to enhance driver privacy, the windshield is opaque.

But in the end, you don’t really have a choice. The new roads, fuel, and parking lots will only support the XXX, and your three-year-old car is obsolete. You have to buy a Ferd Impailya XXX.

Your new car takes a little getting used to. The first time you come to a red light, you instinctively put your foot down on the gas pedal (now to the left of the brake), rear-ending the car in front of you. But eventually you learn, and on your fifth red light you remember where the brake pedal is. That’s when you discover that the pedal isn’t actually attached to a brake.

After returning home in a tow truck, you call Ferd tech support and wait 45 minutes before speaking to a “technician,” who doesn’t speak English. Eventually you get an explanation. The brakes weren’t ready in time for the release, so the car was shipped without them.

Clothes

Every year, your clothes are declared out of date and no longer compatible with your lifestyle. However, new clothes are out and available for . . .

Uh, I guess this one has already happened.

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