Guest column: The end of the world as we know IT
- 17 December, 1998 12:01
Now that 1998 is nearly buggered, it's time to pontificate about what will happen during 1999 in the fabulous world of IT.
By the middle of 1999 IT managers everywhere will notice that the back room is overflowing with 486 PCs that they've yanked out because they failed the Y2K tests. An innocuous e-mail will arrive, pointing out that Linux is immune to old BIOS faults. Within a month these 486s will be rebuilt with Linux, have three Ethernet cards inserted and 1,000,000 totally free routers will be unleashed. You have been warned. Sell your Cisco stocks now.
Windows 2000 will ship ahead of time and by a strange quirk of fate will be totally 100 per cent bug free. Bill Gates will lament that he ordered the clean code to head off the DoJ lawsuit, but he never thought his programmers could really do it. The whole planet decides that they will never upgrade again and Microsoft starts sending out patches that contain real bugs to try and stimulate the market. Dump those MS stocks now.
One morning in late March, the world awakens to find that the Internet has crashed. Since no one owns it, no one is prepared to fix it, even if they could find someone who knows how it all actually works. Productivity takes a 40 per cent hike and everyone is so busy making money that nobody actually mourns the passing of the Internet. People rediscover telephones and Australia Post lists on the stock exchange for $30 billion.
By mid-year the number of mobile phones exceeds the number of normal phones by 20 per cent. By September there are more mobile phones than there are people. The ensuing radio frequency fog prevents anything else from being transmitted and Hollywood experiences a minor boom as people are forced to go to the cinema since nothing can be received on TV. Finland is brought before the international court charged with crimes against humanity. In a desperate defence Nokia demonstrates the use of mobile phones as pocket warmers if they are left turned on but permanently diverted to a landline. Hollywood sues Nokia as their cinemas are emptied with the (temporary) return of TV reception.
The new digital TV is launched, but it is totally incompatible with any product actually manufactured anywhere. In an effort to prevent viewers from watching movies until Hollywood is good and ready, the various zone control chips are so complex that no one can manage to program them to receive their own zone. A brief surge in satellite transponders collapses after it is discovered that signals from other zones use a different format again. Sony discovers a warehouse full of first-release video tapes that had gone missing and sales of Beta video recorders go ballistic.
Oracle finally manages to produce a $500 PC that outperforms a Pentium 500MHz. Millions are sold. It becomes a pointless exercise due to the total collapse of the Internet (see above). Every home now has a recipe storage system that has more power than a NASA launch control centre.
Meanwhile NASA completes its space station and all the nerds and geeks migrate there, leaving the rest of us to lead a normal life again for the first time since 1985. Using a calculator becomes a capital offence, with the option of being transported to the space station to avoid the electric chair. No one takes this option.
The world realises that you can store enough information in a $200 PDA to record your entire life as well as that of your immediate forebears, and simultaneously realises that it just doesn't want to know that much about itself. An alternative commune demonstrates the use of PDA infra-red beaming to exchange tokens instead of cash for services. The whole planet engages in a frenzy of barter-related activity and every major multinational goes down in a screaming heap of debt and unsaleable product. Eveready and Duracell are the only global companies to survive.
ComputerWorld closes in November, having produced a bumper edition describing the rise and fall of IT. Staff are offered work on the forthcoming documentary to be screened on cable TV. Before the doco is finished the transition to digital TV has been completed so no one ever sees it.
Without the benefit of history a startup in a garage in Cupertino builds an electronic device and names it after a piece of fruit. The inventors are transported to the space station.
With the collapse of the Internet and TV systems, the world is no longer aware that other countries are better or worse off than they are so there is no point in invading someone else. You might end up worse off than when you started.
Is IT all over? Send your commiserations to Ian_Yates@idg.com.au