Conspiracy Theory # 1

[Scene: The early 90s, in an office of a certain Silly Valley computer manufacturer]

“I’ve got a great idea.”



“You know how old programmers are usually overrun and crushed by the young turks? These kids are fresh out of college and can crank out C and C++ faster than us experienced old farts. I’m sick of that.”

“Me, too. That last intern who re-wrote the kernel page management…”

“Worst review of my life, yup. So, why don’t we design a new language, all whizzy and structured and garbage collected and stuff, and — get this — utterly isolated from the OS.

“Like BASIC?”

“Right! So they can’t do anything real in it.”

“I get it. It’s a teaching language.”

“No, we sell it as if it was a real language, too. That way colleges are sure to teach it. And it’ll cripple our competitors once they latch onto it.”


“Now the kids will come out of college knowing essentially nothing about processors, or memory systems, or I/O — hell, they’ll never even have heard of exclusive-OR — and they’ll go into companies thinking they know everything. And in ten or twenty years . . .”

“We keep the castle safe for us. They can’t touch the kernel. We give them a miserable excuse for a native call layer, use blocking I/O everywhere, and give them X-Windows style graphics for user interfaces. Yeah. I like it.”

“What should we call it?”

King of Payin’

Sorry, Amazon. Even though I’m a relatively new Kindle owner, with eyes that still sparkle at the phrase “Buy now with 1-Click,” and even if I’m still a little giddy at sub-minute delivery, I’m not going to shell out 17 smackers for the first Stephen King book in two decades that I might just possibly want to read.

Drop the price seven bucks, and we’ll talk.

Angry Science Fiction Fans of Dune

My first SF convention was in 1976 or thereabouts, and Frank Herbert was Guest of Honor. I skipped a whole day of 9th grade and later caught hell from my parents, but it was worth it. [This was the year I failed Typing, which is probably the reason that I’m an Emacs user.]

Frank talked about his recent book Children of Dune, and since this was during the US’s early days of Really Heavy Ecology he talked a lot about saving the planet. I forget the particulars. Desertification, human impact, and how we’ve got to get off of this rock, mostly.

The only thing I remember clearly was when he mentioned there was another Dune book on the way. A bearded grad student next to me muttered, “Yeah, Streetsweeper of Dune” and the people around us laughed.

So it was bad, even then, when he was still alive and actually writing the stuff.

There’s another Dune book coming out, Sisterhood of Dune. These things are being pooped out about twice a year, it seems. I haven’t tried to read any since I threw away my first “Dune prequel” — right now, I can’t even remember the title. The series is dead to me. I wish there was a way I could “negatively buy” a book, somehow push it back in their faces as Do Not Want material.