PC & TECHNOLOGY HUMOR. . .
MICROSOFT HUMOR (if there is such a thing)
REDMOND, WA - In what CEO Bill Gates called "an
unfortunate but necessary step to protect our intellectual property
from theft and exploitation by competitors," the Microsoft
Corporation patented the numbers one and zero Monday.
With the patent, Microsoft's rivals are prohibited
from manufacturing or selling products containing zeroes and ones
- the mathematical building blocks of all computer languages and
programs - unless a royalty fee of 10 cents per digit used is
paid to the software giant.
"Microsoft has been using the binary system
of ones and zeroes ever since its inception in 1975," Gates
told reporters. "For years, in the interest of the overall
health of the computer industry, we permitted the free and unfettered
use of our proprietary numeric systems. However, changing marketplace
conditions and the increasingly predatory practices of certain
competitors now leave us with no choice but to seek compensation
for the use of our numerals."
A number of major Silicon Valley players, including
Apple Computer, Netscape and Sun Microsystems, said they will
challenge the Microsoft patent as monopolistic and anti-competitive,
claiming that the 10-cent-per-digit licensing fee would bankrupt
"While, technically, Java is a complex system
of algorithms used to create a platform-independent programming
environment, it is, at its core, just a string of trillions of
ones and zeroes," said Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy,
whose company created the Java programming environment used in
many Internet applications. "The licensing fees we'd have
to pay Microsoft every day would be approximately 327,000 times
the total net worth of this company."
"If this patent holds up in federal court,
Apple will have no choice but to convert to analog," said
Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs, "and I have serious doubts
whether this company would be able to remain competitive selling
pedal-operated computers running software off vinyl LPs."
As a result of the Microsoft patent, many other
companies have begun radically revising their product lines: Database
manufacturer Oracle has embarked on a crash program to develop
"an abacus for the next millennium." Novell, whose communications
and networking systems are also subject to Microsoft licensing
fees, is working with top animal trainers on a chimpanzee-based
message-transmission system. Hewlett-Packard is developing a revolutionary
new steam-powered printer.
Despite the swarm of protest, Gates is standing
his ground, maintaining that ones and zeroes are the undisputed
property of Microsoft. "We will vigorously enforce our patents
of these numbers, as they are legally ours," Gates said.
"Among Microsoft's vast historical archives are Sanskrit
cuneiform tablets from 1800 B.C. clearly showing ones and a symbol
known as `sunya,' or nothing. We also own: papyrus scrolls written
by Pythagoras himself in which he explains the idea of singular
notation, or `one'; early tracts by Mohammed ibn Musa al Kwarizimi
explaining the concept of al-sifr, or `the cipher'; original mathematical
manuscripts by Heisenberg, Einstein and Planck; and a signed first-edition
copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being And Nothingness.
Should the need arise, Microsoft will have no difficulty
proving to the Justice Department or anyone else that we own the
rights to these numbers." Added Gates: "My salary also
has lots of zeroes. I'm the richest man in the world."
According to experts, the full ramifications of
Microsoft's patenting of one and zero have yet to be realized.
"Because all integers and natural numbers derive from one
and zero, Microsoft may, by extension, lay claim to ownership
of all mathematics and logic systems, including Euclidean geometry,
pulleys and levers, gravity, and the basic Newtonian principles
of motion, as well as the concepts of existence and nonexistence,"
Yale University theoretical mathematics professor J. Edmund Lattimore
said. "In other words, pretty much everything."
Lattimore said that the only mathematical constructs
of which Microsoft may not be able to claim ownership are infinity
and transcendental numbers like pi. Microsoft lawyers are expected
to file liens on infinity and pi this week.
Microsoft has not yet announced whether it will
charge a user fee to individuals who wish to engage in such mathematically
rooted motions as walking, stretching and smiling.
In an address beamed live to billions of people
around the globe Monday, Gates expressed confidence that his company's
latest move will, ultimately, benefit all humankind. "Think
of this as a partnership," Gates said. "Like the ones
and zeroes of the binary code itself, we must all work together
to make the promise of the computer revolution a reality. As the
world's richest, most powerful software company, Microsoft is
number one. And you, the millions of consumers who use our products,
are the zeroes."
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