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Culture

Microsoft wants your children, AOL blurs your vision

It seems Uncle Bill wants to go down in history as "The Education Nerd."

"I hold the line, I hold the line." That's the voice I heard droning behind Vermel's locked door last night, and I feared the worst: Complete Surredmonder, the zombie state one slips into when every single piece of software on your system comes from the Seattle metropolitan area. Fortunately, it was just one of those crazy rock and roll records, and I breathed a sigh of relief. A parent can never be too vigilant, especially with Microsoft lurking about on street corners.

It seems Uncle Bill wants to go down in history as "The Education Nerd." MS is now offering Office 97 to college students at up to 70 percent off through the end of May; graduates will at least have some Office skills when they hit the pavement with nothing but a sheepskin and the ability to work long Microserf hours. Isn't that special? And let's not forget the libraries. Microsoft loves libraries. Schools, too. If Microsoft keeps on giving the gift that keeps on giving, i.e., free copies of its own software, there'll be a whole new generation in love with the Office 97-talking paper clip assistant. Platforms are like cigarettes: get them hooked early and you've got a loyal user for life. Why do you think there are so many crazed Macolytes?

Computers can not only be addictive, they can cause double vision. Usenetizens were rubbing their eyes all month, wondering if they needed glasses. But it turned out that little old America Online was up to old tricks. It seems that the service's newsgroup software was double- and triple-posting messages double- and triple-posting messages. Oops, sorry. It's bad enough staring at a screen all day without having to read duplicates of gnarlydude4586's description of his favorite snowboarding goggles. My aides-de-camp remind me that similar glitches helped fan the first flames of anti-AOLism in the service's early days.

Watch out. Here comes the flood of hip cultural references. Apple is about to launch a big time program to honor so-called Apple Masters, techno-deities who have the touch and do creative things with their Macs. After quite a bit of digging in the dirt, I uncovered the first honoree: Peter Gabriel, who kissed some life into Dr. Gil's interminable Macworld keynote and had his family snapshot taken with Jeff Goldblum and Muhammad Ali to boot. Word has it that Amelio, who was the genesis of the program, wants to name 25 masters per quarter. Another celeb in the fishing net is Adobe graphics guru Russell Brown. Where do I get such sublime skinny, you ask? Let's just say that an excellent birdie chirped in my ear. A big tip of the fedora and a virtual handrolled Havana to the first person who spots the steam, er, theme in the preceding paragraph. Attach your answer to a rumor and email it to me through the wire.