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Microsoft apologises for 'big boobs' software code

Microsoft has gone on the defensive after it emerged that some of its software code contained a reference to breasts.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Microsoft has apologised for inserting a puerile reference to breasts into software code, the Telegraph reports. The code, "0xB16B00B5" -- 'big boobs', geddit? -- appeared in software that allows the company's programs to work with Linux.

Microsoft quickly removed the code and issued an apology. Some claim it's symptomatic of a boys club culture at the company, while others say that it was just harmless fun.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Network World: "We thank the community for reporting the issue and apologies for the offensive string."

A contributor to the Linux developer's mailing list spotted the code last week. Another reference, "0x0B00B135" -- yes, 'boobies' -- also appeared in an earlier version of the same software code.

It's only natural to wonder whether this is evidence of a culture of sexism, but some have claimed that accusations of sexism are over the top.

"At its most basic level it's just straightforward childish humour," developer Matthew Garrett said. "But it's also specifically male childish humour. Puerile sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls aren't welcome."

Sam Varghese, a writer at ITWire, accused Garrett of having "trivialised a cause that requires, perhaps, a little more than boy scout behaviour to be tackled."

It's not the first time that Microsoft has had to publicly apologise for questionable sexist behaviour. Last month it had to say sorry after it serenaded partners with a godawful song and dance routine involving scantily clad women making a number of sex and drugs references. Very professional.

At Mobile World Congress in February it held a burlesque party to show off its Windows Phone operating system. And also this year, the High Court heard claims that male Microsoft employees had sexually harassed female colleagues, and that "drunkenness and outrageous behaviour were rife" at the company.

It's not just Microsoft though -- sexism seems to be an industry-wide phenomenon, with 'booth babes' just the most conspicuous aspect. Until the big players can stop this kind of behaviour, technology will still be seen as the preserve of men, and quite pathetic men at that.

Is it an overreaction? Or part of a much wider malaise? Let me know what you reckon in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.