As I was darting around cyberspace with Internet Explorer 4.0, it suddenly came to me why Bill Gates seems such an unlikely candidate for Conqueror of the Net--he's just not wacky enough. The Internet offers a whirling potpourri of loony sites devoted to Roger Clinton, ferrets, the Three Stooges, fried dill pickles, UFOs, rubber undergarments, and even Janet Reno's hair. Although Bill, as they say up in Redmond (I challenge you to get a Microsoftie to say his last name), might have weirder hair than Janet, he's still just Bill.
But email from an excited Skinsource challenged my conception of Gates as an dull boy who's all work and no play. It claimed that there was a doozy of an Easter egg buried deep in the bowels of IE 4.0 for Windows. Could Mr. No-Nonsense really have allowed a silly secret to be stowed away in his strategically crucial browser? A rigorous series of tests in the moldy basement of the DuBaud Laboratories has proved that there is indeed un oeuf de Paques nestled therein. For the adventurous, the instructions are below:
Select "Help" from the main menu. You'll see "About Internet Explorer," and a dialog box will pop up. While holding the Ctrl and Shift keys, use your left mouse button to select the IE logo and then drag it all the way to the left. Next, while still holding the keys down, move the logo to the right, going over the "Microsoft IE 4.0" black text. A button will then be revealed that says "Unlock." Click it.
If the IE logo is not already over the earth, it will merely rumble, but if it is moved over the Earth or is already there, it will open a new window, revealing a long list of credits about the makers of IE 4.0, as well as a few inside jokes.
Granted, the payoff is like a geekified Academy Awards acceptance speech ("I'd like to thank my Dad who bought me my first Tandy 1000"), but it is nevertheless refreshing to imagine a little camaraderie up there at Microsoft, where stories about the chilly, almost Orwellian ambiance abound.
While Microsoft's techies were whooping it up browserwise, company funnyman Steve Ballmer was eliciting heartfelt chuckles from the normally hard-to-please Silicon Valley press corps. The yuks began when Ballmer--speaking to the Valley's Churchill Club--said something to the effect that Apple would need to innovate its way out of its current woes. In response, incredulous KRON-TV reporter Jim Goldman asked, "So now Microsoft is telling Apple it needs to innovate?" The crowd erupted in laughter. Perhaps Steve hasn't yet seen the "Think different" ad campaign for Apple, currently being championed by the other Steve.
As far as little surprises from big corporations are concerned, Bill's huevo is a blessing compared to the stinker MCI has reportedly pulled on its customers. To answer MCI's rah-rah ad rhetoric ("Is this a great time or what?"), those who use MCI as an ISP would probably say "Uh, what." One disgruntled mole wrote in to say that due to a scary spamergency, MCI has apparently decided to limit its customers' newsgroup posts exclusively to the domain of MCI2000, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the world. What could this mean? Are MCI subscribers doomed to discussing fiber optics and international merger law? Whatever the restrictions may be, customers have responded to this policy in a variety of ways, none of them invoking the happy little emoticon at the end of MCI's sanctimonious tag line.
Unlike the comically liberated Microsoft, fellow corporate giant McDonnell Douglas seems to be positively dour. The mammoth purveyor of weapons of mass destruction reportedly took down a humorous Web page that an employee surreptitiously posted on its site. The offending page was a satirical warranty card for a product that you might buy from McDonnell Douglas. The list of questionable questions included the following:
"Please check where this product was purchased:
Received as gift/aid package, catalog, showroom, sleazy arms broker, mail order, discount store, government surplus, classified.
"Please check the three factors that most influenced your decision to
purchase this McDonnell Douglas product:
Style/appearance, kickback/bribe, recommended by salesperson, speed/maneuverability, comfort/convenience, McDonnell Douglas reputation, price/value, backroom politics, negative experience opposing one in combat.
"How would you describe yourself or your organization? Check all that
Communist/socialist, terrorist, crazed, neutral, democratic, dictatorship, corrupt, primitive/tribal." No matter how punchy or puritanical your company might be, I'm sure there are some choice rumors you're just dying to send me, so fire away.