According to newspaper reports, the scourge of political correctness has whimpered its last. Even American universities, the high churches of PC, have abandoned their obsession with the sensibilities of ethnicity, sex, race and culture, and the bogey word 'challenged' is now only used with self-conscious irony.
For some in the computer industry the death of political correctness will go unnoticed. Even at its height, many companies appeared oblivious to the existence of 'issues' - particularly where matters of sex were concerned. Long after the last latex-clad dolly bird was purged from the stands of high-tech trade shows, sex was used shamelessly to promote wares both hard and soft. In rare cases, computer companies have been taken to task. One chose a picture of a naked page three model, Joanne Guest, to advertise a game. Sitting astride a chair with her legs apart, all that came between Ms Guest and her modesty was a small box of software.
But magazine publishers received so many complaints the ad was withdrawn, even though one made a vain stab at a compromise by airbrushing a pair of knickers onto its star.
Last week, the ghoulish Peter Stringfellow lured journalists to the launch of his Web site with a cabaret of bimbos (or angels to use Stringfellow's words) who put on a 'fashion show' of lingerie. To be fair, it wasn't entirely clear whether sex was being used to sell computers or the other way around, but in any event the hacks lapped it up, so to speak.
Even now, Informix is running an advertising campaign with the slogan "It's official. Data is fun again" under a large picture of a young woman on a rollercoaster with her skirt blown up over her suspenders and knickers.
Now data is many things, but fun is not usually the first word to spring to mind. Nevertheless, to judge by the look of orgasmic pleasure on the woman's face, the leisure possibilities of relational databases are due for a reassessment.
For others, such as Intel, upholding all things PC has been done with slavish devotion. You may have noticed that in its latest television advertising campaign, which also has 'fun' as its theme, Intel has changed the lyrics of Wild Cherry's 1970s anthem 'Play that funky music, white boy', so that the words 'white boy' are absent. Exactly what was deemed offensive about this harmless term is unclear. Perhaps tone-deaf caucasian males make up a substantial part of the buying public for MMX processors. Come to think of it, they almost certainly do.
Microsoft, too, espouses all forms of correctness, except possibly the technical variety. As customers fumed over the company's laid-back reaction to news of the latest security hole in Explorer ("oh, yeah, we knew about that"), people who obviously don't understand how the computer industry works were heard to ask, "So why haven't you fixed it?" The answer of course, is that it couldn't because a mere day or so earlier, Microsoft had released the fix to the previous security bug.
When it's dealing with the sensitivities of anyone other than customers, though, it's hard to fault Microsoft. You may have noticed, for example, that the version of Leonardo's Man used in the Win 95 desktop has his procreational parts discreetly covered, a touch of decency for which naked people everywhere will be profoundly grateful.
If balls are not a Microsoft quality, ingenuity is one it possesses in spades. Here is a message Mole received from a user a day or two ago, which makes the point nicely: "I installed MS Office Pro 97 and accepted the offer to install a trial version of MS Publisher 97. Unfortunately, doing this destroys some of the files required by MS Pub version 2.0a.
The trial version is time-limited, so now I have 28 days to find where the version 2.0 installation disks have been put or buy the upgrade. Beware of Bill the Greek bearing gifts!" Like most prudes, when Microsoft does choose to be indecent it does so in a sly, underhand way. Check out the reading list attached to Microsoft's announcement of Visual Basic 5 Control Creation edition. There you will find an insult aimed at Borland which suggests that Microsoft is more concerned than it lets on about the competitive threat posed by Borland's Delphi. The author of Visual Basic Client/Server How-To is listed as Buck Forland. Can anyone doubt that this is a nom de plume and that the real author draws his salary at Microsoft?
And take another look at that product name: Control Creation edition.
Given the sort of people who have attempted world domination in the past, it's hardly very PC to acknowledge this sort of aspiration so publicly, now is it?
Correct or not, Mole wants to hear about it. Send him a message or phone 0171 316 9068 and ask for the fat, hairy little black guy.
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