If you have found yourself recently waiting a long time for a Tube train, you are suffering the early stages of World Cupitis. After a 12 minute wait for a train on the Bakerloo line in the early evening it occurred to Mole that things would only get worse as the dreaded competition proper got underway. His fears were confirmed when he read in the newspaper that the Tube drivers' union was threatening strike action, the timing of which would almost certainly be "this summer". Quel surprise!
Other organisations are anticipating disruption and lost productivity as the lure of the World Cup works its curious magic on the British male (and increasingly, in these days of testosterone in the water supply, on the nation's broad-shouldered, hairy females).
Companies can look forward to epidemics of hayfever and Asian flu, the effects of which will be particularly acute on days when England is playing.
Many are issuing half-hearted warnings to staff, gloomily aware that they will have little or no effect.
Bowing to the inevitable, supermarket chain Safeway has adopted compromise measures which should at least keep IT staff on the premises, even if they aren't actually doing any work. A screen will be made available in the canteen where staff will be allowed to watch the games, but this will not be the authentic football experience because there is to be no drinking and business dress must be worn.
By way of a small further deterrent, there is also to be a #2 charge for every match. Perhaps the management at Safeway is unaware that it is against the law to charge for television services without a Public Broadcasting Licence. Nevertheless it is a commendable effort to tackle a difficult problem. Mole looks forward to further stories of corporate World Cup avoidance tactics. Send them to the usual address if you can tear yourself away from the can of Special Brew and the remote control.
If, like Mole, you expect to be heartily sick of football long before the competition reaches its climax, comfort yourself with the thought that France 98 will at least prevent us having to suffer a relentless diet of Microsoft-engineered Windows 98 "news" all summer long.
Microsoft may even be grateful for the diversion as it works out how to get the product on retailers' shelves without attracting the unwelcome attention of the regulators. Among the more interesting promotional tactics is a special offer of a free copy of the operating system, along with the dreaded Explorer, with Microsoft's palm-sized PC. What's clever about this is that the offer expires before the computer goes on sale, ensuring that "free" means no cost to Microsoft in lost revenue.
Meanwhile the company is sticking to its line that Explorer will not be extricated from the guts of the operating system. Some of Microsoft's resellers appear to have a different impression. If you consult the Software Warehouse catalogue, for instance, you will see Explorer presented in a way rather more likely to win the approval of the Justice Department.
Software Warehouse is advertising IE 4 as one of six free packages to be given away to customers purchasing the Windows upgrade and the "Plus" pack.
More creative thinking from IBM, which is taking an uncharacteristically laid back approach to the millennium. One of Mole's colleagues was given a promotional watch by the company's AS/400 division which calculates how many days are left before D-Day. Reassuringly, the timepiece recently reset itself to January 1995, in what might be described as a definitive example of the art of putting off the evil hour.
Also apparently unworried by the prospect of imminent computer chaos is Rolls-Royce, whose chief executive Rolf Robbins cropped up last week in Computing to reassure shareholders that there would be precisely zero disruption to the company's business as a result of the date change and, in particular, that there would be no effect on manufacturing systems.
This claim strikes Mole as frankly bizarre, given the number of embedded processors in modern machine tools. Any shareholders or, come to that, prospective buyers of Rolls-Royce might like to consult the 27 April issue of Fortune magazine, in which General Motors' chief information officer admitted that in a survey of its 135 factories worldwide, the company found "catastrophic problems in every plant", the bill for which is expected to be $600 million in Y2K preparations.
Many of the country's greatest brains have recently been exercised with the problem of choosing appropriate terminology for the rather tubby (Microsoft prefers the term "big boned") product sometimes referred to as NT 5 and the software designed to straddle it. Any advance on "lardware"?
Naming products is a difficult business and, try as they might, some companies just can't help choosing names that quite unintentionally turn out to be misleading. A good example of this comes from Cyrix. A friend of Mole's who just happens to work at Intel (not his own fault) writes in with the following question: "Why would Cyrix launch a processor called the MII-300 when it runs at 233MHz?" Presumably it was because they couldn't think of anything else. A simple mistake.
Write to Mole with your industry trivia at [email protected] or give him a call on 0171 316 9068.
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