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Four and a bit years ago From The Register No. 16 -- April 1995 ORACLE SKATEBOARDS SLOWLY ONTO THE SUPERINFORMATION HIGHWAY There's some love affair between the Brits and the city of Florence which caused people like Elizabeth Barrett Browning to like it so much she died there. Imagine our delight, therefore, to attend the European Oracle User Group a week or so ago and to witness the superhuman efforts Oracle is making to bring the computing industry into the 21st century through the information highway. The venue for the jamboree was the somewhat forbidding Fortezza de Basso, a fort which later became used as a prison. Here Oracle had built a massive tent where attendees (inmates?) were treated to keynote speeches from the like of Dr Martin Bangemann, European Union commissioner for telecommunications. Dr Bangemann is keen on deregulation of the telco industry in Europe and cited many an authority including the Pope and Olivetti's Carlo de Benedetti ("a dear old friend of mine") to stress the importance of dissolving the boundaries between European countries. One of the most effective, he thought, was the Internet. This allowed people to work from home. Sometimes he thought that people whinged too much about the isolation that brought. "An Internet contact is a real human contact," he alleged. Preoccupied by reveries about other famous Florentines including Machiavelli, the Ninja Turtles and Galileo, we missed the good Doctor's joke about women going to church in Denmark while the men sat in the pub opposite boozing. Because we were pondering about Savonarola and the Bonfire of the Vanities we totally lost the punchline to his jest about the Pope charging Brezhnev $40 for talking to God over the Vatican's hotline. A shudder at the thought of the carnage between Benedictine and Dominican monks in mediaeval Florence brought the nightmare to an end and we started to pay attention. Heard Dr Bangemann say that German car company Daimler-Benz manufactured its own chips. Walking down the grey carpeted aisles with roadmarkings to the press office to check it out, we realised to our chagrin that Oracle's promise remains a little distant. Not only was there no connection to the Internet or even to CompuServe there, we realised that two out of the three Olivetti PCs there didn't work. Keyboard error. Tried swapping the keyboards. No go. Gave up. Had already filed copy by fax from hotel day before anyway. We heard a plaintive squeak from the corner. A lone Oracle staffer was trying to use an Olivetti Portable typewriter but was complaining she couldn't get the carriage return to work. Unlocked it for her. She said: "How did you get it to work?" Explained that we used one ourselves 20 years ago. Turned round to see British hack complaining that she couldn't connect her PowerBook to the phone system. Saw her hour later transcribing copy from the screen onto paper for future faxing. Er...no printer in the press office. And only one out of three fax machines worked. With a sigh, wandered onto the grey carpet with roadmarkings outside to come across a bunch of dealers complaining that their mobiles didn't work. GSM didn't work (!). Cellnet didn't work. Vodaphone rather surprisingly does. Oracle mission statement: From here to the Information Highway. Way to go. ®

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