Gates announces Generation I – run for it, kids

McEncyclopaedias for all...

Bill Gates received a gong from the New York Institute of Technology yesterday, but before he could pick it up, he had to make a speech. The content was very revealing. There was of course the usual re-writing of history ("The PC era started 25 years ago. That's when the first microprocessor chip came from Intel. That's when Microsoft was founded by myself and Paul Allen...") This egotistical desire to claim that he founded the new era ignores the earlier 1971 Kenbak, which used logic chips, as well as the 1973 French Micral and the Scelbi that used the Intel 8008. Some 10,000 construction kits for the 8008-based Mark-8 were sold in 1974. But let not facts get in the way. Gates announced that PC sales would "continue to grow as the cost of the hardware and the cost of the communications come down." So now we know: the cost of software from Microsoft won't be coming down. The revelations became scary when Gates said that "If we look at schools, we're [i.e. Microsoft is] going to have to play the primary role in getting this technology [Internet access via PCs] out to kids." He clearly believes that Microsoft will be the major provider of the OS, the browser, and have control of the formal learning content. Referring to children born from 1994 onwards, Gates said: "I would propose today that we think about this as calling this 'Generation I'. Of course "I" for Internet." From the plans he revealed of Microsoft's steps to dominate content, it might be better to read the "I" as being for "indoctrinated". But there's more: "When you pull information together, you don't have to worry about writing it down on paper. You'll be able to go to the Internet and submit your homework that way." In other words, Gates' plans will lead to another "I" - "illiteracy", since his vision excludes learning to write, it would appear. And so far as reading is concerned, people will be cosying up to flat panel screens, he repeated. The event was an opportunity for the consummate salesman to debut the next edition of Encarta. Gates bragged how Encarta had meant "paper encyclopaedias have gone down in sales a little bit" which is a curious way to note the near-bankruptcy of scholarly encyclopaedias that Microsoft had caused. When making the award of the president's medal, NYIT president Matthew Schure summed it up admirably: "Bill Gates was an obvious choice. Through his innovative genius, competitive drive, and commitment to providing access to information for all mankind, he has changed the way our nation and the world thinks, works and acts each day. For that we salute him." We don't know if Gates has been asked for a contribution by the NYIT, but they have earned one. ®

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