Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/14/otto_gates_carnegie/

America's libido can't afford a Bill Gates University

Give me Carnegie or give me death!

By Otto Z. Stern

Posted in Bootnotes, 14th July 2006 22:34 GMT

And ninthly Here are a few farmers in trucks buying up supplies and groceries and transacting a little business. At ten o'clock the women come in armies, with shopping bags, their children trailing alongside. The bars open, men gulp a morning beer, the bartender mops the mahogany, there's a smell of clean soap, beer, old wood, and cigar smoke. At the railroad station the express going down to Boston puffs shooting clouds of steam around the old brown turrets of the depot building, the streetguards descend majestically to stop traffic as the bell rings and jangles, people rush for the Boston train. It's morning and Galloway comes to life - Jack Kerouac, The Town and the City

I think every one of us makes a swell in their pants while walking through downtown Chicago.

Part of the swell is historic. It comes from that faint smell of slaughtered pig's ass in the air. Decades of non-butchery fail to erase the flood of blood poured into the Chicago river and Lake Michigan. That's the smell of beef and pork you're catching. That's the smell of a head rolling its way down an assembly line to your kitchen table. That's the smell of man.

More invigorating than a river of carved up waste are the grand towers that separate Chicago from other US cities. Chicago literally rose from the ashes and embraced the US's 20th century largesse. It devoured steel and built a city in the sky on top of swamp and muck. Few things make me as proud or, quite frankly, embiggened as Chicago. It's a testament to the US's place as the ultimate superpower - no matter what that unsubtle ass-clown Julio Stantore says.

The meaty, throbbing power of Chicago got me thinking recently about Bill Gates.

Chicago, you see, was built on Carnegie's steel.

With Carnegie you get the immigrant and rags to riches combination so crucial to propping up the American Dream. You also get a man who sucked metal out of Pennsylvania's ground, fired it up and then sent it around the world via his friend's railroad lines and ships. The end result of Carnegie's work, in this particular case, was the steel that formed Chicago's glorious skyscrapers.

When kids go by a library or twelve and bark out, "Who's this Carnegie?", it's wonderful to answer their question by pointing to the glorious buildings around us all and saying, "Well, pet, Andrew Carnegie made those buildings possible. He was the richest man of his time and made his money from steel. You should aspire to work so hard as Andrew Carnegie and then one day a library might be named after you."

There's something so concrete about Carnegie's steel. It's the type of legend you can hold onto and cherish.

Will we will be able describe the legacy of Bill Gates to our grandchildren in the same way?

With about $70bn as his disposal, Gates must be laying the plans now for the Bill and Melinda Gates University - BMG U. It will probably be located in Washington. And lord knows Washington could do with a decent private school.

Gates must also be eyeing a few music centers and libraries as well.

That latter bit, however, is just speculation as we don't really know all that much about Gates' hobbies. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is more upfront about his passions, spending hundreds of millions on sports teams, music museums and space efforts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Gates likes socks, grilled cheese sandwiches, clam chowder and Diet Orange Crush. So, maybe he'll open the world's biggest diner to feed the poor?

Aside from crappy food, Gates also likes to play Bridge, especially with Warren Buffett, who gave Bill billions more to spend. Could this lead to a giant Bridge hall in Ethiopia? It's anyone's guess.

We either know painfully little about Gates or there is painfully little to know. But you can be sure that the next few decades will begin to reveal his passions and neuroses.

I just wonder how to explain the Gates labels popping up on everything to the children.

Carnegie didn't invent steel and Frick did much of the dirty work running Carnegie Steel. Still, Carnegie sold steel, which is a man's product.

Gates didn't come close to inventing the chip, the PC, the operating system or productivity software. Apple, IBM and the human condition did the dirty work to make the PC popular. In reality, Gates just signed a couple of contracts at the right time and made the most of it.

To portray Gates as anything less than perhaps the luckiest and most savvy businessman of all time would be doing him a disservice. But to put this rich boy and his software monopoly on the same level as Carnegie and his steel would be as unpatriotic as not drinking a twelve-pack on the 4th of July.

I love that my pants swell as I course through the streets of Chicago or pound a pound of meat at the Carnegie Deli. It's hard for me to imagine the same effect coming over my grandson as he walks past the the Gates Diner or BillG U and envisions a calculating nerd who sounds like Kermit the frog and wears sweaters.

Here's hoping Gates doesn't put his name on too many things. America's masculinity may not be able to handle it. ®

Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for thirty years. You can find Stern locked and loaded, corralling wounded iLemmings, suppressing Bill Gates U, developing strong Mexican engineers, masticating beta culture, booing our soccer team, following Jimmy Wales, nursing an opal-plated prostate, spanking open source fly boys, wearing a smashing suit, watching Dead Man, dropping a SkyCar on the Googleplex, spitting on Frenchmen, and vomiting in fear with a life-sized cutout of Hilary Rosen at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest.