Minter Thoughts – My Mac Magazine #47, March ’99

I think we can all agree that the speed at which computer technology is advancing is nothing less than phenomenal. You can buy a state-of-the-art computer today that will be old news and outdated tomorrow, or maybe a week from tomorrow. Remember when “the next generation” computer had a life span measured in years? Today they are measured in months. Three years from now they very likely will be measured in weeks. And unless you’re an avid computer geek, it’s darn near impossible to keep up with the daily parade of enhancements, upgrades, and innovations that blanket both the hardware and software industry.

Back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, scientists and large corporations were the only people with access to anything that even remotely resembled what we would call a computer today. And those so-called computers were the size of small houses costing millions of dollars and requiring massive amounts of electricity to run. And what were these scientist and large corporations able to accomplish with these titanic machines? Really not much more than can be accomplished now on a pocket-sized calculator you can purchase for $3.99 that runs off a built-in 1-inch solar panel.

In 1969 the United States was able to put two men on the moon because of computers. But did you know that the computing power and capabilities of your own present day desktop Mac is equal to or even surpasses the combined computing capabilities available to the entire Apollo program of the late sixties and early seventies? Just think, if you had a big Saturn V rocket laying around in your backyard and a few other pieces of add on hardware, you too could send somebody to the moon, right from your desktop Mac! Your neighbors might not like the noise but hey, that’s their problem.

Whenever I try to put these giant leaps of technological advancements into perspective I always think back to something I read a couple of years ago. It said a computer analyst once calculated that, had the automotive industry progressed with the same efficiency as the computer industry, it would have yielded a Rolls Royce that cost $1.00 to build and got 1 million miles to the gallon. Not something that’s likely to happen, but an interesting comparison nonetheless.

Assuming this comparison is true, one might ask, “What enabled the computer industry to advance with such rapid efficiency while other non-technical industries such as basket weaving, ink pen manufacturing, and carpet laying were left behind?”

Some say it was the development of the silicon chip that gave computer builders the turbo charge they needed to fast forward to where we are today. Others say it was the transistor that opened the door to miniaturization and thus allowed the industry to put computers on everyones desktop or in their laps.

I say, “Hogwash!” I also say it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

This all-of-a-sudden fast-rolling super train of computer technology that seems to be gaining speed every day has been made possible, not through the diligent, hard work of a handful of brainy technology nerds as some would have us believe, but through the generosity of a nomadic race of alien beings who call themselves Zar-rons and who just happened to stumble into our solar system around the year 1945.

The Zar-rons–who found the evolution of intelligent life throughout the cosmos to be so rare that it only occurs in only one out of every 7.2 million galaxies–were elated when they discovered us semi-intelligent beings living and evolving on this third planet out from a seemingly unremarkable dwarf star situated so far away from the center of an equally unremarkable galaxy.

Up until they found us, the Zar-rons believed that intelligent life forms only evolved from star systems that were close to the center of galaxies. After all, that’s where the stable wormholes are. And it is the wormholes that make intergalactic travel possible; necessary really. For if a life form fails to evolve rapidly enough to recognize the need to escape its planet of birth so near the center of its galaxy, or fails to develop a means to escape its birth planet using the wormholes, it is only a matter of time before said planet of birth along with its entire solar system gets sucked into the bottomless recycling bin of the black holes located at the center of all galaxies. An event simular to being flushed down a toilet.

The Zar-rons believed that a rapid evolution into intelligent, thinking beings could only take place when the physical forces and certainty of the big galactic flush were present.

That is, until they discovered us earthlings way out here, some 30,000 light years from the sucking effect of the black hole at the center of this otherwise insignificant spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Needless to say, the Zar-rons walked in on us during one of our not-so-flattering moments in history. In fact, it is my understanding that the Zar-rons were preparing to leave our solar system after observing the detonation of the two atomic bombs the United States used to end World War II, in the belief that we earthlings were already on the short path to self-annihilation. However (and lucky for us), the Zar-rons stuck around long enough to witness the cessation of hostilities and the proclamations of our world leaders never to use these weapons of mass destruction against one another again.

Although not thoroughly convinced, the Zar-rons did recognize this gesture of reconciliation as one of the necessary ingredients for the rapid evolution of a species. Even though being so far away from the maelstrom of the galactic center’s rapid evolution was not a prerequisite for the continued survival of this planets inhabitants, I think this fascinated the Zar-rons enough to hang around a while longer and perhaps give us oddball, lost-in-space earthlings a little nudge towards becoming a member of the universal community.

I think the Zar-rons’ first–and as far as I can tell–only act of intervention to date has been to show us how to store, collect, process and transfer information and knowledge using a more rapid and compact method than was available to us in the late 40’s. They accomplished this by launching a Zar-ron probe that crash landed in the high desert near Roswell, New Mexico in the United States on July 8th, 1947. The contents inside the probe showed the use of miniature circuit boards, memory chips, data transfer modules, storage disks, and other unknown electronic devices. Unfortunately, the probe was whisked off and hidden away by the U.S. military under the pretense that the probe and all its contents posed a threat to national security. Shortly thereafter the U.S. Government maintained its denial that the probe ever existed, which delayed the introduction of these neat little gadgets into the mainstream industrialized sector for many years.

It wasn’t until the late 70’s and early 80’s when a new generation of bright, young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs hit the scene and took it upon themselves to use what little information had leaked out of the military over the years about the gadgets in the probe, and through trial and error began using that information to duplicate some of the gadgets. Not exact duplications mind you, but close enough to get our computer industry off and running at a substantially faster pace than it had been progressing.

Had the U.S. Government released these computer-like gadgets to the civilian scientific community back in 1947, the duplication of these Zar-ronian gadgets would have been more precise and the Y2K thing, computer viruses, and other imperfections found in today’s computers and software would not even exist–because the Zar-ron computers had no imperfections. The industry would also be 50 years ahead of where it is today.

But the government didn’t release the gadgets in 1947, nor have they given any indication they ever will. Maybe they have good reasons for this, maybe not.

Regardless of the reasons, I’m not writing this as an attack on the decision making of the United States intelligence community, but only to point out the existence of what I think is a friendly alien race who cared enough to extend a helping hand to what they believed was a burgeoning evolving life form that might one day have something to offer the Universal Family Of Intelligent Life forms.

Some of you may be wondering what all this has to do with the Macintosh computer. So, to end this not-so-widely-known story about how the Earth’s computer industry really got started, I’ll make that link right now.

While researching the material for this column, I came across an interesting bit of information in the files of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was in the form of an “Eyes Only” memo dated Aug. 22, 1982 from then CIA director William J. Casey to President Ronald Reagan. The memo detailed Casey’s concerns that someone may have gained access to, or detailed information about, the Top Secret gadgets recovered from the alien spacecraft that crash landed in 1947. His concerns were based on information he was receiving about two young men from California named Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. The memo stated that these two men were rapidly developing a computer platform that was so simular to the recovered artifacts in the alien probe that it went beyond the possibility of coincidence.

Casey was convinced that an exact duplication of the Zar-ron computer (called a Zil) would bring economic chaos to the industrialized world. He envisioned the decline and eventual eradication of such mainstay manufacturing as the paper industry, pen and pencil manufacturers, typewriter builders, and the Xerox conglomerate. This in turn would all but eliminate the United States Postal Service and have a devastating effect on telecommunications carriers such as Ma Bell and the CPA (Carrier Pigeon Association).

To ward off the possibility of a major breakdown in the way the business world conducted its business, Casey proposed to President Reagan a plan to de-rail the efforts of Wozniak and Jobs. His plan called for the government’s discreet bankrolling of another individual who would directly compete with the Zar-ron like software advancements that Wozniak and Jobs were developing.

This flawed competitor later became known as Microsoft. And the individual the government bankrolled was, of course, Bill Gates.

The government operated on the premise that if Bill Gates could develop a system that was substantially inferior to that of Wozniak and Jobs–but be mass marketed to the majority of businesses around the world–then the consequences to all these other industries would be negligible.

Looking back, I would say that the government’s plan worked. Not only did Microsoft attain its goal of major market share throughout the world, but the goal of Wozniak and Jobs to produce a perfect Zar-ronian like computer had to be dumbed down just to compete with the inferior capabilities of Microsoft.

Word on the street now is that Bill Gates has acquired the blueprints for the original gadgets and plans to go into production of the gadgets shortly after the new millennium renders his present system useless. (He never did get a grip on this Y2K thing!) So, instead of supporting Microsoft as it had in the past, the government is attempting to dismantle the Microsoft empire in Federal Court with the sole purpose of preventing the introduction of the alien Zar-ronian gadgets into the world.

Could it be the Zar-ronian gadgets are nothing more than Trojan horses waiting to unleash untold horror over our planet if someone succeeds in duplicating them? Is that why the government is doing everything in its power to suppress these gadgets?

At the present time I don’t have the answer to this question. But if Bill Gates succeeds in producing perfect replicas of the Zar-ronian gadgets and our world comes to an end because of these gadgets, I guess that will be our answer.

Oh well! No use worrying about things we have no control over. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Pete Miner

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