[I apologize for missing last month’s issue, especially since my most recent columns have been linked together as a continuing story. I know it was very un-cool on my part to take a month off right in the middle of an ongoing saga, but such can be the life of a truck driver. However, I place all blame for my absence on the Canadian Government and its inability or unwillingness to bolster its own dollar. You see it’s…, well, it’s a long story is what it is, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the Canadian dollar is the reason I have been unable to spend much time at home, let alone work on my column. A PowerBook would solve this problem of mine, and in fact I am about to purchase one. Unfortunately, it will be going to my daughter who is away at college and “just has to have one!”
Anyway, for those of you who still remember where I left off in September, here is the final installment of “2019”.]
Monitoring Site #7243
While Stan and Emily were monitoring ship traffic on the third floor of Monitoring Site #7243, someone else was monitoring air traffic on the fourth floor. The second floor was responsible for monitoring railroad traffic and the people on the first floor were keeping an eye on the ‘truck only’ highways crisscrossing their respective grids. A small part of the fifth floor housed the supervisors who randomly monitored the monitoring going on below them and theoretically took charge when something went wrong. (I say theoretically because nothing has ever gone wrong with the system since the first few days following the system’s startup in 2009.) The remainder of the fifth floor is dedicated to off-planet monitoring. These people watch over the thousands of global positioning, communications, and weather satellites circling the Earth. These satellites choreograph and maintain the even flow of all commercial traffic moving about the planet below them.
Stan and Emily’s workday consisted of six boring hours of watching their monitoring screens as small diamond-shaped blips entered, moved across and then either exited the screen or pulled into a dock of one of the harbors in their grid. When a blip first enters your grid you are required to identify the vessel, noting time of day the vessel entered your grid and its present speed, and then verify its course and destination. This information is available by touching a stylus to a five digit code that is projected on the screen below the diamond blip. Doing this brings up a full screen, real time, color closeup satellite image of the vessel, displaying all its pertinent information.
All monitoring people are required to notify their supervisor if they detect a deviation of more than one half of one degree in a vessel’s automated course. In all the years since being assigned to the third floor of Monitoring Site #7243, Stan and Emily had never once had to notify their supervisor, nor had they ever heard of anyone else having to do so. Nothing had ever gone wrong.
Stan had not adapted well to his obviously unnecessary job. He considered it nothing more than a B.G. Enterprise/NWG sponsored ‘make work’ program designed to create employment for the millions of people whose jobs had been taken over by the more efficient, more productive robotic technology that Bill Gates and company had perfected and were continuing to introduce into nearly every aspect of their ongoing global techno-industrialization.
Stan had once told his wife, “Our jobs are as unimportant as it is for us to sit and watch the grass grow in our backyard.” When Emily had answered with a look of puzzlement, Stan clarified by saying, “At least with the grass, we get to make the decision at some point that it needs to be mowed.” Emily agreed that their jobs could not be described as intellectually challenging.
Today, sitting in front of their assigned monitors, Stan and Emily went through the identification and verification procedure for each vessel in their grid as was required at the start of every new shift. Emily presently had six blips on her screen and Stan had eleven. Emily finished her identifications first and sat back quietly waiting for Stan to finish his. When her husband sat back in his chair, Emily smiled and said, “Here we go again, another day, another purchasing unit.” Stan smiled, but Emily knew he was not amused. She knew he hated coming here four days a week. But if they wanted to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, they didn’t have a choice. The NWG assigned you a job; you didn’t get to choose one.
Embedded Chip facility-Livermore, Ca.
At the same time Stan and Emily were preparing for another long day of boredom at Monitoring Site #7243 on the banks of the Hudson River, a man named Steve Jobs was racing his fingers over a keyboard at the main input terminal of the Embedded Chip production facility in Livermore, California. Jobs was sending new, overriding data via satellite to a number of embedded navigational systems around the globe–something that was not supposed to be possible. The data he was inputting would, when initialized, send the B.G. Enterprise transportation industry into chaos and turmoil. Jobs was grinning as he worked the keyboard, thinking of his boss Bill Gates and what his reaction would be when he saw his flawless global distribution network fall apart right before his eyes. “It’s payback time, Billy!” Jobs muttered to himself.
It was Steve Jobs along with a secret team of his brightest technicians from the now defunct Apple Computer Company that had designed and developed this new generation of removable and re-programmable embedded chip technology. The term ’embedded chip’ was actually a misnomer, since the chips were easily removed and attached onto any of the self-running systems in use at the time. But the term remained, mainly because no one had thought to change it. Jobs and his team had initially designed this new chip to neutralize the effects of the Y2K bug that had threatened to wreak havoc around the globe at the turn of the millennium. And in fact, had the chip been made available to the world in mid-1999 as Jobs had planned, it would have greatly reduced the resulting catastrophic effects of what actually did happen in the year 2000, now commonly referred to as “The Dark Year.”
Although his new chip had been finished and readied for mass distribution in ample time to eliminate the majority of the foreseen computer problems that were predicted to pop up when the calendar jumped from 1999 to 2000, Steve Jobs and company were faced with one last hurdle that prevented them from releasing the new chips in time to do any good. That hurdle was named Bill Gates.
As founder and CEO of a company called Microsoft, Bill Gates had also been developing a Y2K chip at the time. Although his company’s chip was plagued with so many bugs and glitches that it wouldn’t have seen mass production and distribution until the summer or fall of 2000, Gates wasn’t about to miss out on the windfall profits that would go to the first company that provided a solution for the Y2K dilemma.
Not being accustomed to finishing second in any of his endeavors and unable to persuade Steve Jobs to abandon Apple and come to work for Microsoft, Bill Gates accused Jobs and his company of stealing hundreds of thousands of lines of proprietary code from Microsoft, allowing Apple to unfairly surge ahead in the race to be the first company to provide a solution to the Y2K problem.
Although Gates’ allegations were totally false, they were enough to put a halt to the timely release of Apple’s chip.
While the legal battles raged on in the halls of the slow moving American judicial system, the first day of the new millennium came and went, bringing with it the reality of what many had feared. Power supply stations shut down, bank records were lost or deleted, airplanes and trains quit running due to a perceived lack of maintenance, people depending on government social security checks were sent computer generated letters telling them they were either dead or not even born yet, and numerous other malfunctions occurred within the computerized infrastructure of the world. And nearly all of this could have been avoided had Steve Jobs been allowed to distribute his Y2K chip as planned.
By the time the suits and counter suits between Microsoft and Apple had been settled, the devastating impact of the millennium bug had already been felt throughout the world. Governments, banks, and businesses coped with the problem by reverting to manual record keeping. Power stations and other manufacturing plants were slowly brought back on-line under manual operation, effectively slowing the economies of the world to a crawl.
In July of 2000 Bill Gates had finally succeeded in getting his company’s Y2K chip up and running, and in a surprise move dropped all litigations against Apple and its CEO. By using the vast public relations and propaganda machine of Microsoft, Gates was able to convince the computing masses that it was Steve Jobs and not him that was responsible for delaying the timely release of a Y2K solution. The world responded by beating a path to Microsoft’s door to purchase his working, although technically inferior, Y2K chip.
Microsoft enjoyed record profits from the sale of its chip and the world slowly returned to its pre-year 2000 computerized state.
After the Y2K debacle, Steve Jobs swore he would do whatever it took to topple the ever expanding empire of Microsoft and its self-appointed king, even if it took him the rest of his life. He made this promise privately, to himself.
Publicly, Jobs acknowledged his defeat at the hands of the Microsoft tycoon, but promised the Apple stockholders that he and his team of developers would be back to unveil a new generation of computer chip that would make the profits that Microsoft reaped from the Y2K chip look like chump change. However, this was not enough to keep him–for the second time in his life–from being removed as the CEO of Apple Computer Inc.
Shaken by his company’s vote of no confidence, Jobs humbly relinquished his CEO position but remained working for Apple so that he and his team could continue their work on the development of what would latter become known as the monitoring chip. This chip would become the single largest breakthrough in the computer world since transistors took the place of vacuum tubes.
Over the next several years Bill Gates went on a buying spree the likes of which had never been seen before. He started in the communications industry, buying out every major radio and television station he could get his hands on. He then moved into the manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries. Towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century the conglomeration of B.G. Enterprise had become so big and so powerful that it was taking over whole government agencies such as NASA, the U.S. Postal Service, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Gates accomplished all of this by turning each and every buyout into a more efficient and profitable entity than it had been previously. When he encountered resistance from the political or judicial fronts, he offered incentives that couldn’t be refused.
Well on his way to controlling the entire economy of the world, Bill Gates still lacked the one thing he needed and wanted most: the monitoring chip that he knew his old nemesis Steve Jobs had developed and was still perfecting but was stubbornly refusing to sell. Gates had made several attempts at producing his own chip but could never attain the 100% degree of reliability or accuracy that was needed for such an integral piece of his global computerization plan. He had to have the chip Jobs developed, and the only way he was going to accomplish that would be to persuade the stockholders of Apple that unless they accepted his generous offer of 10 times what their stock was worth he would crush their company and they would end up with nothing. His threat worked and Steve Jobs surprisingly put up very little resistance, asking only that he be allowed to remain in charge of the monitoring chip. Gates readily agreed and gave Jobs free rein over every aspect of the chip, a move he would later come to regret.
In the years leading up to 2019, Bill Gates found more and more uses for this seemingly self-evolving monitoring chip that Steve Jobs was constantly perfecting. Once the monitoring chip had turned his whole global conglomeration of businesses into the smoothly run, highly profitable entity of B.G. Enterprise, Gates focused the power of the chip towards the human population of the world, thinking he could make life better for all by controlling the actions of his fellow man. This idea of his turned the monitoring chip into, The ‘Monitoring’ Chip. It controlled and monitored the world’s population. Maybe not as intrusively, but just as effectively as Big Brother as envisioned by George Orwell in his “1984”.
Monitoring Site #7243
Two hours into their shift, Stan asked his wife to keep an eye on his screen while he went to the bathroom. When he returned he noticed an additional blip had entered into his grid. He brought up the profile of this new blip and was surprised to see that it was a natural gas tanker and that its auto-plotted course showed its destination as New York Harbor.
“This is strange,” he commented to his wife.
“What’s strange?” Emily asked.
“I’ve got a natural gas tanker headed right into NY harbor.”
“New York doesn’t have any facilities for tankers, Stan.”
“I know. That’s what makes it strange.”
“Maybe you better call a supervisor, Stan.”
“No. I don’t think so. Our job is to track and monitor these ships and only report when a ship deviates from its stated automated course. The stated automated course for this lost puppy is New York Harbor, I’m just going to watch it and see what it does when it gets there.”
Over the next several hours other anomalies began popping up on screens at Monitoring Sites all over the world. Third floor monitors were seeing hundreds, if not thousands of ocean going vessels being diverted to ports that were not equipped to handle the type of cargo that the vessel carried. Passenger cruise ships were arriving at freight unloading docks, while cargo laden ships were running aground in the shallow waters of beach resorts. Some unmanned vessels were just shutting down in the middle of the oceans and automatically flooding their own holds until they sank. But in every instance, the auto-plotted courses of these vessels, when checked, revealed that the ships were following the exact instructions entered into their self-navigational computers.
Things were looking even worse on the fourth floors of the Monitoring Sites where the monitoring of air traffic took place. Passenger airlines were landing at wrong airports all over the globe. Unmanned cargo carrying airplanes were staying aloft, cruising in circles until they ran out of fuel and then falling out of the skies crashing into oceans, deserts, and other uninhabited regions. Again, when their auto-plotted courses were checked it showed that the aircraft were doing exactly what they were programmed to do.
Like disasters were also occurring on the ground with the railroads and commercial truck traffic.
As word of these strange occurrences spread throughout the Monitoring Sites, it was learned that only the fifth floor monitoring of off planet vessels had gone unaffected. Satellites and spacecraft seemed to be operating normally.
Although thought to be impossible, it was beginning to look like a major attempt at sabotage was underway against the transportation industries of B.G. Enterprise. Not having a standard protocol or procedure to follow for such an occurrence, word of the ongoing disaster was slow to reach the hierarchy of B.G. Enterprise.
When Bill Gates was finally briefed on the situation later that evening, he phoned up Steve Jobs and ordered him to pull the plugs and shut down all navigational and communications satellites that controlled every moving vehicle on the planet. Jobs informed his boss that doing this would cause every aircraft that was presently in the air to fall out of the sky and crash. Gates told him, “Just do it!”
“No way,” Jobs told his boss. “Give me an hour and I can at least bring all the passenger planes down safely before shutting everything else down.”
“How is that possible, Jobs? Those planes are preprogrammed before they take off. You can’t access those onboard chips.”
“Just give me one hour,” Jobs said.
“What are you keeping from me, Jobs?”
“One hour. Bye!”
Steve knew he had just given his boss reason to suspect that he was the one behind this catastrophe by inferring that he could access and reprogram the onboard chips in the navigational systems–something that was not supposed to be possible. All navigational systems aboard every moving vehicle that used the embedded chip technology that Steve Jobs developed for B.G. Enterprise was supposed to be tamper-proof. And they were tamper-proof. That is, by anyone other than Jobs himself.
When designing the new chips, Jobs wanted them to have complete override capability, allowing changes to be made to the preprogrammed instructions on the chips. But Gates was against the idea, saying it would open the door to saboteurs and computer hackers, so he forbade Jobs to add that enhancement to his design. Steve Jobs knew that the real reason his boss wanted a closed, inaccessible monitoring chip was so he could have total control over the chips functionality, something Jobs wasn’t about to give to one man. So Jobs went ahead and secretly added the interactive capability to the chips anyway. He accomplished this by coating each chip with a silicon and copper-based paste he called silicop. He told everyone the paste was a sealant to protect the chips from dust and moisture, which in fact it did. But the silicop paste also contained microscopic filaments which were highly conductive. These filaments, when electronically excited in a certain way, could be aligned to carry overriding instructions that would bypass the chips original programming and receive and initiate new data via a satellite link. Jobs was the only person who knew how to do this and he used this knowledge as his ace in the hole, to be used against Bill Gates and his empire at the time of his choosing. That time was now.
Steve Jobs finished his instructions that would safely land all passenger carrying airliners. When the last plane was on the ground he commenced shutting down monitoring systems around the globe. Not just the communications and navigational chips that operated the transportation industry as Gates had ordered, but every monitoring chip in every B.G. Enterprise computer system around the world.
“Let’s see you explain this to the world, Billy boy,” Jobs said, as he gathered up all the data and codes needed to undo what he had just done and left his office for the last time. He would go underground and watch the unravelling of Bill Gates and company from afar.