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Thanks, Bill, for Connecting Our Connections

… and for reminding me where life can take usbill_gates_1964.jpg

This is absolutely true: I once knocked Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, flat on his back. And he did the same to me. More than once.

I didn’t realize this until years later, when my mom presented me a long-forgotten photograph from my days of Little League football in Seattle.

“There’s a famous person on that team,” she said. “Can you guess who?”

I scoured the faces, recalling most of the names: Philip Catton, Randy Gehrig, Bruce Clark, Craig Timberlake, Charlie Driver …

Nope. Who?

“Look on the back,” said Mom.

I turned the picture over.

Oh, yeah. Bill … Gates??

Sure enough, there was his signature:

bill_gates_signature_1964.jpg

Everyone on the team had signed each other’s photo. Bill had signed mine twice (even back in 1964, a whiff of megalomania?).

I flipped the picture again and zeroed in on the face, vaguely recalling that geeky, gawky guy. Even though he lived only three blocks away, we never hung out. He was not one of the cool kids — or maybe I wasn’t.

So I’ve long felt that my connection to Bill, while slim, extends beyond Word and Office. And now that I teach entrepreneurship, Bill’s presence looms large indeed, for he turned into one heck of an entrepreneur: his company makes annoying products most computer users must buy.

To be fair, Microsoft has done tremendous good by bringing computing power within reach of more than a billion people worldwide. And Bill is now deeply — admirably — involved in education and other charitable initiatives.

tim_clark_1964.jpgBut one little thing makes me sore: Bill’s company remains responsible for one of the most inane — and most-viewed — sentences ever written, a sentence I see each and every day as the PC boots up. Cables sense their link to one of the great inventions of our age, then screen announces:

“Your Internet connection is now connected.”

C’mon, Bill, you don’t “connect your connection” any more than you “position your positioning” or discover that your “function is now functioning.”

Bill, if you really want to educate people around the world, how about starting with the millions of slobs like me forced to view this blather every day? I know you no longer touch code, but can’t you issue an executive order of revision to give us: “Internet connection established”? That would model good writing, halve the number of words, and bring my blood pressure down.

The world needs less, not more, idiotspeak. Just weeks ago, referring to Microsoft’s planned chain of new retail stores, one of your own executives — apparently oblivious to the irony — made this statement:

We’re working hard to transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience at retail by improving the articulation and demonstration of the Microsoft innovation and value proposition so that it’s clear, simple and straightforward for consumers everywhere.

(thanks to reader Traveler for passing this along)

But Bill, aside from that (and from your software constantly trying to take me where I don’t want to go today), I applaud you for making computing accessible to much of the world.

And, though Apple first took me online, I thank you for establishing Internet connections for so many people — and for reminding me where life can take us.

You may also enjoy:

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3 Comments to Thanks, Bill, for Connecting Our Connections

On Apr 30, 2009, Traveler commented:

So that’s the long-awaited story of knocking down Bill G! I was guessing a simple doorway mishap at a crowded trade show, something like that… You went one better with a tale of you and Bill intentionally slamming each other.

Regarding Microsoft’s contribution to getting the world computing, you’re a little more generous than I would be; I’m very optimistic that the marketplace would have provided the same (or better…) opportunities to people in the absence of MS’s dominance.

It’s speculation either way, of course. In any case, now that the OS market is veering away from near-monopoly and toward a wide mixture of offerings, it’ll be fascinating to watch whether the pace of innovation and computerization picks up or slows down. (My bet is on the former!)

On May 1, 2009, Honest Contractor commented:

hmmm nice inputs about Bill Gates. I learn a lot from you.

On May 1, 2009, by Tim commented:

@ Traveler: Things may very well have been quite different if Apple had taken up the challenge. And things certainly are changing in the operating system market; my kids are all about GoogleDocs. I’m still using Windows XP, so many people may not see the message I refer to in the post.

I’d love to get a Linux-based machine if 1) it’s sufficiently user-friendly, and 2) it could run both Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Band-in-a-Box.

@ Honest Contractor: Thanks for your input!

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