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Volume 69, Issue 106, Monday, March 9, 2004


Computers not reliable friends

By Sarah Ohmer

Robot friends are not reliable friends, yet we turn to them every day. Things like computers and compact discs store information. Sounds, sights and memory for our eyes, ears and brain are in our robot friends -- mechanical extensions of our selves. When I asked one of my real life friends about my friend Laptop, he told me, "A computer has no sense of personality." Indeed, it is merely a reflection of what our senses and cognition produce, a material reflection of us. And we see them as friends.

So these friends, these elements of your environment that you rely on every minute, are the most unreliable friends that you have. Why? It's probably because they come from an unreliable bunch. Sony and Microsoft -- what a lovely, caring couple they are. They bore us some nice reliable friends, the good old Word Microsoft and Compact Disc Sony. They were so proud of their children that each child got each parent's last name, and they insist everyone call them by their last name first. We like Microsoft Word and Sony Compact Disc, aka Word and CD, because we see ourselves in them. We put the responsibility of our sensory information on their shoulders. Their little robot hands carry essays, songs, pictures, words, sounds and faces. And out of the blue, they make it all disappear. They shut down on you and crash, or get scratched, slip, fall and break and lose everything that you gave them. 

Meanwhile, Papa Sony and Mama Microsoft profit from their children's friends. Whatever happened to Granny Typewriter and Grandpa Analog, the conservative grandparents? They were conservative, as in they conserved information. Their grandkids are rebelling against their values, making every human production vulnerable to complete destruction. Their most malicious son, Microsoft, recently agreed to give all of his Internet knowledge to his nation's government. That's a lot of information. That's what we all rely on, every day. That's where we get the news, the books and the information. That is now in the hands of a guy who's not supposed to be controlling. 

The European Union remains hesitant about allowing Microsoft to impose its Internet browser on computers, our reliable friends. They attempt in vain to prevent the monopoly. It seems ridiculous to prevent Netscape from being on our friends' faces, in the Europeans' opinion. They pass laws and Microsoft dodges them with ease. Microsoft accepted selling Word packages without the Internet browser, but they disappear quickly from shelves, as if the stocks of the product were never maintained to their full capacity. How many of you have an MSN messenger pop up when you turn on your friend? The little green man at the bottom starts to blink, and you're connected automatically. But to whom are you connected? To other reliable friends, or people watching and waiting as they profit from your disappearing privacy?

Ohmer, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at


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