BIG BLUE NIGHTS AND DREAMS OF GLORY
One of the cigar-chomping bigwigs up there somewhere in IBM's ivory tower goes to sleep with bitter tears each night. He (or she—no he, and a Yale grad) laments the early heydays of IBM's dominance in the personal computer industry, when Compaq was just another clone and when Apple made toy home computers. The days when IBM called the shots. Sniff, sniff.
I know this because those sleepless nights are creating a negative ripple in the psychic fabric of the universe. Every time Shirley MacLaine tries to channel, she picks up HBO. When my weird psychic friend complained, I suggested that we investigate. So we stuck some orthogonal crystals into our ears (just like Spock on Star Trek!) and summoned Modra, her spirit guide. The following is a summary of our astral detective work.
Saturday, the 23rd. Behold! (No one really uses that word any more, but it fits the quasi-lunatic vein of this column.) A dream of the past, of the glory days back in 1983. The micro-computer world was holding its breath against the rumors of "the Peanut," IBM's first real home computer. Our slumbering IBM giant was all smiles and giggles about computer-dom's greatest event: the introduction of the PCjr.
The PCjr might well have been something, had IBM not forgotten to make it IBM-compatible. Forget the Hash Gordon infrared Chiclet keyboard and the easily broken, nonstandard connectors on the machine's rump. Had it worked, third-party developers would have created other keyboards and connectors. Had the machine taken off, every PC today would have those glorious sound extensions in ROM. Think of it: PCs that could do more than beep like their 20-year-old ancestors; PCs with real imitation PCjr sound.
But back to the dream: The world bought the PCjr and paid homage to IBM. That Christmas, families posed by the fireplace with the dog and the PCjr. It was a status symbol. Kids with PCjrs at home were earning doctorates by the age of 12. The president of Compaq phoned IBM: "Golly, you guys just have us beat! We're throwing in the towel! Here, take our inventory!"
Unfortunately for our snoring bigwig, the dream ended there. He woke up and stumbled to the refrigerator for some Perrier and Brie.
Monday, the 25th. This dream was really odd. Probably due to that extra helping of Haagen Daz before bedtime. It had to do with someone, or something, named Sue. But whether Sue was someone our Big Blue dreamer knew or something he wanted to do never became clear. There was some wordplay in the dream about megahertz. My psychic friend asked if it was one or two words. I shrugged, and the crystal fell out of my ear, ending our session.
Thursday, the 28th. After a rather bland beginning, our snoozing IBM executive finally drifted into REM about 4:00 a.m. He first dreamed about buying all the Mazda Miatas in New York and then crushing them in a giant Whirlpool trash compactor— until he was left with the last one. My psychic friend said it was symbolic of the greed in the computer industry, that the executive was acting out only a childish fantasy of domination. I said nothing, having dreamed the exact same thing only two nights earlier.
Later in the dream, it was 1987 and the IBM bulldozer was still in charge, paving the way of PC compatibility right into the 1990s. All the top IBM execs proudly watched the PC parade, with all the clone makers goose-stepping to IBM's drum, tossing Big Blue its deserved royalties like flower petals.
The parade was comprised of giant flower-covered floats representing IBM's mainframes. Behind the mainframes, hordes of dancers, each wearing a cardboard PC that resembled those old dancing cigarette boxes from the golden age of television. Each dancer tried to plug into the mainframe float while singing something called "The Connectivity Song."
It was a glorious time for PC owners: Everyone had the same IBM-compatible mouse, and throngs of PC users waved them in the air at the parade, some spinning the mice wildly above their heads and knocking out lamps and the occasional eyetooth.
The killer part of the dream came when IBM announced the PS/2. The computer world fell on its collective kneecaps in homage. IBM stock soared 200,000 points. To celebrate, IBM bought Tokyo.
Friday, the 29th. In the final dream we monitored, our hapless IBMer stood in the middle of a misty room. From out of nowhere, Charlie Chaplin waddled over and whacked him with a bamboo cane. The jolt practically snapped our bluetiful dreamer out of his jammies. Charlie hobbled off into the mist, leaving our IBM executive standing there, holding his throbbing ear.
Next, the "M*A*S*H" gang from TV stopped by but was quickly replaced by the cast from "Gilligan's Island." The Skipper walked over to the IBM guy and asked politely, "How do you ever expect us to get off this island?"
The dream ended there, and we haven't monitored any activity since. Just clear and blissful sleep.