Arlan R. Levitan
Burning Issues In A Campaign Year
It's hard to ignore the fact that 1988 is an election year. Fertilizer sales are up dramatically, and both my paper and electronic mailboxes are full of epistles enjoining me to lend my vote and as many bucks as I can spare. Unfortunately, most of the presidential aspirants' positions on the burning telecomputing issues of our day are not widely publicized.
Judging from the response to last year's proposed communications surcharges by the FCC, our readers are actively involved in the political process. Spurred on by a sense of editorial duty and the thought of being able to write off an April vacation in Washington D.C., I managed to corral a fistful of candidates and hosted a brief luncheon at Georgetown's swank Looflirpa Deli. While it would be inappropriate for me to endorse any one candidate, here are some selected questions and answers from our wide-ranging and informative session.
Arlan: Mr. Hart, many commercial information service users have been complaining that their user IDs and access to certain types of databases have suspended. What's your position on this matter?
Hart: Arlan, its obvious to me that these persons need new IDs, and I've been a proponent of New IDs for some time now. It's obvious to me that our system has to be open to everyone, regardless of position or rank, and that with New IDs we can move forward and put away the old IDs of the past.
Arlan: Mr. Robertson, some of your opponents have called your stance on telecommunications policy "reactionary." Your supporters call it a common sense approach. Could you elaborate on the basis of your proposals?
Robertson: We need to return to the telecomputing fundamentals that made this network great. The "fast" data lifestyle being promoted by the computing media and the manufacturers of 9600-bps modems has impaired our ability to judge values. Many of our young telecomputers can't tell an XON from an XOFF. Like my daddy used to sing while typing away on his 110-baud mechanical teletype, "Give me that old-time transmission...."
Arlan: Mr. Dupont, you're generally acknowledged as a telecomputing arch-conservative. How would you deal with the spread of dangerous programs created by malicious whackers?
Dupont: A lot of users have been sharing data and interfacing willy-nilly with systems they have just a casual acquaintance with. The spread of computer viruses is a problem that has to be nipped in the bud to preserve the safety of this great nation's file structure. If elected I would enact mandatory data integrity checking and quarantine infected operating systems until effective anti-viral programs can be developed.
Arlan: Mr. Jackson, although you're consistently ranked among the frontrunners, there is a general consensus that your proposed telecomputing programs are not really compatible with present conventions, and your proposed file transmission standards are non-correctable.
Jackson: Arlan, I really don't understand why the computer press keeps making these remarks about my data not being correctable. You don't hear the press harping about the number of retrys that Gary Hart has gone through! Let me assure you that my base of support includes a veritable rainbow of file transmission standards from ASCII to ZModem. Most of today's problems with telecomputing have arisen from the failure of the data net. I would expand the scope and breadth the present network to address the needs of the memory-poor and those who are completely computerless.
Arlan: Mr. Bush, it's widely rumored that your telecomputing policy statements are written by one Dr. Bonzo, a simian associate of the commander-in-chief. Is there any truth to these allegations?
Bush: You know, I'm sick and tired of hearing about this so called "chimp-factor." I am not a chimp, and my expertise in telecommunications is a matter of record! As ambassador to China, I became well versed in all types of protocol. While director of the CIA, I worked with data encryption techniques on a regular basis. I am also heavily involved in Washington's old-boy network.
Arlan: Mr. Biden, although you've officially dropped out of the race, we're still interested in your thoughts on PC Pursuit's two-year delay in implementing 2400-bps service.
Biden: Never have so many waited so long for so little throughput. Still, ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. In the end it will be said that this was their finest hour of connect time. You're not taping this, are you?