The cyberrodent bags trade show freebies from clueless companies

Sorting through show souvenirs of yore to find something to tote his loot, the Rat
pulled out a moldering stack of canvas carriers and cried, "These bags are
history!" They bore ancient product buzzwords and names of companies now relegated to
the computer industry's boneyard.


There are other relics around to remind the Rat of computing's past. Some are still
clients on his network.


But history on the software side tends to wind up in the recycling bin or get
overwritten by Doom modules. No museum officials have ever pounded on the Rat's cubicle
wall asking for donations of Ashton-Tate dBase manuals or WordStar 2.0 distribution disks.


So what? The Rat considers himself a true archivist. Once he even had his paws on the
hard copy of Bill Gates' first Basic program, but he felt compelled to trade it away for
blackmail purposes. Young Bill had written an embarrassingly prophetic infinite loop
called GOSUB UPGRADE.


The trade show freebie bags are among the Rat's best-preserved collections. Among them
are the Nantucket Software bag, the Borland SideKick bag, the Borland Quattro Pro bag, the
Borland Paradox bag and so on and so on.


"Come to think of it," mused the Rat, "Borland International has sold
off everything I've got a bag for."


No wonder the Borlandians tried to push him away from the booth at the last show. And
it looks like several more companies soon are destined for the Rat's pile of historic
bags.


Novell Inc., Apple Computer Inc., Sybase Inc. and several others recently made the
California public employee pension system's bad company list because of their poor
financial performance.


These companies have other things in common, like a rash of attrition at the top,
inability to get product vision in sync with customers and headquarters located within
biting range of the great Microsoft Corp. marketing beast.


The Rat doesn't fault these troubled companies for trying. But sometimes they try weird
things. He remembers one company's big announcement about commercializing its secure
technology for commercial clients-an announcement made at an Armed Forces Communications
and Electronics Association show.


It reminded him of the famous IBM Corp. "OS/2's not ready yet" celebration at
Comdex some years ago. Troubled companies often just kill the messenger when they get bad
news. The only thing they go through faster than vice presidents is public relations
firms.


"I guess I won't be getting any more of their bags," the furry one sighed.


They should just merge and be done with it. After all, the Redmondians have proved that
in the software business, size counts. If Corel Corp. joined the bunch, they would have
everything Microsoft has-all incompatible, mind you, and with no real strategy. But they'd
have everything Microsoft has. And incompatibility has never stopped a merger before.


What would be the name of such a bunch? "How about OutCast?" smirked the
wired one.


Shoving his canvas archive back into the hall closet, the Rat went to help the ratlings
make coasters out of all the America Online CD-ROMs that arrived this week, while
listening to members of Congress grind their gears on C-SPAN.


"Ah, the joys of post-winter evenings in Washington," he murmured.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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