PACKET RAT

PACKET RAT

By R. Fink

The Rat was not on the edge of his seat watching last month's TNT movie, 'The Pirates of Silicon Valley,' billed as a gripping account of the marathon struggle between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for techno-dominance in the 1980s.

The cyberrodent channel-surfed his way through most of the movie, hanging around only long enough to satisfy his morbid curiosity about how the mainstream media views the computer industry and its players. It truly doesn't have a clue.

TNT's Web site called the movie a wild ride and promised viewers they would personally 'experience the struggles and successes of the overnight revolution that catapulted [Gates and Jobs] into becoming the most powerful men in the world.'

How thrilling was it to watch Gates drive construction equipment through the desert? Yawn. How inspiring was it to see Jobs transform a simple black turtleneck sweater into the icon of revolution? Not.

But the whiskered one did take note of the eerie portrayal of Gates by Anthony Michael Hall and the Ahab-like vision of Jobs enacted by Noah Wyle. Heck, if the world is that hungry for geek heroes, maybe it's time for the cyberrodent to market his unique acting talents.

The Rat immediately dispatched several of his allegedly intelligent agents to hawk his screenplay treatments about the technology revolution. He will keep on cranking them out until a studio bites.

First up, there's the mother of all techno-sagas. The wily one is considering a pitch to the master of such epics, George Lucas. Any producer who means to capture the truly sweeping nature of the computer revolution has got to go to the man who started it all. Tentatively titled 'Card Wars,' the saga begins with the exploits of young techno-Jedi Hermann Hollerith as he learns the ways of punch cards from an anthropomorphic rodent.

Young Hermann lives long and prospers. But alas, he later turns to the dark side, deleting the first two digits from the year field on his cards and thereby setting up the plot for what will become the story of the year 2000 bug. Around the same time, Darth Hermann founds the evil empire: International Business Machines Corp.

A 'Card Wars' sequel will follow the exploits of Princess Grace Hopper, the wise rodent's next apprentice. Princess Grace tries to turn the force of the card back toward good. But the evil minions of IBM twist her Cobol powers and manage to plant the seeds of the two-digit-year nightmare even deeper. Eventually they succeed in freeing the phantom menace from the cards that had contained it and unleash it on an unsuspecting world.

Wait a nanosecond

The final screenplay of the trilogy details the battles of Darth Gates, the avaricious tool of the IBM empire, against Obi-Wan Jobs, who builds the first desktop PC without an inherent year 2000 problem.

At the sentimental conclusion, the wise old cyberrodent is teaching young Obi-Wan to troubleshoot systems by the power of the force. Obi-Wan learns to trust his feelings, toss aside all his network sniffers and diagnostic software, and focus his thoughts on blasting the bugs out of electronic circuits.

If that doesn't pan out, the Rat always has his memoir as a fallback: 'Bandits of the Beltway.'

''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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