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ATPM 6.07
July 2000


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

The True Spirit of the Holiday

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

—Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787

The Fourth of July here in the US is one of the most misunderstood commemorations on the calendar. Poll 100 people you meet in the streets, and they’ll tell you that the Fourth of July is the real name of the holiday. That’s sort of like calling Christmas the 25th of December.

Ask people what we’re celebrating on that date, and the answers get even more bizarre.

The actual holiday celebrated in the US on July 4th is Independence Day—the day when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. In this daring move, some seriously cheesed off colonists effectively told Great Britain that they weren’t going to take any more abuses from across the Atlantic Ocean, thank you very much.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, spelled it out for all to see:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Sure, the US doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to following up on its promises. There was the slavery issue, the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the proliferation of McDonald’s around the world.

However, you do have to agree that the US provides a free venue for the exchange of thoughts and ideas. A shining example of this ideal can be found in our colleges and universities.

From the first quote I used in this article, you can see that Thomas Jefferson believed education of all citizens was key in keeping the fledgling nation free and well governed. Our public schools, despite what you may read, actually do an adequate job in preparing a significant number of students for advanced education.

In these universities and colleges, freedom of ideas and the right to learn from the knowledge of others are cherished. While I typically never agreed with my classmates, I found that by respecting their ideas, at least I could see their thought process and how they arrived at their opinion. This skill of being able to read people has served me well in my career as a public information officer.

So, if this free expression of ideas and beliefs is a cornerstone of the advanced education system in the US, why is Intel trying to squelch it?

Shira Fischer, a columnist for the Harvard Crimson, reported the following on June 5th:

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Computer Services (FASCS) reluctantly covered and turned off the Science Center’s iMac computer kiosks last week in response to a request from Intel, which sponsored an exhibit in the Science Center as part of the Internet and Health conference.

cider-intel-imacOkay, I can understand Intel preventing, say, the display of iMacs in their corporate headquarter lobby, but asking a university to turn off their iMacs—which students use to access information for papers and projects they’re writing—just so people who attended this Internet and Health conference wouldn’t have to see Intel’s competition? What were they thinking?

First, there’s the matter of simple courtesy. When the computer labs at my alma mater were closed for renovations, it was a real hardship on me. However, I understood that these were improvements that were being made, and knowing that, I could deal with it. But asking university officials to deny students access to the tools they need just because Harvard invested in Macintosh computers, well, that’s just plain dumb.

Even better, the fine folks at Intel were prepared to take matters into their own hands.

“We like to maintain the facilities for students…[but we were] asked in a way that we couldn’t say no,” said Franklin M. Steen, director of FASCS. Steen said he allowed the computers to be covered “only after multiple requests and great reluctance.”

“Usually if we say no we’re done, but this just didn’t stop,” Steen said.

Steen said Intel had brought their own covers for the kiosks, which trapped the heat the computers generated making it impossible to keep them running.

Were they intentionally trying to damage Harvard’s computers? You’ve got to be kidding if these folks at Intel, the largest manufacturer of computer chips in the world, didn’t understand how much heat a computer can throw out and how that affects the operation of those systems.

Just what the heck was Intel afraid of? I mean, I’ve been to events sponsored by Pepsi with a Coke in my hands, and no goons have ever asked me to dump my drink out. Were they afraid that the students were going to use the iMacs, and that was going to make their products look inferior?

Besides, since this was a conference about Health and the Internet, why shouldn’t the students have been able to use any computer which could connect to the Internet? After all, isn’t the Internet a level playing field for any computer platform?

The student responses to Ms. Fischer’s article were quick in coming.

This last point raises an interesting question. Wasn’t Microsoft recently found by a federal judge to be using illegal tactics to control sales in the computer market? Intel is really guilty by association, since its processors were the ones that primarily powered the Windows OS. You figure Intel would get the message by now that using these tactics is wrong.

Unfortunately, some folks are slower to learn than we’d hoped.

According to Fischer, things at Harvard returned to normal earlier than expected.

The covers were removed about halfway through the conference. By 5 PM on Tuesday, some students, and many more conference participants, were standing in lines to check their e-mail at the uncovered kiosks.

The original plan had been to cover the computers until noon on Wednesday, when the Internet and Health conference ended.

“They were immediately full of people,” Steen said.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed at Harvard, but we should all be vigilant. History has proven that a free exchange of ideas and active competition within an industry can only be good. It keeps the decision makers fresh and the product developers coming up with great ideas.

As we celebrate Independence Day here in the US, I hope that my fellow citizens, and those of other countries who cherish liberty and free thought, can understand just how lucky we really are. Also, if you ever find yourself in a situation where some organization is trying to force you to believe its way is the only way, remember these words:

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

—Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816

Copyright © 2000 Tom Iovino, apple Illustration © Jamal Ghandour.

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