Once upon a time the 600-pound gorilla on the corporate computing block was Big Blue — IBM.
One of the early Apple TV adds has a pair of old suits looking down at younger suits entering the building. These young ones (including the new wave of … women!) were carrying Macintosh SE30s. That would seem to date the memory back to about 1990. The old suits asked the redundant question: why were they bringing their “toy computers” to work. The message, then and still with Apple, is that their products “just work”.
A cynic might plausibly argue that the success of the SE in business owed less to Apple than to the way the hardware ran MicroSoft Excel (from a 1.4 MB floppy!) — and to the fact that Excel was way in advance of the clunky VisiCalc application to which behemoth mainframes were shackled.
You’ll still see SE30s in many laboratories — even if only used as door-stops, or under office desks. Plug ’em in, switch ’em on. Most still dong cheerfully, and boot up OS 7.5.5. Choose the right day of the week and you may get Arthur Dent telling you This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
We thought that neat, at the time.
Somehow that all seems relevant to Malcolm — but then he has a very disturbed thought-process.
Was Romney’s stab at PBS singularly ill-advised?
What he said to the moderator, Jim Lehrer, was:
I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.
The “cost”of that “subsidy”, as PBS quickly made clear is trivial:
Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8.
Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online — all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.
Far from huge tranches of money from China to pay for it, the PBS “subsidy” amounts to 0.001% of the federal budget. Were that the scope of a President Romney’s ambitions to cut the deficit, he — and we — really would be in trouble.
All this, and much more, is being very elegantly and eloquently made by Charles M. Blow at the New York Times:
Big Bird is the man. He’s 8 feet tall. He can sing and roller skate and ride a unicycle and dance. Can you do that, Mr. Romney? I’m not talking about your fox trot away from the facts. I’m talking about real dancing.
Since 1969, Big Bird has been the king of the block on “Sesame Street.” When I was a child, he and his friends taught me the alphabet and the colors and how to do simple math.
Do you know how to do simple math, Mr. Romney? Maybe you and the Countess Von Backward could exchange numbers.
Blow is vamping on the educational values of PBS in general, and Sesame Street in particular. When told his American-born grandchildren had “etiquette” as part of their pre-school daycare experience, Malcolm had to control his eyebrows. Yet that, too, is in the overt Sesame Street curriculum:
Big Bird and his friends also showed me what it meant to resolve conflicts with kindness and accept people’s differences and look out for the less fortunate. Do you know anything about looking out for the less fortunate, Mr. Romney? Or do you think they’re all grouches scrounging around in trash cans?
Moreover, anything must be a good thing that dilutes and uplifts the pabulum, notably those crude (and, to Malcolm, violent) oriental- made cartoons, which is the staple fodder on the commercial networks.
Were the Obama campaigners and their assorted PACs truly Machiavellian they would be running Save Big Bird! ads in the post-school hours. All that is needed is a trim of that clip of Romney:
It would work on the same basis as those confectionary and SimpleWare [©] displays so adjacent to the supermarket check-out. Never underestimate the niggle factor:
Mom! They’re not going to hurt Big Bird, are they?
Basic, under-powered and over-stated — rather like the Macintosh SE — but it might. similarly, “just work”.