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Comment of the Fortnight
20 December 1997
Windows '95 ®©™1 = AT&T '68

Up until 1968, only AT&T equipment could be attached to AT&T's network. As I understand it, the basic argument was that AT&T's equipment was so complex and so sophisticated that if, heaven forfend, anyone else's equipment were hooked up to it, it would do hideous damage to AT&T's finely-tuned system.

Along came a company named Carterfone. They had developed a voice-activated device which would turn on a radio transmitter. AT&T went to court to stop Carterfone.

[The next paragraphs are taken from information which I have been told but have not been able to authenticate.]
At one point in the trial, the Carterfone attorneys demonstrated that their device would function properly even if you held the device a few centimeters from the earpiece of a telephone handset.

The judge asked the AT&T attorneys if they were contending that even under these conditions the device was 'attached' and could still harm AT&T's telephone equipment.

AT&T's counsel said that they were contending exactly that.

The judge didn't buy this argument, and, as they say, the rest is history. This landmark Carterfone decision (as it came to be called) permitted people to attach non-AT&T equipment to their phones as long as it was not for purposes of harming the equipment. It was the beginning of the end of the AT&T monopoly.

Fast forward to 1997, where Microsoft®©™ is claiming that Windows '95 is so complex and so sophisticated that they simply cannot remove Internet Explorer®©™ from it without leaving an utterly useless system.

According to a story in the 20 December 1997 issue of the San Jose Mercury News, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson took a new Micron personal computer running the latest version of Windows '95 and Internet Explorer 3.02 preinstalled, and was able to uninstall it in less than ninety seconds. He is now asking Microsoft to explain to him why they are finding it so difficult to comply with his order to separate the operating system from the browser.

It is said that history never repeats itself, but historical situations do.

Happy Holidays

Have a good Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or whatever type of celebrating you choose to do at this time of year.

See you next year.

The copyright, trademark, and registered trademark symbols are there so that I don't get a tort in the mail from Redmond for "abuse of the sacred name."

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