Thirteen years and nine months. That's how long this column has been in business. It started in April 1995 with a jape about "Microsoft Sex"--a mythical product that I proposed as a follow-up to the company's amazingly awful Microsoft Bob. Since then, you, I, and my other reader have whiled away the years watching PC hardware, software, and services miraculously evolve from expensive, complex, and buggy to cheap, complex, and buggy.
But with this installment, Full Disclosure is shutting its doors for good. Since everything must go, we're clearing the shelves of material that somehow never saw the light of day, and a fake interview is the easiest way to knit it all together. So here goes:
I: What changes have you seen in your 25 years of covering personal technology?
Me: In the old days, tech geniuses anonymously spent their time trying to improve people's productivity and enjoyment. Now they're full of themselves and spend their time figuring out new ways to get you to watch ads.
I: You've railed for years about software quality. Have you noticed any major improvements?
Me: iTunes for Windows progressed from bricking your computer to merely producing Blue Screens of Death. Vista keeps your machine from running too darned fast. And public relations people seem better than ever at helping to hide massively screwed-up corporate and governmental programming projects from stockholders and citizens.
I: How about artificial intelligence? Any breakthroughs there?
Me: My printer is so clever about predicting ink shortages that it warns me about them several weeks before it actually runs dry. And my smart phone--oh, sorry, I think it dropped the call. You still there?
I: Never mind. How has the Internet improved people's lives?
Me: You can get bug fixes and security updates in mere minutes. And when they don't work, you can instantly google the error messages to help figure out what went wrong.
I: That's it?
Me: Well, you can also find hundreds of bloggers earnestly regurgitating one another's opinions about which disposable gadget or company is currently the coolest. And no matter how crackpot your ideas about anything may be, you can find fellow idiots online who strenuously espouse them with the same impassioned fervor and bad spelling. Oh, yeah, almost forgot: pirated music and movies.
I: What's your favorite new electronic gadget?
Me: My latest ATM card.
I: Hey, wasn't that Sony TZ-2000 laptop you rhapsodized about a couple of months ago recalled for a potential overheating problem?
Me: Yes, though Sony's special Web site initially couldn't figure out whether mine needed the fix, and the company's phone lines were so slammed, I gave up. But their repair folks have finally promised to come to my house and make the fix--nearly a month and a half from now. That burns me as much as the product ever could.
I: Haven't clever new technologies enabled significant enhancements in customer service?
Me: Thank you being for an estimable such value consumer. Please to now rebooting machine and installation the Window system operating anew.
Us: And thanks to you, reader, and to my other one. May we meet again soon, preferably not on a complaint forum.