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At Large: Next year never dies

At Large: Next year never dies

From deep within his jungle hideaway, Matthew JC. Powell plots the overthrow of civilisation . . .

I have a dastardly plan. Nefarious, even. If I were wealthier and balder I could be a villain in a James Bond movie - such is the grandeur of my depraved plan.

And what, you ask, is my plan? Well, I can't just tell you, can I? I'd have to kill you then, and I don't like to do that, especially on a Wednesday. Of course, if I had you tied up on a table with a circular saw about to rend you left from right, or suspended above a pool full of piranhas with a laser of some sort slowly cutting the rope, I could explain the plan in all its detail then leave the room while you work out some sort of escape.

But I'm not that foolish. The broad strokes of the plan, however, are already in place, so what can it hurt to reveal them to you?

The first stage was to convince computer programmers that they absolutely could not afford the extra two bytes of memory required to handle four digit years. "Indulge yourselves in every way," I told them. "Multicoloured user interfaces on text editors - go for it! Silly noises every time the program does anything - must have! Animated boxes that do nothing but say who wrote the program - that's your claim on immortality, guys. But two extra bytes required every time someone uses a date - never, never, never". And besides, I convinced them, who will still be using your software in the year 2000?

Next stage was to convince the world that computers were essential tools, not expensive indulgences. You need to type the occasional letter? Throw away that typewriter, you need this snazzy text editor with the colourful interface! You keep names and addresses in a notebook? No no no, use this way-cool database! You can put little stars beside people's names to indicate how much you like them and when they reach a certain level it goes "bing"!

Making self-funded retirees believe they need e-mail and Web access with full- motion video was not easy, but I can be very persuasive when I have to be.

Then, the plan began to unfurl. People realised that critical mass had been reached, and that the sheer number of computer users out there meant that the old, flawed software would indeed still be in use when the date clicked over. At first the consequences weren't clear, but gradually pennies began to drop, and the industry began looking for what I desperately hoped it would not find - a sensible solution to the whole mess.

I had to act fast. Obviously, the person with the most ability to save the world was the man whose software ran on the most computers - Bill Gates. This humanitarian and philanthropist billionaire could bring my whole plan to its metaphorical knees with the swish of a pen. I had to get him out of the way, so I concocted a plan to bring the weight of the entire US Government to bear against him. I had to keep him distracted from his natural desire to make the world a more beautiful and stable computing environment.

But what, I thought, if the US Government sees through my plan and frees Gates? I began to panic - if the plan is not brought to fruition I may never become the supreme ruler of everything!

The details are a little sordid, so I won't go into them. Suffice it to say that I found a way to keep the US Government - Congress, Judiciary and Executive branches - so preoccupied with other issues that they wouldn't take the time to think about the long-term consequences of paralysing Microsoft with litigation.

So the plan is in place, the people who could stand in my way have been sucked into a vortex from which they will find it difficult to escape. Perhaps I've said too much, revealed too many of my cards. Perhaps some of you will now try and stop me. Or perhaps it's already too late . . .

(Cue evil "bwahahahahaaa" laughter to fade and roll credits, implying a sequel next summer).

Epilogue

Incidentally, when I'm not plotting to change the world forever, I'm still trying to improve it for a few unfortunate folks. I haven't yet cut my beard or my hair, as I promised I would at the end of last year, because the money hasn't come in yet. If you don't believe I'm serious about it, be assured I am. All money raised will go directly to the Leo and Jenny Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation to assist research projects. There is nothing I am more serious about than this.

The more money comes in, the balder I will get. Then I'll be a Bond villain. Can anyone lend me a white cat?


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