"May you live in interesting times," says the curse (often said to be of ancient Chinese origin, though scholars dispute that). With all its horror, heartbreak, and occasional highlights, no one can deny that 2001 has been an interesting year, for IT folk as for everyone.
Herewith, a selection of noteworthy utterances that capture some of the key events in the IT year.
On terrorism, the events of September 11, and security measures taken in the aftermath"Osama bin Laden has at his disposal the wealth of a $3 trillion a year telecommunications industry that he can rely on. ... We are behind the curve in keeping up with the global telecommunications revolution." -- General Mike Hayden, head of the US National Security Agency, in an interview broadcast on CBS' "60 Minutes II" news show six months before the attacks. (Feb. 12).
"The face of America changes as of today. The face of IT is going to change." -- Winn Schwartau, president of Interpact, and an author on computer security (Sept. 11).
"I'm scared, not of the terrorists, but of our terror." -- John Perry Barlow, co-founder and vice chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), anticipating increased surveillance and less freedom on the Internet. (Sept. 12).
"I regret to inform you that we are today sending our troops into the modern field of battle with antique weapons. It is not a prescription for victory." -- US Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking Congress to approve sweeping new measures that, among other things, ease electronic surveillance. The bills passed both houses with overwhelming majorities. (Sept. 25).
On economic hard times
"We have power here in California, and the sun is out. That's all we can ask these days." -- Ed Zander, Sun Microsystems president and chief operating officer, announcing the company's dismal earnings forecast for its fiscal third quarter. (Feb. 22).
"I have high-tech burnout. It is kind of a good time to stop working." -- Kelly Geyer, one of a growing number of former technology industry workers signing up for the Peace Corps. (April 4).
"When it comes to the current quarter, I think the only way that describes it is 'the perfect storm,'" Compaq Computer Chief Executive Officer Michael Capellas, estimating the company's third-quarter losses at between US$7.4 billion and $7.5 billion. (Oct. 1).
On the collapse of Web hype
"There was a period a year ago when if you could spell Internet you got five million dollars ... and if you could spell TCP/IP you got ten (million)." -- Former Netscape Communications President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Barksdale, speaking to Harvard Business School students. (Feb 12).
"We're in the middle of the transition to the real new economy, and we have four times as much opportunity ahead as we had before." -- Jon Gantz, chief research officer with International Data Corp. (March 7).
"The idea that Web services solve all known problems is lunacy. ... It's like an English-speaking person saying, 'I just called a French-speaking person and I can't understand a word he is saying,' and for someone to say, 'I can solve the problem; why not call them on a cell phone?'" -- Oracle Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Larry Ellison (Dec. 5).
On the US Department of Justice's proposed settlement of its antitrust case against Microsoft"It's a bit like being a bank robber caught on videotape and the government is saying, 'Oh go on, what the hell.'" -- Larry Ellison (Nov. 12).
"In fishing parlance, this sounds like a catch and release." -- John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group (Nov. 2).
"We think people should know that the actual costs to Microsoft (for software, valued by the company at $830 million, which it proposed to donate to schools as part of a settlement of private lawsuits) will likely be under $1 million. We think a far better settlement is for Microsoft to give their proposed $1 billion -- in cash -- to an independent foundation, which will provide our most needy schools with the computer technology of their choice." -- Apple Computer Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs (Dec. 6).
On Microsoft's Passport authentication system"It lasted 20 minutes (before someone broke in). That's not unbreakable, that's not even fragile. That's booby trapped." -- Larry Ellison (Dec. 12).
On the recording industry's legal assault on Napster, and similar file-sharing services"I'll be busy for the next 48 hours." -- an anonymous Napster user, one of thousands rushing to download songs in advance of a court ruling that threatened to shut down the service (Feb 12).
"Part of Hollywood's problem is that they have a lousy relationship (with) both their creators and their audience. If you are trying to regulate an economy of toasters and cars their model works well, but it does not work for an economy of ideas." -- John Perry Barlow, Electronic Frontier Foundation vice chairman and former Grateful Dead songwriter (Feb 15).
"I wish I knew." -- Napster spokeswoman Karen DeMarco, when asked when the file-sharing service would be running again (July 9).
On the flurry of hacker and malicious code attacks"He was talking to friends, bragging about his skills. He said he was so good that the police would never catch him." -- Cpl. Marc Gosselin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, lead investigator in the case of the teenage hacker known as Mafiaboy. The youth was later sentenced to eight months in juvenile detention. (Jan. 23).
"Maybe this is also Anna's blame, she is so pretty." -- a 20-year-old Dutch man, known as "OnTheFly," identifying himself as the author of a virus masquerading as a .JPG image of Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova (Feb. 14).
"It looks like they've made a Swiss Army Knife." -- Roger Thompson, technical director of malicious code at TruSecure, referring to the Nimda worm, which uses multiple tools to spread and attack systems (Sept. 18).
"Why are people opening files that say 'NakedWife' at work?" -- Susan Orbach, a spokeswoman at antivirus company Trend Micro (March 6).
"Deleting AOL.EXE will free your IQ to go above 85!!! Deleting this file will allow you to spell correctly and use the English language properly." -- Ray Owens, operator of the "Joke A Day" Web site, in a hoax "virus" warning telling users to delete the AOL application file from their computers. Some recipients dutifully followed the instructions. (June 11).
On the launch of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system"I used to be helpful. XP stands for ex-paperclip." -- an actor clad as Clippy, the much-ridiculed help icon introduced with Office 97, and removed as a standard feature from Office XP (May 31).
"Without severe penalties for failing to comply with the consent decree, Microsoft -- as evidenced by past behavior -- has no incentive to obey the law. ... Break-up should be a continual threat available to the Court should it determine that Microsoft fails to comply with the conduct remedy." -- Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America and Christopher Murray of the Consumers Union, in a report attacking Windows XP as a threat to consumer choice and privacy (Sept. 26).
"Fundamentally, the message in this report is that the only way to help consumers is to take technology away from them. I think that's incredibly paternalistic and misguided. It's hard to get the image out of my head of Ph.D. economists patting consumers on the head as they take away their toys." -- Jonathan Zuck, president of the Microsoft-backed Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), reacting to the same report (Sept. 26).
On Hewlett-Packard's plans to merge with Compaq"We won't blow the integration." -- HP Chief Executive Officer, Chairman and President Carly Fiorina. The merger later came into question after major shareholders, including Hewlett and Packard family members, refused to back it. (Oct. 9).
"My favorite theory is that it was aliens." -- Cliff Frost of the University of California's SETI@Home project, after vandals stole some 250 feet (76 meters) of copper cable, disrupting the project, which taps the processing power of volunteers' computers to help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (March 2).
"(The movie) Harry Potter is released this Friday. I want to go on record that I've been dressing like that for years." -- Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates (Nov. 11).
"In the spirit of frankness and directness of the 21st Century, I never saw the movie. To most people at Microsoft, HAL stands for hardware abstraction layer." -- Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, on HAL, the mutinous computer with a mind of its own in Stanley Kubrick's science-fiction classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" (March 13).
"It's a Gap with Apple products." -- Graphic designer Sean Copley, on visiting the first Apple Computer retail store (May 20).
(Gillian Law also contributed to this report.)