Microsoft Conspiracy Theory #578,361

Fake News written by Paul Strand on Thursday, April 12, 2001

from the it's-that-time-again dept.

"We're sorry, sir, but our Windows 98 computer system must have made a mistake," the clerk told me. I had ordered a ticket to Wellington. The ticket even said Wellington. But I was sitting in Auckland, all because the ticket had the wrong flight number printed on it. Here's a handy tip: when flying the unfriendly skies, be sure to avoid airline companies that rely on Windows for their reservation systems.

But that's not the point of this fake news article. I'm about to reveal one of the most sinister Microsoft conspiracy theories to date, a conspiracy that makes anything on the "X-Files" look amateurish.

After receiving a new ticket to Wellington along with 10 billion frequent flyer miles (cash value: nothing) as compensation for the airline mistake, I headed straight to the airport bar to numb the pain of being trapped with the locals. If you've never dealt with an Aucklander, it's like having teeth pulled (or getting a Microsoft refund, or getting a straight answer from Microsoft tech support, or... well, it's like trying to do anything involving Microsoft).

In the bar I sat down next to another miserable soul and asked if he had gotten stuck on the wrong flight as well. He responded, "No, I live here... I'm upset because I just lost my job."

Warning lights went off in my head. I tried to end the conservation, knowing that he was going to dive into a long-winded story that doesn't go anywhere. "It's a conspiracy, I tell you..." he continued, cutting me off. "It's all a conspiracy..." he moaned.

I signaled the bartender to give me something stronger than beer. The guy went on to explain that he was a US correspodent for a newspaper, dispatched to investigate what kind of technology was on board the US spy plane that landed in China. I signaled the bartender again to just keep them coming.

He dove into his long-winded story, which went something like this:

I went to the home base of the spy plane in Washington State, and headed over to a local bar where I pretended to be an aircraft enthusiast. After making small talk with two privates for awhile, I casually commented, "What a shame losing that spy plane was."

Both privates (heavily drunk, I might add) were quite eager to volunteer information. "Spy plane? What spy plane?' they both laughed. The first guy said, 'What a joke. Here we send out a so-called spy plane with such a low-tech design that it requires pru... prah... propellers, and nobody thinks twice about it."

The other private added, "Yeah, I mean why use a plane for spying that can be picked up so easily? That's stupid... the last time we actually used one of those planes for spying was when... uh... I forget. Hey, what's your name again?"

"Well, if these planes don't get much flight time, I guess you guys hardly have to maintain them?" I shot back. "Actually, that's why we're here," one private said. "Some guys from Microsoft came on the base the other day; they relieved us ground crew fellas and we were all issued week long passes. Pretty sweet, eh? [hick]"

An off-duty MP sitting at the other end of the bar started looking at us funny after the word "Microsoft" was mentioned, so I casually ended the conservation and left. It didn't take an Einstein to realize that Microsoft was up to something dodgy. Knowing that Redmond was just a few miles away, I grabbed a rental car and drove over to One Microsoft Way.

Here I pretended to be a tech reporter for a small town newspaper hoping to get an interview with "my all-time hero Bill Gates, the world's smartest man". I laid it on thick, almost choking to death on the words.

The receptionist, however, just stared at me blankly and said in a voice devoid of personality, "I'm sorry but staff interviews are not permitted. However, you can request a press release from our legal department..." She was cut short by her telephone. She answered, "Microsoft Corporation. Where do you want to go today?"

While she kept saying "Yes, sir" on the phone, I looked up and noticed that a video camera was pointed at me, following my every movement. She abruptly hung up and said robotically, "Chairman Gates wishes to speak with you. Please take the first elevator to the bottom floor and punch in your visitation access code, 95OSR2."

Well, at this point I nearly fainted. Mustering all of my bullshitting skills that I learned while working as an intern at Ziff-Davis, I proceeded to the elevator and punched in my access code. The elevator's Windows ME console blinked, "Your code will expire today on April 4th 2001 at 3:34pm. You have 100 years, 29 minutes, and 59 seconds remaining. Which floor do you want to go to today?" I pressed the button for "" and the elevator began a slow downward descent into Hell... well, the Microsoft sub-sub-basement bunker.

When the doors opened, I found myself in a huge spacious office filled with pure wool carpets, leather chairs, and a small closed fireplace with a kindling basket full of creased $100 notes. The room was surrounded by large "windows", which I later discovered were actually flat-panel monitors showing live video feeds from the surface (I could tell they were fake windows because one of them later bluescreened).

In front of me was a large polished mahogony desk; scattered upon it were stress balls, stress pens, Internet Explorer CDs, and framed newspaper clippings ("Microsoft Acquires Hotmail", "Microsoft Buys WebTV", "Bill Gates Tops Forbes List", etc.)

Mr. Gates started off the conservation. "Hello, Mr... uh..." he prompted. Without thinking, I told him my real name. Oops. "Don't bother taking off your shoes, Mr. Pascoe, he told me. "I have the carpet replaced every weekend. Anyway, I hear that you are planning on writing an article about me."

I hastily replied, "Err... yes! About how your... uh, vision will shape mankind's very existence." The smile widened on Bill's face and he said, "I suppose you want to know how I do it all?" His smile waned as I hesitated, but I quickly recovered my bullshit skills. "Err, yes! How do you manage to mould the entire planet (or dare I say Universe) for a better future? And please excuse my hesitance, I know that you of all people can understand how difficult it is to absorb the evidence of your sheer brilliance."

Wow! I didn't think I could keep up this charade for much longer. I can only spew lies for so long before I go crazy, but Bill was ready to gobble up more bullshit than I or even Microsoft's own Marketing Department could ever create.

I can only thank the Great Penguin for what happened next to get me out of this jam. Bill's secretary raced in to announce that a large van had pulled up to the front entrance of the campus and had vandalized an Internet Explorer logo, replacing it with a green lizard.

Bill and the secretary rushed out of the office to investigate, leaving me behind to do a little snooping. What luck! I pulled up Internet Explorer to refill on bullshit from ZD-Net, and then launched Outlook to dig through Bill's private e-mail.

I hit paydirt. I saved a few e-mails containing the words "China" and "conspiracy" to a floppy and still had time to read the latest ZD-Net feature on how great Windows XP will be. I heard Bill returning, so I quickly covered my tracks by crashing Windows ME (which takes all of 1.3 microseconds using the C:CONCON "known issue").

Bill returned and grimaced at the bluescreen on his computer. "Dammit, I thought this machine had the top-secret crash-proof version of Windows ME installed on it. Oh well." He pressed a large reset button mounted on his desk and then grabbed a gold letter opening which he used to carve an eighth notch into his mahogany desk. "Did I mention that I get a new desk every day?" he gloated. "So, what have you got in mind for your article?" he asked.

I repeated a modified version of the Ziff-Davis feature I had just read, which seemed to satisfy Bill. "Great!" he responded. "Unfortunately, my calendar shows that I've got three companies to acquire today, so I'm a little pressed for time. I'm sorry we can't talk more today, but feel free to send a draft of your article to my _real_ e-mail address, Oh, and before you go, take a stack of IE CDs with you."

Safely back in my hotel room, I pulled up the e-mails. The first was merely a note to his secretary about how the Chinese restaurants in Seattle were involved in some sort of conspiracy to make him pay higher prices. "One waiter overcharged me by $3 dollars!" he complained.

The other e-mail was juicier. I don't remember the exact wording, but it essentially described Microsoft's plan to infiltrate the Chinese government's computer network with NT/2000. Microsoft would place Windows 2000 on the computer network aboard the "spy plane". The Chinese would then be led to believe that the plane contains "advanced" American technology. Of course, they would copy the software to their own computers, believing it to be some kind of American military secret. This would weaken the Chinese for a later US invasion, and would allow Microsoft to more easily monopolize the IT market in China.

A third e-mail mentioned some kind of deal between Microsoft and the US military. Apparently the US would go along with the spy plane conspiracy in exchange for the secret bug-free crash-proof version of Windows.

Other pieces fit into the conspiracy. One, spy planes normally contain a device that destroys sensitive equipment and documents in an emergency, but that device wasn't installed on this particular mission. Two, the plane's home base is just miles away from the Redmond compound.

Armed with this knowledge, I immediately phoned my editor back at home and told him the whole story. He replied, "RUN THAT BABY!!!!" However, his tone changed when I arrived home the next day. It seems my newspaper had been acquired overnight by a Microsoft front company, and I was out of a job. Meanwhile, my luggage and laptop had been sent to Timbuktu "by mistake" (according to the airline). I was told that my luggage might arrive back in New Zealand in "four to six years".

Of course, Microsoft had orchestrated the whole thing. Dammit, I thought I would be safe from them here in New Zealand. It's a conspiracy I tell you! A conspiracy!

The former newspaper reporter finally finished his story. During the guy's spiel, the bartender had supplied me with large quantities of alcohol, and I was in quite a pickled state by now. I started to think in Yodix. I replied, "Will be safe here, you thought. A headquarters in Auckland Microsoft has, you knew not... [hick] After 48 shots of scotch, speak so straight, you will not [belch]."

So there you have it. Take this how you will, but please remember: until you have a memo, it's just a theory.

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