John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Sunday 7 March 2004
This week there has been this constant and annoying buzzing in my ear and I have only know figured out what it is: Bill Gates going on about e-Postage. The chance of hundred of millions of email users paying for the privilege is ridiculously remote so why is he stumping this incredibly dumb idea?

My guess is that he had to think up something to say to the "global leaders" that they would understand. That it would be sensible or useful was not a priority.

You can picture the scene: imagine a sterile banquet room at a sterile hotel around which are seated a bunch of old guys in business casual trying to decide whether to devote more attention to the shrimp cocktail or a whiney Gates as he blathers on about spam. The setting is Davos, a sizable town nestled high in the Swiss Alps. Davos was trendy about a hundred years ago as a health spa, but nowadays serves as a large, obsolete ski resort for people with more money than taste. It is sort of the Eliot Lounge of skiing. Like the Eliot Lounge it is the kind of place John "Liveshot" Kerry would go to pick up 40-something divorcees, a place calculated to give you that sinking, queasy decrepit feeling.

Just to fill in the picture remember that Davos was the inspiration for Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain" (Der Zauberberg). If you have not read this banal, bourgeois interlude count yourself lucky. The idea is that a young man goes to Davos to visit his sick cousin and lurks around to nurture an unhealthy attraction to a eastern European woman and discover various meaningless things about life and the decline of western civilization. The hero is a perverse version of Nietzche's superman, in the same way that an orc is a perversion of an elf. The book is littered with obscure references to current events (ie 1916-1924) and the general tone is to emphasize the sickliness of Weimaresque Germany with the nauseating suggestion that somehow getting sick is normal and that everything will be vaguely alright, if unsatisfying, in the end. Of course, as we know now everything was NOT alright in the end. First they all starved, then there was a revolution and then the Nazis came to power and it just got worse from there.

The site of this lukewarm misfire of a novel now serves as a sanatorium of a different kind: a meeting of limousines where the decrepit heirs of the war mumble their thoughts to one another for a few days every year. For the rest of us the only sign this is happening is a dribble of incomprehensible press releases about e-Postage from Der Zauberberg.

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