Diversity is one of
those politically correct terms that make their way into every
feel-good marketing presentation. Politicians love to talk about it.
Government bureaucrats spend their lifetimes making sure that nobody
gets mistreated just because they happen to be different. It almost
seems like the golden age of mandatory tolerance and unconditional
acceptance is finally upon us.
But none of the above applies when it comes to computing. Somehow
it is considered perfectly okay to stereotype a colleague who is a
Mac fan as a backwards hippie.
Anybody who does not have a generic tower running Microsoft
Windows and Microsoft Office is doomed to be forever an outcast. No
matter how many sparks fly on Slashdot, MacCentral, BeNews and
osOpinion, things never seem to change.
As John Dvorak once said, "The beige computer is part of a
bigger, more depressing picture of colorless life in America."
With all the talk about open standards and cross-platform
software development, it's easy to get an impression that we are
entering the new era of universal compatibility.
But in reality, being an alternative operating system user is as
difficult as ever. Pretty much all of the same issues that turned
the very concept of peaceful platform coexistence into an oxymoron
IT departments everywhere are both unwilling and unable to
support multiple operating systems. In fact, even Microsoft is
having a hard time persuading them to upgrade to the latest version
of Windows. Mention MacOS or Linux to them and they might look at
you as if you were insane.
Don't even think about trying to advocate BeOS or OS/2 in the
workplace -- most system administrators simply wouldn't know what
you're talking about.
No Place To
In the meantime, the use of proprietary file formats has reached
its all-time high. Many human resource departments actually require
that you submit your resume in a Microsoft Word format. In other
words, alternative OS users need not apply -- their RTF-formatted
resumes will never come out right.
Even the Internet, which used to serve as a refuge for all those
who didn't quite fit in, is no longer very accepting. In a lot of
cases, Web masters actually won't even let you see their sites
unless you come there armed with the right version of either
Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer.
Worse yet, not only do you have to use a particular browser, but
you must also have all the right plug-ins installed.
Look at virtually any help-wanted ad for an office position and
you might notice a rather disturbing trend. Applicants are no longer
expected to be proficient in word processing or graphics design, but
rather specifically in Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop.
You might be a brilliant writer, but you are not gonna get a job
unless you know how to use the Footnote feature. Likewise, it really
doesn't matter if you are the most talented artist in the world,
what really counts is whether you know how to properly apply the
Motion Blur filter. In the year 2001, Mark Twain and Picasso would
be squarely out of luck.
If you are an architect, you should be an expert in AutoCAD,
preferably the same revision that is used at the company you want to
work for. Desktop publishing in anything but QuarkXPress is also
almost unheard of. In most cases, you are not allowed to select the
best tool for the job, but must simply use the one that's considered
an "industry standard."
Special natural abilities, intelligence and education are worth
next to nothing, but mindless motor skills get rewarded handsomely.
An ordinary database administrator who does SELECT queries all day
long might bring home more money than the whole dazzling cast of
leading Broadway performers.
More and more jobs simply turn you into a slave to the almighty
computer. An employee is no longer a person, but merely a robotic PC
operator incapable of learning or creativity. You are "just another
brick in the wall."
Get used to it.