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OPINION:
Looking for Diversity in Computing

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Contributed by Stanislav Kelman
osOpinion.com
April 2, 2001


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 still exist.

In This Story:

Windows Everywhere

No Place To Go

Job Market

Resistance is Futile

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."

Windows Everywhere

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 still exist.

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 Go

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.

Job Market

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."

Resistance is Futile

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.

Talkback Forum


Author's background:
Stanislav Kelman is having a hard time fitting in. He much prefers WordPerfect to Word and MacOS to Windows, but constantly finds himself cornered into using Microsoft products. He maintains a list of his past technology-related editorials on TechOpinion.org. He also invites you to visit LetItBe.org, a site where you can learn more about him than you might care to know. Stanislav would love to hear your reaction to his opinion columns, so feel free to drop him a line at osOpinion@LetItBe.org.

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