David Smith: ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for that article by Andy Grove. I actually read that a Congressman blamed the entire stock market mess on business people, saying the bubble was caused by their lies, not investor greed. I wish every member of our government would read that article.’


House Majority Leader Dick Armey said on yesterday’s Meet the Press – twice, lest there be any mistake – that at these depressed levels the stock market had no place to go but up. ‘What other direction can it go?’ Well, I can sure think of one other possible direction.


I got this great new Nokia 6360 cell phone. It’s a little bigger than my old one, but it seems to have stronger signal strength and lots of nice new touches.

One of the reasons I chose it was its ability to store up to 500 names, with 4 numbers each, and (it brags right on the box) to synch with the address book in my computer.

Now that’s cool. And it makes sense. Almost anyone who has a cell phone is likely to have a computer at home or at work, so this is really a very basic function. Sure beats keying in 500 names and 2000 phone numbers by hand.

Like a boy on Christmas morning, I ripped open the box – a box maybe 10 times as large as the cell phone itself, with plenty of room for more stuff – and eventually discovered that if you actually wanted to synch your phone and your computer, you’d need to buy a DLR-3P serial cable. Whatever that is.

Is this some sort of punishment?

Is it compounded by a layman’s inability to find an offering of such a cable on the Nokia website?

Does one enter a special hell when one visits an AT&T store (one having purchased the phone from AT&T) to find that, no, they don’t sell the cable either – ‘try Radio Shack’?

Oh, and guess what – you need special software. It’s free, but it’s not included in the package. You need to sign on to and download an 18.9-megabyte file, plus a 1.6-megabyte manual – which if you don’t happen to have broadband is more than a small chore.

Can I ask a really stupid question? If the Finns can make a phone that – though but 4 ounces – can do the magic this one does, why would they not have the technical expertise to include the cable and software in the box? Even if it meant charging $189 for the phone instead of $179? Why would they not, at the very least, make it really, really easy to order these things?

In keeping with the theme, I called Compaq last week – it was not my best week – to order a CD read-write drive for my laptop. Checked very carefully to be sure it would be compatible, dropped my $280, and before I could count one-one-UPS-man, two-one-UPS-man, three-one-UPS-man, there was my CD-RW drive. Without a single word of instruction. But how hard can this be?

Just plug and play in the multi-bay. (See? I’ve learned these words and can make them rhyme. Just plug and play in the multi-bay. Just plug and play in the multi-bay!)

Toss on a CD-RW disk, close the drive door, and copy up to 650MB of files onto the CD.

Except, well, no, turns out you can’t. You need special software for that. Nobody at Compaq mentioned the needed software, nor could they sell it to me. (‘It should come with the drive,’ suggested one Compaq rep. Well, indeed it should. But it doesn’t, and he couldn’t sell it to me, either.)

The point of all this is just to vent a little, on the assumption that you’ve had this kind of experience yourself, and may get a vicarious vent out of it yourself.

Can’t these companies test their products on real people? Their mothers, say? Or the guy who runs the sandwich shop down the street?

These products are fantastic! A little thing that, put to my ear while taking a ferry across Great South Bay, allows me to talk to any phone on in America for less than a dime? Another that lets me copy the equivalent of 1300 full-length books to a single CD in minutes? If you tried to do that with monks, by hand, in the same amount of time, you’d need (by my rough calculation) a minimum of 300,000 monks – and I am talking straight steno, no illuminated manuscripts.

These products are amazing!

Wouldn’t it be nice if they worked when you got them?

What kind of technical genius would be required to include instructions, a cable, and the needed software – or to least make them very easy to buy? In short, to put on a few finishing touches to make the customer happy when he took the product out of the box?

Thanks. I feel better now.

Tomorrow: Back to business.


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