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640 Kilobytes

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It's supposed to be a joke.

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In a small dark room illuminated by the dull cyan glow of a monitor sat a blond, bespectacled programmer. He was hunched at a primitive computer, furiously tapping away at the keyboard, creating a program that would change his life in ways much greater than he yet realised.

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash, and the room was filled with an evil, blazing red light. The startled programmer turned around and saw a sight that staggered his mind and harrowed his soul. There, surrounded by a vortex of flame, stood the Devil himself. He radiated such a terrible vileness that the programmer winced and shielded his eyes with his hands. "Whaagh!" he exclaimed, a combination of expressions of surprise and bewildered pain.

Said the Devil, "William, I presume?"

"What the hel-" William checked himself. "Uh, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be somewhere in the aether fighting God or something?"

"Oh, God gave up on your pitiful planet aeons ago." Satan chuckled. "He went off to find greener pastures with sheep that listen to their shepherd, if you like Jesus's metaphor. And now that I'm free to do with this world as I please, there's going to be pain and suffering spread across it, and I'm going to make it happen with a minimum of effort." He stepped towards William. "And can you guess how?" he boomed.

William was by now terribly uneasy. It was all he could do to mutter, "H...h-how?"

"Computers!" thundered the reply. "They're going to take over everything in a few years, for hell's sake! What better way to control the world than through software, then? Well, are you listening?"

William stopped mumbling something to himself and nodded.

"Now," continued the Devil, "I am going to make this coming infotech revolution - that's what they're going to call it - a vehicle for my own purposes. And all I need to do is start you off on-"

"Me?? What, uh I mean how, why, um, well what do you mean?"

The Archfiend was clearly enjoying his confounded predicament. "There's something I like about you, William. You're smart enough to make software, but not smart enough to make good software. That's going to come in very handy for me, you see."

William was now coming to terms with having Satan in his room, but he wasn't enjoying the experience. And, he had just been insulted. "What do you mean?" he repeated.

"It's easy, kiddo. Your programs, though they appear good and user-friendly, are filled with a million minor inconveniences and a few major holes. Now you go on making stuff like that, and I'll make it sell millions, making you rich and famous. Then those hapless people will be stuck with using your crappy products and will suffer in pain, frustration, anger, torment!" He roared the greatest evil laugh ever to fall upon mortal ears.

The 'rich and famous' part had caught William's interest. However his conscience was troubling him, the way four-year-old children tend to trouble people. Besides, he didn't like criticism (especially when it was true) and he had his doubts. "I don't get it," he said. "If my programs are so crappy, why would anyone buy them?"

The Devil gave the greatest wicked smile. "You leave that to me, lad. I'll get your stuff selling at first - you do remember I have infinite power, and people are idiots besides - and soon it'll have enough momentum to approach world domination. If everyone is using your products, then everyone else will have to, and no one will be able to switch, since you'll have gratuitously messed up compatibility."

"And why do I need to do your work to become successful? Why can't I make it big on my own without performing a Satanic mission in the process?"

"With your worthless software? Don't make me laugh!" He laughed anyway. "Face it, kid, you need help big-time. And since I'm going to be doing my part from underground (figuratively), you can't stop me, so what's your big deal?"

William's conscience was squirming desperately. Since it didn't form too large a part of his soul, William would normally not have been very bothered. However, being incited by the Devil's insults, the conscience made one last heroic attempt. "So you're going to flood the world with my, uh, 'bad' software whether I like it or not? What if I stop programming altogether?" He tried to make it sound threatening, though he knew that that couldn't be done. He went on. "What of your great plan then, eh?"

"If you do that, you'll be a foolish little twerp," fumed Lucifer. "You think you, a puny mortal, can upset My plans? Do you think you're the only incompetent programmer in the world?" William shrank. "Besides, look at what you'd be giving up: fame, fortune beyond your wildest dreams! What will it profit you trying to be good? Everyone's going to hell anyway -- get rich while you can, boy."

William's conscience gave up the losing struggle, cursed the world in general and William in particular, and threw itself off a cliff screaming it never liked him anyway.

Satan could see William was now unburdened. "Deal?" he asked.

William took a deep breath. "Deal," said he.

"Good to know we're on friendly terms." Satan turned to William's computer. "Say, what's this program you're working on, an Operating System?"

"Oh, that's not really my idea. It's totally copied from Apple's Mac OS. It's not finished yet, and anyway I shouldn't take the credit for it."

"It doesn't have to be, and you should," the Devil said. He was examining the program code without ever touching the computer. "Hey," he said shortly, "it only supports upto 640 kilobytes of RAM?"

"Well, yeah, but shouldn't that be enough for anybody?"

"Good thinking." Satan finished looking through the program's innards. "I like it," he said. "I like it a lot. I can see it's going to do really well," he added with an extra gleam in his already fiery eyes. He then turned to leave, and a vortex of fire spiralled up around him. He stopped, and looked back. "Wait, what's it called?" he asked.

"I haven't thought of an name for it yet," William replied.

"Call it Windows," said Satan and disappeared, leaving William Henry Gates III to wake with a start from an extremely unsettling dream.

- - -

"640 kilobytes [of RAM] ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, on why DOS and Win 3.1 can't make use of higher memory. He actually said that.


Semirrahge (July 5th, 2002, 1:58 pm)

Yeee-essss!!!! AWESOME! A joke, yes, and undeniably rough - but fun. Much more enjoyable than my funny story... Hehehehhe

Good Read..

versifier (January 13th, 2003, 4:33 am)

I enjoyed reading this... very well used language...

And also it had a funny but believable ending :)

Good work !


drd (March 24th, 2003, 8:51 pm)

ROTFLMAO and crying too!!!

Damn yeah! I knew it all along. The devil had to be involved in windows somewhere along the line!

I'm changing over to Linux Red Hat....

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