What’s Next?

Industry maverick Steve Yobs stunned the world last month with the unveiling of his long-awaited NeBiSH Computer Work Station at San Francisco’s Punch Line nightclub. Before an audience of over 300 spellbound VIPs, Yobs danced across the stage, doing occasional cartwheels as he explained why personal computers, as we now know them, are obsolete.

For months prior to this show, rumors had flown fast and furry over what forms the NeBiSH would take. That Yobs would outdo his former revolutionary work for Cherry Computers was a given. “But then,” as someone pointed out, “Steve lost his Cherry years ago.” Some said that the NeBiSH would put the power of a Cray into the price range of an XT clone. Others said it would be the other way around.

Conjecture about the unveiling was as wild as that about the computer, itself. Predicted theatrical stunts included a Beatles reunion and Yobs, in top hat and cape, sawing his computer in half. In the end, the audience had to make due with four hours of Yob’s enthusiastic monologue, broken only by a few slides and Eric Clapton playing rhythm guitar to the NeBiSH’s improvisational riffs.

The “harbinger of things to come” is a one foot long black foot designed–on commission from Yobs–by Salvador Dali. Inside that foot, however, is so much innovative processing power that someone, somewhere, is bound to find a use for it.

Central to the NeBiSH’s inside workings is the 6803080836 processor on a motherboard which, according to Yobs, was assembled untouched by human hands. “The biggest delay,” he explained, “was in training the chimpanzees.” Also on the motherboard will be an unprecedented eight and a half megabytes of RAM memory, “only seven of which will be needed to run the EUNUCHS-based operating system.”

In an industry first, the video standard, driving a 5,000-by-23 pixel, 40-inch projection display, is display-dBASE. “Every word, every character, every graphic on the screen,” enthused Yobs as he jumped up and down, “is put there by its own, individual ‘@, SAY’ command.”

Of particular note was the absence of any hard or floppy disk drives, which Yobs referred to disdainfully as “the technology of the 70’s.” Instead, storage will be achieved via a revolutionary dual drive capable of handling one optical, removable, readable, writable, erasable, reversible, 256 gigabyte parchment scroll. One such scroll will come bundled with the NeBiSH, complete with a word processor, database, desktop publisher, project manager, and astro-navigator. It will also contain a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, Talmud, rhyming dictionary, 1001 dirty limericks and the complete works of Jacqueline Suzanne.

The speed of these “floptiscroll” drives was only alluded to by Yobs. “Our tests have shown,” he boasted, “that these drives can read a scroll at ten to twenty times the rate of a human hand.”

Nevertheless, judging from the question and answer period at the end of the show, there was some skepticism at the new medium’s practicality. Not only were people bothered by the fact that the two drives could only read one scroll between them, but there was also some negative reaction to the estimated $500 a piece cost of scrolls. “SneakerNet,” admitted Yobs, “will be limited to those who wear Adidas.”

Also missing is a joystick (“the technology of the 70’s again,” sneered Yobs), a mouse (“the technology of the 80’s,”) or a keyboard (“they had those in the last century!”). Instead, user input is handled through special color-sensitive diodes that watch the user’s eyes and sense the pattern of his or her blinking.

The NeBiSH will not work with any currently available printer. Instead, for an additional $2,000, a user can acquire a proprietary, 2,400-dpi, dBASE-based typesetter.

The price of the NeBiSH is, considering its extensive power and revolutionary properties, astonishingly low. The list price for the basic unit, including the video and floptiscroll drive, will be $6,534.21. Low as that is, however, it put the computer out of the range of its target market.

The announcement of that target market was the biggest surprise of the day. “For the foreseeable future,” Yobs told his stunned audience, “the NeBiSH will be available only to organic zucchini farmers. We feel that, because organic zucchini farmers feed the nation, they are the ones with the greatest need of this most powerful of personal computers.

“There is also a practical side to it,” Yobs admitted. “Until someone can figure out how to program for this thing, the available software will be limited. Our surveys have shown that organic zucchini farmers are less concerned than any other computer users with the variety of software available to them.”

When, during the question and answer period, someone commented that the average organic zucchini farmer could not afford a $6,534.21 computer, Yobs merely shrugged. “All of the parts are at the top of their price curves right now,” he explained. “Within two years, we should be able to bring the price down below sixty-five thirty.” When someone else asked him how an average person will be able to acquire a NeBiSH, Yobs shot back “Hoe.”

Limited editions of the NeBiSH Computer Work Station will become available to developers early next year. Within six months of that, Yobs has promised, the operating system will become available. The first shipments to organic zucchini farmers will begin during the 4th quarter, although Yobs declined to say of what year.

As the unveiling ceremony broke up, it was clear to all who attended that the NeBiSH Computer Work Station was the computer of the hour. What was unclear, however, was the time of day.

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