From our science correspondent in Redmond, WA
Putting two and two together became a little easier yesterday, when Microsoft launched WonderNumbers, its long-awaited upgrade to mathematics.
Mathematics is the foundation of all science. Physics is just applied mathematics, and even the "softer" sciences generally use measurements and statistics to determine the significance of their results. Indeed, since nature operates according to mathematical laws, mathematics can be considered the language — the operating system, in computing terms — of the universe itself.
In today's world, computer operating systems keep getting upgraded. And so I decided to write a short comic piece in which Microsoft upgrades mathematics to make it more user-friendly and support better applications.
The story is written in the style of satirical magazine The Onion, which has published many amusing spoofs including several at Microsoft's expense. Unfortunately, The Onion does not accept submissions from non-staff writers, or I would have sent it to them. Instead I had to submit it to the usual genre markets. The piece was accepted for the first issue of a new magazine called As Of Yet Untitled — since the magazine never appeared, it's unclear whether that was a working name or would have been the actual name of the magazine. The editor failed to reply to queries about the status of my story or his magazine, but I could smell the stench of death arising from the project, so I withdrew the story and started circulating it elsewhere. This is one of the hazards of the writing life, but it's always annoying when a sale evaporates.
Eventually the story was picked up by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (who had published my earlier story "Night Shift on the Support Line"). They were somewhat nervous about the possible consequences of mentioning Microsoft by name, as any legal dispute would bankrupt the magazine regardless of outcome. (Andromeda Spaceways is based in Australia, where magazines do not necessarily have the same legal rights that American publications such as The Onion rely upon.) Several emails flew back and forth in which we discussed using a fictionalised version of the company, e.g. Microshaft. But in the end the editors decided to risk the wrath of Bill Gates and publish the story using the real name of Microsoft. Bravo! And the sky didn't fall in — not yet, anyway....
There are two audio recordings of this story. The earlier version on my audio page is read by myself. Subsequently the story was podcasted by StarShipSofa as part of an omnibus show 1h36m long, with my story beginning at 5m08sec. They really went the extra mile with arrangement and production, so I recommend the StarShipSofa version over my recording, if you're OK with the long file size.