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Wiring babies for the Internet

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Wiring babies for the Internet, and more ISO substandards

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1995, Al Fasoldt

Activities of the International Substandards Organization are hard to follow, but again this year I've been able to track down a report on the ISO's annual meeting. This year's highlight was a new substandard for Internet access.

As you already know, Internet access can be quite a chore. You need an account on an online service or large bulletin-board system, or you need a dedicated Internet connection of the kind found at universities.

This would all change under the ISO plan.

With the goal of universal Internet access in mind, ISO members approved a mandatory requirement that all newborn Americans be assigned an Internet node ID—in other words, all babies would have a unique e-mail address and would be reachable via their Internet node router identification address for the rest of their natural lives. (Don't worry if this seems too technical; ISO members said the same thing themselves, but progress is progress, after all.)

The ISO will be issuing guidelines for this first requirement in an attempt to get doctors who deliver babies to assign the Internet IDs on the spot. This would be the fastest way, according to ISO members. A sub-proposal calls for the Internet ID to be written on the bracelet all babies wear after birth, although considerable time was wasted at the annual meeting in a debate over whether babies are actually born with such bracelets or get them in some mysterious manner later. (No one in the ISO seemed to know.)

A delegate from San Jose suggested that birth is the ideal time for implantation of PCMCIA modems under the skin, in a patch similar to the birth-control and anti-smoking patches already worn by some adults. This was eventually defeated over humanitarian concerns that annual battery replacement would pose a danger to pediatricians, and the ISO instead approved a stipulation that all children, from birth, be required to use modem-equipped highchairs, cribs and car seats.

An ISO representative from Fisher-Price got approval for a requirement that parents be required to purchase a new version of Etch-a-Sketch that incorporates a pen-computing module called Etch for Windows.

Despite general laughter over another delegate's remark that placing an "R" in front of the name would be appropriate for those times when baby is rejecting the contents of the morning milk bottle, the proposal received wide endorsement from the software industry. Microsoft is working on a beta version of the main software, tentatively called "Wince 95," and plans to have it ready next year. Or maybe the year after.

Schools and day-care centers will be required to install Unix computers and hire system managers. Federal highway funds will be supplied through a new gasoline tax generated by higher usage of the Information Superhighway, although diesel vehicles will be excluded if they are equipped with cellular modems.

The ISO's mandates are scheduled to take effect a year from now, on April 1, 1996. A substandard document describing the changes is being prepared. Please don't ask me for it, since I have told you more than I know already.

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