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Find the name of the game, ASAP

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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Find the name of the game, ASAP

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1988, The Syracuse Newspapers

I first reported on the activities of the International Substandards Organization some time back. Now that another year has gone by since my last article on the ISO, I'd like to bring you up to date on what this major policy-making body has been doing.

First I should point out that the timing of these reports is merely coincidental. The ISO conducts its annual meeting each year in the middle of March, and by the time I am able to sift through the hundreds of meeting notes (often written in a foreign language, or, even worse, in my own handwriting), the calendar always seems to be coming up on April 1.

This has caused some readers to question whether I should delay my reporting. They feel that the revelations of the impossible-to-believe activities of the ISO can be misconstrued if they are published so close to the day set aside each year for pranks. But rather than delay my articles, I'd rather assure all readers that everything that I report in regard to the ISO is as factual as the occasion allows.

With that out of the way, I must report that this year's ISO meeting was marked by unusual controversies.

Delegates from Japan, which makes up the largest voting bloc, lobbied successfully for the establishment of international substandards for the naming of products. Many of the other delegates opposed the move when they learned that the Japanese planned to secure full veto power over the use of names that did not meet with what they termed "melodious'' criteria.

American delegates, in particular, were upset. They cited the confusion over many of the names for products now on the market. A representative from Kalamazoo complained about the alphabet-soup terms he had encountered.

"I hear ROM and RAM all the time,'' he told the ISO. "What do they mean? And HQ? And what's DAT? What's wrong with names like `phonograph' and `adding machine'?''

In an attempt to sort out some of the confusion, the ISO established two groups to study the situation. A group called ACRO will meet this summer in Japan, while a committee named NYM will convene in the Benelux countries during a CAD-CAM conference in the fall.

A surprise came near the end of the ISO's session when Middle Eastern member states tried to take over the organization. In a power play never before experienced in ISO history, Israel and Egypt attempted to push through a memorandum shifting the site of the ISO's headquarters from Geneva, Switzerland, to Jebed, in the Gaza Desert.

Most delegates had not heard of Jebed before, and some asked about the Gaza Desert as well. (In fact, one representative continued to ask about what was "for dessert'' long after he was apprised of his syntactical error.) However, a coalition of African states managed to table the motion before the two Mideast nations were able to bring it to a full vote.

Neither Israel nor Egypt gave any explanation of why they wanted the headquarters moved, and their silence brought swift condemnation from western members. A British delegate, pointing out that Israel and Egypt were no doubt interested in maintaining Jebed's status as the location of the largest goober farm in the Gaza region, suggested that the two nations were trying to set up an International Peas-Keeping Force, which the Israeli delegate denied over cocktails the next day.

Otherwise, the ISO's yearly meeting was dull and routine. Members voted to ban "boom boxes'' from all public streets in affiliated countries (including the United States and Canada, but excluding British Columbia and Staten Island), and a measure to require copy-protection devices on the liner notes of recordings was approved unanimously; apparently, a strontium-90 insert at the edge of each record jacket and CD liner card will disable Xerox-type copiers permanently.

When a delegate from Byrd Station argued that such drastic steps should not be necessary, he was taken out of the hall and stripped of his Walkman.

That's this year's report. As I have repeatedly stated, often to little avail judging from the avalanche of mail each time I report on the ISO, please don't ask me for details on these or other actions taken in Geneva, since I have told you more than I know already.

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