I first published this in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April, 1996. Back then, Netscape dominated the browser wars and Microsoft was an online newcomer. Everyone was on modems and Compuserve and AOL were still players. There was no Google, WebCrawler ruled the search scene (and AltaVista was a hot newcomer). I think of it as when the Internet was fun.
GATESY AT THE BAT GATESY AT THE BAT
With apologies to Ernest L. Thayer
The outlook wasn’t brilliant in Seattle on that day:
Their servers weren’t that busy, and costs weren’t yet defrayed.
And when the Web exploded and then Netscape did the same,
You couldn’t help but notice MSN was pretty lame.
The straggling few that checked it out didn’t seem to care,
And from the Justice Department, “I said that things were fair.”
Some thought, “If it weren’t MSN but the Internet instead –
We’d be in real trouble if Bill Gates were on the Web.”
But AOL preceded Gatesy, as did Compuserve,
And those who did subscribe got the service they deserved.
So the stricken multitude sat looking pretty dead,
For there seemed little chance of getting Gatesy on the Web.
But Compuserve got subscribers, millions since last fall,
And AOL, the much despised, gave disks away to all,
And when the dust had settled, and men saw what had transpired,
Everyone was on the Net, and in Bill Gates there was a fire.
Then from five million modems and more there rose a lusty yell,
“If Microsoft rules the Net we’re better off in Hell.”
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled in the flat,
For Gatesy, mighty Gatesy, was planning exactly that.
There was ease in Gatesy’s manner as he stepped up to the Web,
There was billions in his pockets and bad hair upon his head,
And when, responding to the jeers, he smiled with aplomb,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Bill Gates on CD-ROM.
Ten million modems were upon him as he bought his first connection,
While everywhere WinSock crashed and drove them to distraction.
Then, while Netscape answered, with V.2 and then V.3,
Defiance flashed in Gatesy eyes, “I’ll give out mine for free.”
And now the challenge mounted, as Java came from nowhere,
And Gatesy stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there,
“I don’t need your stinking Java,” Gatesy firmly said,
“That ain’t my style,” said Gatesy, “I’ll put Visual Basic on the Web.”
From the Modems overloaded there went out a muffled roar,
Like the beating of storm-waves on a stern and distant shore,
“Kill him! Break his Windows!” shouted someone on the Net.
And it’s likely they’d have killed him, but Gatesy weren’t done yet.
Looking like a billion bucks, great Gatesy’s visage shown,
He hemmed and hawed and double talked and bade the game go on.
He signaled he was open, and in the end you knew,
If he couldn’t just ignore it, he’d use Java too.
“Fraud!” cried the millions, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Gatesy and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his brain cells strain,
And they knew, to Gatesy, open standards were a pain.
The man who bought DaVinci, and Ansel Adams too,
Didn’t like anyone telling him what he ought to do.
And just now Netscape holds the ball and won’t seem to let it go,
But Gatesy promises to shatter it with the force of his next blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the weather is quite nice,
Web surfers are playing somewhere and clicking with their mice,
At Netscape men are laughing, and cranking out code lines,
But there is no joy in Seattle – and they’re working overtime.