Sunday, September 12, 2004
  The forger, redux

Jeff Harrell at Shape of Days, who is proving to be pretty much the go-to guy for coverage of the technical aspect of the fake memos, has an interesting post. He says he's had people saying that the reason the memos look like they've been created in Microsoft Word is because Microsoft designed Word to adhere to orthodox typewriting standards. OK, sure. Ya frickin' morons.

Microsoft Word did not spring fully formed from the forehead of Bill Gates in 1998. The first version of Word was a DOS program, released in 1983. Remember DOS, anyone? I first used MS Word on a Mac 512 in 1985. At that point, although fonts were proportionately spaced, they were bitmapped. Outline (scalable) fonts were a pipe-dream. It wasn't until the release of System 6 in the late 80's that some of the features we associate with modern word processing became standard. Apple was king of the hill at this point. Many people were still using Word Perfect under DOS as their primary word processor into the nineties. My first 600 dpi laser printer cost me nearly $2500 in today's money, and that was mid-nineties. I've ridden the desktop publishing revolution. I've played with beta versions of Photoshop. I recall the battles between Aldus Pagemaker and Quark Express. Or Freehand and Illustrator.

I can play the old fogey, 'when I were a lad' card all night. I had an email address in 1989. That was before the Web existed. In 1990, ferchrissakes, my undergraduate physics degree programming class had to write an n-body gravitational simulation in FORTRAN to run on a CDC Cyber 960 under NOS. My summer project that year was writing verification software for a simulation of one aspect of the LEP particle accelerator. It was FORTRAN again, on a VAX 6850 under VMS/DCL using a Textronix VT100 green-screen terminal. Oh, let's go for broke. I played Terry Winograd's SHRDLU on a VAX 10/PDP 11 cluster in nineteen-frickin-seventy-eight, people. I also played a certain hot new game in which the words 'Flood Control Dam #3' attained significance.

OK, so a lot of that is gibberish to most people. And that's precisely my point. If you don't understand what I just wrote, then you are not in a good position to debate why CBS's Bush TANG memos are bogus. I stipulate that Kevin Drum, Markos Zuniga and Oliver 'Whatchoo talkin' 'bout?' Willis fall into that category.


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