Above: At a press conference beamed live to Microsoft shareholders around the globe,
Bill Gates announces the company's patenting of the binary system.
REDMOND, WA--In what CEO Bill Gates called "an unfortunate but necessary step to
protect our intellectual property from theft and exploitation by competitors," the
Microsoft Corporation patented the numbers one and zero Monday.
With the patent, Microsoft's rivals are prohibited from manufacturing or selling
products containing zeroes and ones--the mathematical building blocks of all computer
languages and programs--unless a royalty fee of 10 cents per digit used is paid to the
software giant. "Microsoft has been using the binary system of ones and zeroes ever
since its inception in 1975," Gates told reporters. "For years, in the interest
of the overall health of the computer industry, we permitted the free and unfettered use
of our proprietary numeric systems. However, changing marketplace conditions and the
increasingly predatory practices of certain competitors now leave us with no choice but to
seek compensation for the use of our numerals." A number of major Silicon Valley
players, including Apple Computer, Netscape and Sun Microsystems, said they will challenge
the Microsoft patent as monopolistic and anti-competitive, claiming that the
10-cent-per-digit licensing fee would bankrupt them instantly. "While, technically,
Java is a complex system of algorithms used to create a platform-independent programming
environment, it is, at its core, just a string of trillions of ones and zeroes," said
Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, whose company created the Java programming environment
used in many Internet applications. "The licensing fees we'd have to pay Microsoft
every day would be approximately 327,000 times the total net worth of this company."
"If this patent holds up in federal court, Apple will have no choice but to convert
to analog," said Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs, "and I have serious doubts
whether this company would be able to remain competitive selling pedal-operated computers
running software off vinyl LPs."
As a result of the Microsoft patent, many other companies have begun radically revising
their product lines: Database manufacturer Oracle has embarked on a crash program to
develop "an abacus for the next millennium." Novell, whose communications and
networking systems are also subject to Microsoft licensing fees, is working with top
animal trainers on a chimpanzee-based message-transmission system. Hewlett-Packard is
developing a revolutionary new steam-powered printer. Despite the swarm of protest, Gates
is standing his ground, maintaining that ones and zeroes are the undisputed property of
Microsoft. Above: Gates explains the new patent to Apple Computer's board of directors.
"We will vigorously enforce our patents of these numbers, as they are legally
ours," Gates said. "Among Microsoft's vast historical archives are Sanskrit
cuneiform tablets from 1800 B.C. clearly showing ones and a symbol known as 'sunya,' or
nothing. We also own: papyrus scrolls written by Pythagoras himself in which he explains
the idea of singular notation, or 'one'; early tracts by Mohammed ibn Musa al Kwarizimi
explaining the concept of al-sifr, or 'the cipher'; original mathematical manuscripts by
Heisenberg, Einstein and Planck; and a signed first-edition copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's
Being And Nothingness. Should the need arise, Microsoft will have no difficulty proving to
the Justice Department or anyone else that we own the rights to these numbers." Added
Gates: "My salary also has lots of zeroes. I'm the richest man in the world."
According to experts, the full ramifications of Microsoft's patenting of one and zero have
yet to be realized.
"Because all integers and natural numbers derive from one and zero, Microsoft may,
by extension, lay claim to ownership of all mathematics and logic systems, including
Euclidean geometry, pulleys and levers, gravity, and the basic Newtonian principles of
motion, as well as the concepts of existence and nonexistence," Yale University
theoretical mathematics professor J. Edmund Lattimore said. "In other words, pretty
much everything." Lattimore said that the only mathematical constructs of which
Microsoft may not be able to claim ownership are infinity and transcendental numbers like
pi. Microsoft lawyers are expected to file liens on infinity and pi this week. ???