The Last Man off Standard: A True Story, with Moral

By McGowan, David | Constitutional Commentary, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The Last Man off Standard: A True Story, with Moral


McGowan, David, Constitutional Commentary


A lone figure stares into the blank blue screen of an Apple IIc. His hand distractedly clicks at the keyboard: D-V-O-R-A-K, D-V-O-R-A-K.... His restless mind is comforted only by the soothing, palindromic perfection of ABBA droning on the 8-track.

The corner of his eye catches a fading image spooling from his Betamax: A lone figure runs toward a giant screen from which a sinister face indoctrinates the proles. She spins around and throws a hammer through the air, shattering the screen and smashing the face to oblivion. The Information Purification Directives, the Unification of Thoughts initiative, gone forever.

A tear breaks from his eye as he presses the worn rewind button and lifts his gaze to the gentle, bespectacled face smiling wanly from his wall. "You promised." He whispers. "You said Big Blue was the 'hypertrophy of law,' you said it is 'elaborate but not purposive,' that in it '[f]orm is prescribed for the sake of form, not of function,' and that because of it '[t]he vacuity and tendentiousness of so much legal reasoning are concealed by the awesome scrupulousness with which a set of intricate rules governing the form of citations is observed'" (1)

He gasps as his face reddens, and sweat breaks on his brow. "You said people are rational, that they would not stand for an inferior standard manual when presented with a better alternative. You said we would win. I ... I trusted you."

Sobs wrack his body as he smashes his fist again and again into his keyboard; the screen revives and begins to flash: QWERTY, QWERTY, QWERTY.... A glimpse of the screen sends his head crashing to the keyboard in frustration, only to rise again to the bland voice emitting from the picture:

"Oh, stop whining. It won't do you any good. Early adopters assume risk. You've nothing to cry about."

"But, how could we have failed? How could they not see the light? How can we live in a world of such irrational fools?"

"They're not irrational. They just derive more utility from an inefficient standard than an efficient niche player no one uses."

"NO!"

"It's true the manual you chose 'vastly simplifies citation form without depriving the reader of any valuable information; indeed, by requiring the full names of authors as a general rule it significantly expands the information conveyed by legal citations. …

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The Last Man off Standard: A True Story, with Moral
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