IBM data landslide submerges information

Written by David Tebbutt, PC Dealer 03/88 item 01 - scanned

Hello,' I thought as the big blue car with a FUD numberplate screamed into the car park, 'this looks like an IBMer in a hurry.' The well-dressed gent grabbed his briefcase, slammed the door shut and had just started to sprint for his train when the briefcase burst open. Being a kind hearted (not to mention nosey) sort of chap, I went to help him pick up his possessions IBM brochures, IBM visiting cards, a Z88, a copy of the 'IBM Business Conduct Guidelines' when I noticed, drifting across the car park, what looked like an internal memo. The IBMer didn't notice the errant memo which had lodged under a car wheel some distance away. Before I could mention it, he had resumed his trainward sprint. I sauntered over to the memo, keeping a sharp eye out for other IBMers hidden in the bushes and picked it up.

Back in the safety of my car, I tugged out the document. It was headed 'IBM Business Conduct Guidelines Booklet - Planned Addendum'. It was dated 1 January 1987, and started with the words: 'From 2 April 1987, IBM will present a different face to the outside world. Coincident with the launch of its new series of personal computers and following the announcement of its new applications architecture, IBM will drop its reclusive behaviour in favour of more openness with the press, the industry and its customers.'

The proposed addendum explained so much of IBM's behaviour in the past year, that I was only sorry that I had been too slow-witted to figure things out for myself. I mean, have you ever known IBM give out huge quantities of information before? Have you ever known IBM hold parties for the press before? Have you ever seen IBM stage its own major exhibition before?

The point is that IBM has been behaving very differently lately and, while I welcome the newfound accessibility, I've had this worrying thought that the company is really up to no good.

The trouble is that when a company is bending over backwards to be helpful, it's difficult to pin an ulterior motive on its actions. The addendum started with a statement of the problem IBM faced: 'This company has to find a way of keeping information from people while appearing to do precisely the opposite.'

It continued: 'One way of ensuring that people don't know what you're up to is to overwhelm them with regular large quantities of data. Ensure that, just as they think they know what's happening, you flood them with more data. It doesn't matter whether or not all the data is truthful, the sheer volume, coupled with the recipient's ignorance of our real strategy, will ensure they're kept off-balance.'

Now look at the volume of data (I can't bring myself to call it information) that's been pumped out since PS/2 was announced. How long did it take us to twig that the Model 30 was popped in to make the shipment volumes of PS/2 look good? How long did it take us to realise that PS/2 with OS/2 and all the rest isn't really a 'personal' computer at all?

When did it dawn on us that OS/2 with Presentation Manager would be the first sensible implementation of the new operating system? And when did we realise that it's the Micro Channel Architecture and the lure of SAA which separates the IBM men from the compatible boys?

When you consider the megabytes of data that were issued a year ago, you would have thought that just a few thousand bytes would have spelt this out. The truth is that it probably did. The problem was knowing which few thousand bytes were the important ones.

IBM's proposed addendum instructs its staff to delay answering questions from third parties until the answers have been sanitised by the Central Obfuscation Department (COD).

I wonder if the addendum was ever actually issued?