1994 Fools: Cassel's Corner column from ComputerScene Magazine
[This is from the April '94 issue of ComputerScene Magazine,
 a free computer publication for the New Mexico, USA area.
 Used with permission of the Publisher.]

From: Greg Hansen <cscene@Rt66.com>
Organization: ComputerScene Magazine

Here's the April '94 "Cassel's Corner" column from ComputerScene 


IBM is about to release a product that will forever change the way you 
use personal computers. IBM's most exciting product in years, Alpineor. 
Before describing this product, let's take a little digression.

In 1942, when the fate of the United States was very much in doubt, the 
War Department (now called the Defense Department) realized that this 
country needed a sufficient supply of automotive fuel to successfully 
pursue the war. There are two ways to assure a sufficient supply--either 
increase production or decrease consumption. The War Department chose 
the latter course. So it did two things: it started gasoline rationing 
for civilians and contracted with General Motors to invent a more 
efficient engine.

The result of the General Motors contract was the 1944 introduction of 
the Hamdinger carburetor. It got its name from its principal inventor, 
Otto Hamdinger. This invention came too late for the war effort however. 
By the time the Pentagon and General Motors finished their field tests 
in 1945, the war was all but over. The Hamdinger was never patented due 
to national security considerations. As an interesting side note, many 
etymologists trace the modern word humdinger, meaning a great invention, 
to soldiers' stories of Otto Hamdinger's invention.

After the war GM was paid handsomely by Standard Oil to suppress the 
Hamdinger. This forced the public into buying more gasoline than it 
would have if the novel carburator was available. Rumors of the 
Hamdinger, which would convert a regular 1940's car into one that would 
get at least 115 miles to the gallon, leaked out to the public through 
those soldiers who participated in the field tests. GM, Standard Oil and 
the Pentagon, acting in concert, denied the stories told by these 
soldiers and still do today.

The reason for the suppression of the Hamdinger is simple: until 
recently, GM sold as many cars as they wanted to without it. Further 
rumor has it that GM was on the brink of introducing the Hamdinger as a 
modern invention when it found itself in trouble in the early 1980's, 
but held off when paid certain fees by oil companies and the Pentagon, 
which still sees the Hamdinger as a strategic advantage in the event of 
another conventional war.

There's a similar conspiracy in personal computers but one that's about 
to end. Again let's pause for some more background. Every personal 
computer uses at least one processor chip bearing familiar names such as 
Pentium, Power PC, 80486 and so forth.They each do exactly the same 
thing--shuffle bits around inside of registers.

Each chip family has its own language for responding to a program's 
request to shuffle bits. These languages typically have up to 200 words, 
all of which are equivalent to human language verbs. The Intel language 
uses op codes such as MOV to move bits into registers, MUL to multiply 
registers, DIV to divide them, and AND to logically add bits. Motorola 
processors use different op codes but do the same thing.

To have a Power PC understand the language of the Pentium, you need a 
simple 200 word translation layer acting as a dictionary. Understand the 
200 words and you understand the processor.

Today, programs that run on a Macintosh speak the 200 words of the 
Motorola 68000 series processors and won't even load on a PC that 
understands only the 200 words native to Intel processors. The entire 
Tower of Babel in personal computing today is because computers don't 
under<->- stand the 200 verbs of another.

Until now a lot of people understood this but saw no reason to change 
things. Motorola, IBM, Intel, Compaq and Apple were making billions of 
dollars trading on this confusion and the resulting tides of human 
misery. In the last few years, however, IBM has been losing money and 
it's now a desperate company, just as GM was in the early 1980's. Just 
as GM almost introduced the Hamdinger then, IBM is about to release the 
UTL or Universal Translation Layer. The difference between GM and IBM is 
there are no oil companies or Pentagon generals willing to pay IBM to 
continue to suppress this technology. As of the first of this month, IBM 
will unveil their translation layer developed under the code name Flair 
Strip. A press release from IBM stated the official product name will be 
`Alpineor'. It will sell for a suggested retail of $495. The usual 
discounts will likely apply.

It takes approximately 1,600 bytes to create a translation layer for any 
given processor. You need to add about 200 more bytes of overhead for 
the glue needed to integrate each translation routine into the whole. 
With modern chip architecture you must keep the translation layer to a 
maximum of one segment, or about 65,000 bytes. This means you can have 
roughly 36 processor languages in one layer.

Using a properly constructed translation layer you can choose to include 
all the functions of 36 different chips in any computer. So using 
Alpineor, your Intel-based PC will be able to run software written for 
Unix, Apple's Macintosh System 7, Amiga DOS, Windows, SunOS, NeXT, 
HP-Apollo and about 30 other current, past and future computers. 
There'll be a slight performance penalty in using Alpineor, but 
practically speaking you won't be able to notice any real change in your 
computer's performance.

>From now on you can buy any computer you want to without giving any 
consideration to what software runs on it. Just use Alpineor and all 
software runs on anything. Exactly how this will effect the computer 
industry is, as of now, unclear. Microsoft has hinted it will no longer 
market different versions of the same product and as a result of these 
lowered costs will increase its profitability. Sun is ecstatic since now 
all the popular PC programs will run on their workstations. Apple has 
hinted it might sue to prevent Alpineor from emulating its System 7. As 
it stands now, it looks as if one can run Apple Mac's operating system 
on a PC. If this is true, and it's more than likely that it is, it could 
mean the end for Apple as a hardware dealer. Certain other companies 
living in a niche software world supplying a particular program aimed at 

one system will likely fold.

A pre-release version of Alpineor was demonstrated at the regional 
science fair held last weekend at Jicarilla, New Mexico. See the article 
on page 10 for more information.

IBM's counting on being fast enough on its feet to profit from the 
confusion Alpineor's introduction will make. This is a huge gamble. In 
the past IBM has lost out when market share goes up for grabs as it's 
about to do soon. We'll soon see if IBM has, with Alpineor, sown the 
seeds of its destruction or of its renaissance. Right now the best move 
you can make is to call your software dealer and reserve your copy of 
Alpineor now.