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Chapter 3
Alternate Relationships

Men Are From Microsoft, Women Are From Apple

by NANCY GONGLIKWANYEOHEEEEEEEH, Alternate Reality News Service Technology Writer

Most new marriages have enough problems. You want the armour-plated Humvee with laser option headlights; the missus wants a station wagon. You need a kitchen bot to help you with meal planning; he insists upon getting a state of the art VR harness for the den. Then, there’s the perennial question of what to name the children: you like HardDrive or BatchProcessing, but your old-fashioned partner wants something Biblical, like Fred or Kendrick.

Relationships manuals tell us that communications is the key to working through these differences. (Our parents tell us guilt is the key to getting your way in relationships, but you shouldn’t listen to that because…umm…because it’s not scientific.) But, what if communications is impossible between a wife and her husband?

This is the case for newlyweds Charlie Flapdoodle and Martine Quant, who were given digital chip brain implants from relatives to celebrate their nuptials. Unfortunately, Flapdoodle’s chip came with Microsoft software while Quant’s came with Apple’s operating system. Since the two systems are not interoperable, communications between people who have them is impossible.

“Well, this sucks,” Flapdoodle commented.

Microsoft has a tradition of secrecy, and its brain implant project, codenamed “Douchebag Phoenix,” has proven to be no exception. Not only is the code, which is copyrighted up the wazoo, like a vampire – it will never be allowed to see the light of day on threat of a long, painful death – but when Microsoft found out that individuals were adding unauthorized programmes to their brainware, it invaded their homes with medical SWAT teams to remove chips that it suspected had been tampered with.

“It was a bit of an overreaction,” Ryerson University professor Ryan Overholtzer commented. “Not as bad as Microsoft opening its own section at Guantanamo for suspected copyright terrorists – they lost a lot of customers over that one, and not just the ones who died in custody, either – but customers tend to take a dim view of images of people bleeding from huge gaping holes in their heads, writhing in pain in the comfort of their very own homes, and, well, sales took a bit of a dip that quarter.”

Since then, Microsoft has backed off on its absolutist stand on copyright issues; now, it just erases the chips of suspected offenders. Since they have to be integrated with neural activity when they are planted in a person’s cerebral cortex, this is like having a brain seizure, only it can last from two to four months and there is no known therapy for it.

“It’s insane,” Quant remarked, “the lengths Microsoft will go to –”

“Hey! Who’s the expert, here?” Overholtzer broke in.

“Oh. Sorry.”

“She’s right, though. It is pretty crazy, the lengths Microsoft will go to…keep its trade secrets…uhh, secret.”

Apple, by way of contrast, allowed the distribution of the source code for its unimaginatively named BOS X chip. Because individual programmers have access to its source code, it tends to be more robust, and, among other things, less vulnerable to attacks from malicious worms and viruses.

“It really is a stronger system,” claimed Morganser Fairchild, a doctor with the Digital Maladies department of General Hospital. “We see far fewer –”

“Hey! Who’s the expert, here?” Overholtzer broke in.

“Well, uhh, actually, I am,” Fairchild responded.

“Oh. Ah. Right. Very good, then. Carry on.”

“As I was saying, we see far fewer cases of malicious brain damage from the BOS X chip than we do –”

“Hey, wait just a minute! I thought this article was about me and Martine!” Flapdoodle interrupted.

“Fine!” Fairchild sighed. “Be that way! But, I’ve got to tell you, you’re going to miss out on some great technical detail!”

Ordinarily, two people with brain chip implants can develop a Local Area Wireless Network (LAWN) to communicate with each other. When the implants are chips from a different maker, however, they cannot.

When I asked Flapdoodle and Quant why they didn’t just talk directly to each other when they were in the same room, they looked stunned. “We…we can do that?” Quant asked.

“This could really help our marriage!” Flapdoodle said, warming to the idea. “This…talking to each other thing, how does it work?”

Negotiations between Microsoft and Apple, which are nearing their 150th anniversary, are ongoing.

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The Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS) has two advice columns: Ask Amritsar, a column about love and sex and technology, and; Ask the Tech Answer Guy, a column about +