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Ford's Astoundingly Better Idea 266

Posted by JonKatz
from the thinking-about-corporatism-and-technology dept.
Ford's announcement last week that it was giving away computers, color monitors and Net access to each of its 350,000 world-wide employees and their families didn't make as much news as the cracking of Yahoo and AOL. But it deserves more attention. It was ground-breaking, technological history in the making. If this idea spreads, it could take the Net and the Web to completely new levels, and upend stereotypes (many advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. Computer companies, schools and governments ought to be mortified that they didn't think of it first. Read more.

Here's of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal.

The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. Bill Gates has personally given hundreds of millions to charitable causes, along with some Silicon Valley moguls, but bold and dramatic moves towards technological equality and empowerment are not in the nature of modern corporations.

In corporate America, it's practically illegal to do anything with money except distribute it to stockholders as quickly as possible. This is great for the stockholders, but is short-sighted, especially tough on the social fabric of a country in which politicians campaign for office mostly on vows to do little or nothing.

That's why Ford Motor's announcement last week was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers and IPOs. Ford will offer each of its 350,000 employees worldwide, from factory workers in India to designers in Michigan, a high-speed desktop computer, a color printer and unlimited Internet access for just $5 a month. This announcement was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers, IPOs and stock prices.

Company founder Henry Ford came from a different business era, a time when the individuals running companies could, and sometimes even did, make moral as well as financial decisions about the way their companies worked.

Although by all accounts, Ford was neither an admirable individual nor a likeable boss, his vision of technology had enormous impact on the world. He brought mobility to countless millions who never had it. He understood that workers who were treated well did better work than workers who weren't. He's the reason the automobile quickly became a universal work and recreational option for people of many income levels.

Presented with a number of ideas about how to sell automobiles, Ford became obsessed with the idea of the cheap car, a well-made technological product that almost everyone had a shot at buying. For better or worse, he changed the world, and made a ton of money in the process.

Modern corporations aren't run by individuals but by amalgams of lawyers, directors, stockholders, analysts. Companies aren't interested in bold visions, which is why Ford's computer initiative sent shock waves through the business world. Nobody could remember a move like it.

It's ironic that few computer companies are as visionary. Although several are scrambling to market cheap PC's, the industry for years has been marked by high costs, poor quality, confusing products and service, and endemic arrogance. The industry has always focused on hardware and software; technology's users and their needs are rarely in the forefront of design. Apple computers stunned the industry simply by making computers that were pleasant to look at.

Computing has spread throughout the U.S. and much of the world despite the people who sell and design computers, not because of them. If Ford's initiative spreads - it should - the Net would rise to a completely different level almost overnight. Technology would mean something radically different to many millions of people cut off from it now.

It was ironic how short-lived the publicity was over this astounding business move - especially when you compare the coverage of the cracking of Yahoo. Ford's move didn't get a fraction of the attention and discussion it deserved. It may - almost surely will - turn out to be a much-remembered turning point in the way corporations view technology and their own inter-actions with employees.

The computer give-away harks back to Henry Ford's genius. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Apple ought to be particularly mortified that they didn't think of it first. So should schools, universities and governments.

Ford once enraged other fat cats when he doubled the wage for assembly-line workers to $5 per eight-hour day in 1913. The move reduced training costs at a time when laborers were so hard to find in Detroit that only one in 10 Ford employees stayed for more than a few months, a scenario familiar to contemporary tech workers and companies.

Now his company's trying something even more radical. Ford's new Web sites will link employees all over the world, and give the company new ways of communicating with its staff. It will affect the way the company does business and the personal lives of the people who work for it.

Ford says it will offer Internet home pages in 14 languages, and provide home page links to Ford Web sites, with UUNet as the ISP.

Ford thus not only makes its employees happy, but gives them a strong incentive to stay in their jobs. It gives employees' children the tools they need to compete in the 21st Century workforce. It helps develop a technologically-skilled labor pool that can communicate internally, and promotes interactivity (not readily available in most corporations) and promotes computer literacy abroad. As computing spreads overseas, it could also have broad social, cultural and political consequences. The Internet promotes freedom, education, democracy and prosperity.

If other American companies adopted Ford's model, the technological gap looming between the middle-class and underclass would begin to close. The United States workforce would become the most technologically sophisticated in the world. The high-tech workforce would expand dramatically, along with the educational, cultural, social and economic benefits of computing still unavailable to more than half the American population.

New kinds of programmers and computer users would surge online, perhaps bringing new ideas and approaches to programming, software and the nature of the Net and Web.

Ford's move could upend a few of the conventional stereotypes (many enthusiastically advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. It hasn't yet, of course.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore talked incessantly about building bridges to the future in the last election, but their administration has done relatively little to wire up the country. It could be argued that this is a role for government, but Ford has challenged that notion. If corporations grasp the benefits for themselves and their employees, and take it upon themselves to provide their workers with computers and Internet access - increasingly, a necessity, not a privilege - they can begin rewriting their own sorry history.

Ford really did have a better idea this time. Perhaps even ground-breaking, if it catches on.

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Ford's Astoundingly Better Idea

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  • by rizzo (21697) <`don' `at' `seiler.us'> on Thursday February 10, 2000 @07:05AM (#1288322) Homepage Journal
    The only problem with this is then Ford thugs will descend upon you and have a right (based on the ruling in the recent Northwest Airlines incident) to take THEIR computer back and go through it to see what you've been doing.

    Let's not forget Henry Ford himself was famous for blatantly having thugs beat senseless employees who wanted to unionize. What do you think they'll want to do if you're emailing to incite sickouts?
  • what do you mean, schools should have thought about this a long time ago? there arent colleges giing out laptops at very low prices?
  • On the computers provided for personal use by the company, will they require the employee's home be subject to random search?

  • What if you encrypt the data on it? This isn't the UK, they can't force you to give them the decryption key.

    kwsNI
  • It was ironic how short-lived the publicity was over this astounding business move - especially when you compare the coverage of the cracking of Yahoo.

    This really is too bad. There have been a lot of different business and charitable grass roots efforts to get a particular segment wired, etc. Most don't receive any press at all unless there is a bill in front of congress and some politician is pressing the flesh. Thiswas a real opportunity to show off the benefit of having a corporation commit to helping it's staff ramp up and become more technical. Way to go Ford! Hopefully when all the press from the recent DoS attacks fades away someone like 60 minutes will do a rah rah on the whole effort.

    It's sad but because this wasn't a "sexy" story involiving violence, bad guys, scandle etc., the press will just do a quick fly by to do diligence and say we covered it and then move on to the next Lewinski type story.

  • agreed completely. This was far more important for the community than the denial of service attacks. Delta nd Ford both took a very bold and major step. HP supplies the machines for Ford of course. I blv the internet access for the Ford machines will still need to be purchased, at a minimal amount of $5 a month. And Ford is not thrusting the machines down its employees gullet either. The employees can choose not to take the machines. ..and I guess they can choose not to take the Internet access either. For Delta, I blv the cost is a little higher - a $12 per month and the machines do not have all the paraphenalia as the machines given out by Ford do...
  • Ok, let's assume Ford is really doing the Right Thing and for the Right Reasons.

    Suppose Northwest airlines had done this a while back. Would they have an easier time claiming they were really searching *their* own computers for whatever they wanted to troll for?
    --
  • Clarkson was the first in the nation ('85?) to give a computer to students as part of their tuition. Heck, I got a 286 SBC and passive backplane - little did I know that I'd be getting back into that technology 10 years later (a bit more advanced too).

    Hartwick gave its students laptops starting in..'93? Maybe 92. My brother went there and got a 386 laptop. IIRC, this was also part of the tuition.

    To say that schools aren't doing this is really silly, given that it's been going on for 15 years!
  • GAH! Yahoo and AOL weren't cracked, they were DOSed. And that is not a splitting-hairs distinction either.

    Media coverage of the "rash of internet vandalism" has been idiotic in the extreme, and by issuing silly characterizations of these events you're joining the crowd. I know it's a single word, but since you're trying to fit in you should know that precise usage is required. Buzzword dropping is for ZDNet and Wired.

    As far as the Ford thing, yes, wow, golly, use of the internet is becoming just as ubiquitous as the television and the telephone. And that's the one place where the two stories meet in the middle -- on the one hand, a major corporation supplying internet access to its employers as it would any other commodity benefit, and on the other hand the mass media pushing the DOS story to the top of the headlines. Yet more proof that the internet is no longer a curiosity, but a part of our basic infrastructure.

    We've come a long way from the days when a SLIP connection to a university was unheard of and the Morris Worm was a sidebar on Page 8 of the paper...
  • Katz you are wrong:

    The main and primary outcome from this will not be an educated middle/lower class. Computers not put to actual productive use do not educate. Just the opposite.

    The immediate and primary outcome will be the fact that the employer will have all the rights necessary to search and desist when it comes to all employee data, including personal. See the NW airlines case today on slashdot.

    And offtopic to commander Taco. GET THE BLOODY JAVA BANNER OUT . I do understand that you worry about user security but increasing the security on most slashdot user machines by making sure that they have turned tha jabba off is deinitely not my idea of advertising.

  • There's nothing "ground-breaking" at all about offering computers to your employees. It's no different than giving your employee voice mail or a pager. All Ford has done is effectively extended its employees' workplace into their homes. Ford will figure out a way to make their employees productive at home as well as at work, and they will know exactly who in their organization is equipped to work out of the house. This program should be setting alarm bells off, instead of being applauded as a breakthrough employee benefit.
  • John Katz, you are a master of stating the obvious in a way that manages to offend people.

    Yes, it is wonderful that Ford is giving away computers to it's employees. But that doesn't require some fruity "industry analyst" who styles himself as the next John Dvorak to tell me that it's wonderful.

    I'm sure you think your opinions are -so important- that they must be shared, that it's your duty to share them. I'm also sure you think that a good percentage of the population just wouldn't be able to cope with all the exciting developments such as this without you holding their hand and telling them what you think.

    Your hellmouth stories were great, not because of your writing, but because of the writings of others. Almost everthing else you've written should be marked (-1 redundant), in my opinion.

    --Robert
  • Well, Ford's giving a computer out is nice I'm sure, and expected from the sub-$1000 boom, but I know the government Labs, or at least LLNL, has been loaning out computers/equipment for home use for ages. My father, in the 80s to early 90s, used to just loan out all of our computers (except my brothers TRS80/Tandy1000) from the lab, which included a full 287 and 486DX-50.

    Back in about '93 he tried to return some of the parts, which they then accused him of stealing. Of course, it was simply that they depreciated it to zero, deleted the records, etc. So now.. he doesn't take out hardware, but does have 3 PCs for work in his office. :-)

    And for the 'net.. you simply called them. A machine would pick up, take your ID, call back from the records, take a passcode, and log you ont a VAX/VMS system. From there, rlogin to your own machine (an HP Unix workstation), and off you go. Yeah, secure, and just like now, your employer would watch everything you do. So, no difference except they provided the firewall, and paid the telephone charges. Oh... the days of the 300 baud modem. :-)
  • by Effugas (2378) on Thursday February 10, 2000 @07:20AM (#1288340) Homepage
    Somebody has to ask the question:

    How much of me does my employer own?

    Disney makes its animators sign statements that the company owns everything--every sketch, every thought, every image--on or off duty, at home, on vacation...

    It's arguable that Disney contractually owns the dreams of its animators.

    I'm excited to hear that Ford is creating a "minimum level of computing" for its employees, taking advantages of the tremendous network effects of having a totally wired workforce. They will benefit.

    But will there be an acceptable barrier between work related and non work related reporting of computer resources? Will people unintentionally donate the fruits of their free time--hammered out on company resources--to their employers? More importantly, will we finally see a standard of privacy explictly formed for non-realtime(logged by protocol necessity, like email or ICQ) yet highly informal conversation? Or will all mutterings and water cooler talk end up the domain of the corporate censor?

    I've *had* a coworker lose her job over a minorly snide comment on a discussion forum. When the lines of communication are owned by the corporation, are the dangers and rights violations posited by the Founding Fathers merely executed by the Corporate rather than the Governmental? Or is Ford explicitly delineating what it can and cannot monitor?

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • So with Gate's worth around $100B, I guess it seems quite reasonable to you that he should give away $6B (" a fraction of his wealth") to buy computers for all the kids who don't have them. How generous of you.

    So what are *YOU* worth Katz? Middle age, reasonably successful... I'd guess you're worth at least $250K, probablt more... So 6/100 of your wealth would be a measly $15,000. How much do you give to charity, I wonder....

    Last time I read anything about Gates, his charitable contributions were in the Billions, not 100's of Millions. He seems to prefer humanitarian causes than getting America wired. More power to him. He's still runs a company that produces shit, but at least give him some credit where due.
  • The swedish goverment gave extreme tax reductions to all companies (private and the states) who sold computers to their employees. The computers were extremly cheap, good ones with good backup and warrants. Almost all swedish companies jumped on the bandwagon, pressing the computersales in sweden at a new all high. This singlehandedly spread computers into a lot of homes, that didn't have one before. So Ford was in no way revolutionary with this.
  • If I missed the elimination of privacy element in what Jon wrote, I apologize, but my rants will continue until morale improves.

    Already, we have a case where Northwest Airlines now has court decried permission to search the private computers of it's employees in their own homes. They are not yet exercising that power, but they do have it. If that is not yet enough of an outrage, now we have this...

    Ford, instead of supplying home computers free (like every other firm with that need does), is offering computers AND internet connection at a discount. If Ford was giving the employees equipment and bandwidth they would have an obvious right to monitor everything. Under this scheme, Ford will not need to get a court order to snoop on the employees that thake up the offer, they will just be able to do it through the normal and accepted (though widly stretched, if they wish) powers of an ISP on traffic monitoring. All under the guise of being "nice" through a "great deal". All the while the employees pay for the potential of privacy invasion.

    I really don't give a whit about what they "say" they will do, they will have the ability to monitor everything their employees do.

    Wow, I just noticed that I am the hysterical one in this discussion, it seems so alien. With good reason! Friends don't let friends drive Fords.

  • MS should include the pleb version of Visual C++ with every copy of their O/S's they sell.
    That way MS would win friends and influence ppl, and there would be many more WinAPI programmers.

    We'd have winners all round! Woohoo!

  • This is a commendable move by Ford -- particularly their inclusion of non-US workers. One can only imagine the further possibilities if Ford embraced Open Source as well...

    I'm not sure that this is entirely original, though. I seem to recall from History class that the Soviet Union gave away free television sets. Hell of a difference, though, from giving away propaganda devices to giving away the most possibly empowering machines known to man!

  • Clarkson College (now University) was the first college to give computers to all its students. The first year to have computers was the 1983 incoming freshman class. They got Zenith Z-100 computers with a 5 Mhz processor, 192K of memory, a 320K floppy, and 96K of 3bpp video memory.
    -russ
  • <i>In corporate America, it's practically illegal to do anything with money except distribute it to stockholders as quickly as possible. </I>

    Which is a damn good thing really. When I invest in a company I want a return on my money, not it going to whatever touchy feely charity some higher up in the company thinks it should go to. If I want to give money to charity I am more than capable of deciding which ones to give it to, I don't need a company to make a donation by proxy for me.

    I don't really object to this Ford thing though becuase as I understand it, this was part of the UAW's renegotion of their contract with Ford, so really its a cost of compensation....
  • Jon's statement here is reaching:

    <i>If other American companies adopted Ford's model, the technological gap looming between the middle-class and underclass would begin to close. The United States workforce would become the most technologically sophisticated in the world. The high-tech workforce would expand dramatically, along with the educational, cultural, social and economic benefits of computing still unavailable to more than half the American population.

    New kinds of programmers and computer users would surge online, perhaps bringing new ideas and approaches to programming, software and the nature of the Net and Web.</i>

    Examining it further will truly show that he failed to consider a few things. A factory worker or any other worker who receives a shiny new PC from his corporation is not going to magically transform into a superflying, hotshot programming ace. This move is not going to spur bouts of creativity, other than that of the innovative ways that MSMoney lets you manage your checkbook.

    However, Jon's statement also holds truth. For many of us who ended up in IT/Dev positions, it's because we had access to computers as children. But back then it was different. MS BSOD didn't pop up every time we tried to push harder on the computer, and many of us probably ignored the limits that were "imposed". But windows, the glut of computer games, and the lack of tools to muck with the interior stuff changed that. It is a sad state of affairs when the kids today don't have even an introductory programming language like BASIC on their home PCs because I believe learning the logic required for good programming helps skills all around.

    Yes and no, the move by Ford was good. But the past errors (like removing BASIC programming tools) won't help make up for crafty programmers anytime in the near future.
  • Someone suggested this a short while ago and I believe they had a really good idea. Please, Mr. Katz - at least re-read your articles before posting. You claim to be a writer for a living:

    Ford's announcement last week that it was giving away computers, color monitors and Net access to each of its 350,000 world-wide employees and their families didn't make as much news as the cracking of Yahoo and AOL. But it deserves more attention. [fragment] It was ground-breaking, technological history in the making. If this idea spreads, it could take the Net and the Web to completely new levels, and upend stereotypes (many advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. Computer companies, schools and governments ought to be mortified that they didn't think of it first. Read more. Here's [one?] of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid [children without wires?] in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal. The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of [redundant] for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. [run-on] Bill Gates has personally given hundreds of millions to charitable causes, along with some Silicon Valley moguls, but bold and dramatic moves towards technological equality and empowerment are not in the nature of modern corporations.

    I can't take anymore.

  • > That's why Ford Motor's announcement announcement last week was
    > potentially the most significant technology news in years,

    Yes, that's what he said. Stop and think for a second, people. Now: yes, you're right, this is absurd.

    How many years, Jon? 5? 10? More important than, say, news about the first Linux kernel? The first ISP in the UK (or wherever)? The list of technology news which is more significant than this squib could be extended almost indefinitely -- but fuck that; if you want an education, go back to college (or try reading /. -- better than nothing).

    Companies setting up home offices for their employees is NOT fucking news, which you'd know if you lived on Planet Earth (how are things on Zorg these days, by the way?) The only unique thing about this is the scale, which is interesting enough to warrant a mention in a "Quickie" posting, nothing more.

  • I would not call DDoS cracking.
  • (read with sarcastic tone)
    Wow, these companies are soooo nice. I'm sure they're only giving out top-'o-the line stuff, a nice PIII-500mhz w/ 21" monitor, 25 gig of disk space and at least 128 meg of ram! Man, i should go work for Ford, or Northwest Airlines! Yep, I think 25 Gig of disk space will be a lot of room to store all those emails regarding sick-outs and stuff. What a nice company Ford is...
  • File encryption and high security just aren't on the minds of the masses, yet. I'm sure many of the people that take part in Ford's program will be overwhelmed with functionality that many of us consider to be extremely basic. High level concepts like public key encryption, firewalling, and enabling/disabling cookies will not be things they easily understand.

  • Jon, the odds some high ranking Ford executive's kid is into computers and so they did this deal just so the higher ups can get some free computers for their family, in exchange for the company buying lots of them for the workers.
  • That's why Ford Motor's announcement announcement last week was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers and IPOs. Ford will offer each of its 350,000 employees worldwide, from factory workers in India to designers in Michigan, a high-speed desktop computer, a color printer and unlimited Internet access for just $5 a month. This announcement was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers, IPOs and stock prices.

    C'mon, doesn't anyone actually READ this before it gets posted?

    -pf

  • That's nice of Ford, are they going to put controls on the browsers to keep them from looking at competitors web pages?

    George
  • "Computers not put to actual productive use do not educate"

    I'm guessing an implication to an assumption that ford employees will not actively seek out information. I think this is a stupid generalization.

    Also, if you read further detail into his article, you would see that Ford is working to setup collaboration systems that would further allow for dissemination of information. As well, speaking of the world wide internet - there are plenty of users *not* putting it to good use. There are, however, plenty of users who *are* putting it to good use.

    Would you state your assumption regarding internet users world wide as well? Or is this just a prejudice regarding Ford employee's or lower/middle class workers?
    • Well, Ford's giving a computer out is nice I'm sure, and expected from the sub-$1000 boom, but I know the government Labs, or at least LLNL, has been loaning out computers/equipment for home use for ages.

    Yup. We (a government agency) lend people computers to take home as well. Generally ones that are a bit too slow to run Windows 95 comfortably in the office (e.g., Pentium 120s) or slightly faster machines that are too proprietary to support easily.

    In fact, I don't actually own any computers myself. My home machine is one that I borrowed from the government.

  • by crush (19364) on Thursday February 10, 2000 @07:33AM (#1288360)
    Katz argues at least two unsupported and illogical things:
    • The gap between the middle and lower-classes will close:
      Just because Ford hands out computers to its employees? The people employed by Ford are already the "middle-class" - the real poor in this country are a lot worse off than those "lucky" enough to work for Ford
    • This is not the greedy corporatism that Katz has fearlessly railed against:
      Yet in the same article he says that Ford realized that a happy worker is a productive worker and that workers get pay raises when there's a labour shortage...hmm, let's connect the dots for him - at the moment there's a shortage of labour ( in the US at least) and this is a cheap way to make workers happy and get them to rely on the company for their personal communication more. Nope, definitely not greedy corporatism there.
  • There was no privacy element in what Jon wrote, but I don't see that as a big problem.

    Yes, there are potential privacy problems here, at least in the US. (the privacy ruling with NW has no bearing on Ford's computers in other countries, so far as I know) There are other issues as well, such as Ford's choice of OS, ISP, manufacturer. I think that Jon would agree, though, that these things are minor, if it boils down to "Having a computer" vs. "Not having a computer".

    Privacy issues will at one point have to be resolved, yes. As will things such as use of the machines by family members (I, for instance, am not permitted to drive my father's company car), the use of the computers to access pr0n or other politically sensitive content, etc. etc.

    But pessimism now might turn out to be a very bad thing, if focus on these issues prevents other companies from doing the same as Ford.

  • Anyone else feel like we really need to hold onto our hats now? Ford's initiative, if it catches on (and it alreayd appears to be making an impression, since Delta's picked up a similar plan almost immediately) this could be the step we need to set us squarely in the "information age"

    This initiative will do several things:
    1)it will provide technology to many people who might otherwise not have access to it. in doing so, it has the potential to increase wide-spread levels of education. there are a lot of bright young children out there who could make a lot of themselves if they had better education. even if they cannot afford a good "traditional" eduucation, having access to the internet provieds them with infinite knowldegde *if they desire to partake of it*. Those that are motivated to learn, are now given the chance.
    2)This has the potential to cause a huge boom in the technology field in the next few years. Again, by giving computers to people who otherwise might not have them, it brings more people *into* computer-related areas. The best and brightest students who before never had teh *chance* to become interested in technology have teh opertunity, adn if they are truly interested they will take advantage of what they've got. This could bring a whole new collection of people into computing areas, enriching it greatly. not only will it bring more diversity (perhaps?) into the field, but it will be attracting potentially large quantities of intellegent, interested people. Think of how thish could effect teh tech industry...

    i'd be tempted to say that, if initiatives like this catch on, this could completely revolutionize society. think about it... the implications are stunning...

  • I'd love to know what school you are going to, my college sell computers and computers parts, but the prices are horrible. Not to meantion the fact that a 10 base T connection here costs $250 for the year(100 base T is $500), about $32 a month... a little costly for a college student.
  • Computer-related benefits have been around in the high-tech world for a while. When I worked at Trusted Information Systems [tis.com] from 1993 to 1996, they had a matching-funds program for computer purchases, and employees could get dial-up shell access to e-mail, USENET, and ftp. When Digex [digex.com] made me a job offer a few years back, one of their benefits was an ISDN connection (this was pre-DSL) to my house.

    So this isn't quite as new or radical as Katz makes it out to be.

  • Umm, excuse me but Mr. Katz was simply quoting a statistic:
    "Here's of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal.",

    if you had taken the time to actually read (you illiterate little sh%t) what was said here you might have recognized this.....
  • Didn't we just read something like this...

    I'll bet Ford reserves the right to seize the free computers of it's employees if the higher powers suspect employees of sabotage.

    Just because something is free, doesn't mean it's better. Take free web hosting, for example. If you sign yourself up, you are at the mercy of your host. You can't post anything they deem objectionable (although they are quite lienent! [go.to] and they inseminate your pretty site with pop up windows and ad frames.

    So I guess when Ford hires you they hand you a new PC. Great! But you, the /. reader, knows that they'll wind up confiscating it in the long run to read your files on bringing down robotic car builders. If you decline the PC, you'll probably be shunned.


    ----
    (Your mother's sig here)
  • Oh, I forgot that Henry Ford was still running the place. Yeah, they're going to have thugs come beat you up -- don't be an ass. Hey, maybe Ford would try something like that (taking the computers, not beating people up), but if they do then so be it. Some company is going to try it at some point, so we might as well set a precedent for it one way or the other, right?

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • The union wanted it - and in the big picture, its a relatively cheap benefit. People PC normally charges $25 a month - you've got to figure Ford negotiated that down quite a bit. So for say, $18 a month per person (tax deductable for ford), they buy union goodwill, a boatload of good press, and the undying devotion of Jon Katz, who I'm sure will be rushing out to buy a Ford vehicle now :)

    Also- remember that most major benefits (paid for by somebody else) that are now increasingly viewed as rights (ie. health care, retirement benefits, and now computers) started as union negotiated benefits. Its only a matter of time before somebody is pushing a bill through congress mandating that all employers buy computers for their employees.

  • My sister, going to Acadia University in NS, Canada, had a PC as part of their tuition too.

    It was unpopular with some students tho, since tutition was considerably higher with the PC in there.

    There is a difference between "part of tution" and "free". :)

  • No, its essentially the trend that people shouldn't have to buy stuff, but rather have the hard working people who create businesses and jobs give it away to them. While I applaud Ford's actions, I think Katz is a socialist.
  • Many companies (especially banks) have given free PC's to all their employees the last couple of years. The idea is

    1) To give them something they don't have to pay tax off.
    2) A vague hope that they will be better at using computers (which is why the Danish politicians doesn't tax these gifts, liuke they tax everything else).

    I don't think there are anything signficant about it, like the US (and unlike the rest of EU) Denmark has had a booming economy and low unemployment the last few years. In such a situation, companies will do their best to make themselves an attractive place to work. Tax-free gifts are one way, especially since the strong unions prevents raising the pay.
  • I think if slippy Bill did give out a free PC to every unwired kid in America, the investment would fuel back up to MS in big bucks. Increase the user base and eventually they are going to want to buy software from somebody. Sure, they may get the next version of Windows.. or Office. Or if they are kids, then the'll get some educational software, which was probably developed on MS tools.

    And, if it's done as a "charity", I'm sure there are huge tax breaks.

    Even at the expense of Gates getting richer, I would like to see unwired kids getting hooked up. It helps.. helps a lot, but that's another topic all together.
  • You know what that reminds me of? Paul Newman. Seriously, here is an actor who uses his fame to sell popcorn and salad dressing, and he donates all of the profits to charity. That's a really good idea, I think. But the best part is that he doesn't make a big stink about it. There's just a little, unobtrusive note on the back of his products explaining the situation. Very commendable.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • It's better than calling it "hacking" as the mainsteam press has been, although personally I call it stupid.

  • Organized charities are filled with socialists, who work to undermine the social and economic structure within which I make my living.

    Should I ever get rich, I will never give a cent to any foundation, charity, university, ...

    I do charity on a personal basis. More work, but at least the mistakes are mine.

    Oh, yes. Almost forgot the obligatory "Katz is an idiot" statemet.
  • I read today (I'm looking for it again but I can't find it), that Northwest airlines were going through employees computers (through court action) to find out whether they took part in a planned "sick out" back in december. Pretty scary stuff. I do not know whether Northwest has a similar computer program but it would seem to be even easier for company's to appropriate data on a machine that was "given" to an employee.
  • One of the things we are missing in this whole discussion is that this giveaway was a result of a collective bargaining agreement between Ford and the UAW. For those of us who no longer remember the phrase "collective bargaining" it means Union Negotiation.

    I do not know who came up with the idea first, Ford or the UAW, but the fact that they were in contract negotiations at all is because there is a union at Ford. Also, as happens when a union negotiates a strong contract, non-union employees get the benefits as well. A lot of people think unions are on their way out, but this indicates that they may still have a place in the modern workforce.

    "this post paid for with union dollars"

  • Ford may not have been revolutionary with their idea, but it seems revolutionary in America (for an MNC to offer pcs to employees world-wide!). In any case, you imply it was a Good Thing for Sweden, so hopefully it'll be a good thing all around.

    I didn't realize Ford had a factory in India, but if they do, then it's that many more net users in India! You may not realize it, but that nation churns out programmers, not users. It's a weird situation they have down there, and hopefully this'll help improve it.
    --
    Peace,
    Lord Omlette
    AOL IM: jeanlucpikachu
  • "But they have an alterior motive - squeeze more productivity out of workers by having them work from home."
    Yeah, they need something to control that assembly line they just put in the bedroom.
    I seem to recall that this was part of a collective bargaining agreement, rather than something Ford did out of the goodness of their hearts. Also, isn't Jon playing up Henry's virtues a bit much, just to try to make the article flow? Wasn't Ford strongly anti-semitic?
  • What happened to Katz, fearless crusader against globalization?

    Well, it's like this see - Mr.Katz isn't very smart and he hasn't followed any of the discussions in the Free Software community about free(beer) vs. Free (speech), so when something like this rolls around he's easily confused. Basically, like a lot of whiners against globalism his beef is that he isn't getting any - if he were a little richer then he would re-adjust his psyche and arguments to the view that the world was a good place. I hereby swear NEVER to post about or read Katz articles again, that's the only way we'll get rid of him from /. I was mistaken in the past about letting him stay here - I apologize, I cringe.

  • Will people unintentionally donate the fruits of their free time--hammered out on company resources--to their employers?

    Very likely, yes. If I am a Ford employee and my coworkers/friends and I all receive home PC's, we are very likely to start discussing how we are using the PC's at home. We will probably send email and chat at least some of the time. We will probably end up discussing work-related issues since it is a common bond between us. Ford benefits -- probably. If the rumor mill grows as a result, and that also seems likely, Ford may find its internal politics on the rise. However, I expect that most people will act with some decorum and will accomplish more than they hinder with their new-found connectivity.

    will we finally see a standard of privacy explictly formed for non-realtime(logged by protocol necessity, like email or ICQ) yet highly informal conversation?

    I doubt that any corporation is going to say "well, you said this on your own time, so we don't mind you trashing the CEO." If the forum involves other employees of Ford, or the corporation is mentioned in a public statement, the author will be held accountable.

    I've *had* a coworker lose her job over a minorly snide comment on a discussion forum.

    This is really unfortunate, but it is not impossible to forsee. As always - when you are on the record, watch what you say.

  • While i don't think it's groundbreaking, I do think it's a good idea. I know when my last company gave me a pager I sure gave the number out faster to my friends and family than to the co-workers who needed it. Same with the computers. I'm sure it'll get more use with the kids writing papers or surfing to sites they shouldn't than from the adults who are supposed to be using it. Besides, how much work at home can you do when your job is to install bucket seats in cars?
  • No, it's because Ford has realized that our current economic boom can be traced to one place...all the digital slaves that now do the work of millions. By making people more computer literate in general it will help the company in a wide variety of ways; lower training/support costs, new ideas, higher morale, free advertising....
  • Would you state your assumption regarding internet users world wide as well? Or is this just a prejudice regarding Ford employee's or lower/middle class workers?

    I think I expressed myslef properly. Do not search whatever is not there.

    To repeat: I do not believe in computers not put to use even if the use is simply a reading and searching machine to have any educational value. Clicking mindlessly on solitare does not educate. Playing Duke nuke'm does not educate either. Used in this fashion computers are same as TV - opium for the masses. A distractive factor so the people do not read and think.

    It is the same like books. They educate if you read them. If they sit on the shelves and are used as doorstoops their educational value approaches nil.

  • As I understand it, the UAW was insturmental in getting Ford to dish out the computers. I wouldn't be so quick to chalk up this move to corporate generosity or vision. I think keeping the union happy with a non-monetary benefit to workers is more like it. Would Ford rather give $1000 raises or go out an buy 300,000 PCs at a volume discount for its employees?
  • What do people think the motivations of the Ford motor company is?
    I was reading ~2 months ago about a union talking about supplying thier members with computers and internet service so as to provide online union information and voting. In the hopes that they could influence more involvement and education of the workers.
    Maybe Ford would prefer to give them a TV, or at least a head off the unions from supplying a tool that could be used to organize workers.
    Yes, Yes I know that they could access a union page from the Ford computer but is it as likely when it is not thier ISPs homepage?

    an_Allegory

  • I think it's simple why they're doing it...
    From the Evil Overlord list [eviloverlord.com]:

    100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

    Simple, really...
    --
  • "...computers, color monitors and Net access..."

    As opposed to those black'n'white monitors that most companies give to their employees.

    Hmmmm... wonder if you can even get a black'n'white VGA monitor, anyway.

    RP

  • What a silly argument. "If they don't use them, they won't help." Man, where'd you get your PhD in logic?

    Um, BTW, I make a pretty decent living as an admin based largely on the experience I gained making games work on a variety of machines. That would never have happened if my folks hadn't finally shelled out for a PC (after 2 years of begging). Katz is right, this is a good thing.
  • I think he needs an editor. This is something that would have been caught elsewhere.
  • Well...color me confused...but I really don't get it. Sure this is nice of Ford...thet get tons of great PR to go along with a nice tax write-off, but how is this "ground-breaking, technological history in the making" I really don't get it.

    Maybe I'm different but I would rather have them give me an extra $1000 in stock perks than a new computer that will be obsolete in 3-4 years.

    If Ford wants to make a difference why don't they institue programs to give computers/internet access to the lower class families who can't afford them. THAT might help make a difference.

    Or maybe go to inner city schools and give them computers and pay for some quality technology proffessionals to go in and help the kids learn how to use them. THAT might make a difference.

    Color me cynical but I really don't see this as anything special or groudbreaking.

  • That was sort of the point I was trying to get to and I kind of drifted away from it. These types of commitments get made every day,not all of this magnitude of course, but they do get made. The companies/individuals (Like Paul Newman) don't nessasarily do it for the press either, they do it because they can and they feel it's the right thing to do for a particular community or cause. It is a shame that they don't get better coverage, I think it would snowball the effort, but that's not really why they're doing it for the most part.

    Ford I think is sorta in the middle. Yeah, good PR, good for the employees etc., but in the long run, it will make Ford more money, I really think this was their motivation, but a great commitment none the less.

  • As a (paid) editor, I disagree with the comments you've made about Jon Katz's piece.

    Are you really so concerned about grammar that you'd let it override meaning? Is "unwired kid" in the context of this article truly confusing or ambiguous? It wasn't for me. The run-on sentence you identify isn't. The fragment you point out is a fragment, but so what? Persuasive writing is about more than formalisms; short connectors are useful. Can you name a political columnist, for instance, who never uses sentence fragments?

    Are there a few typos, the occasional misplaced or missing word? Sure. Are they worse than ones that regularly appear in other news services? Not by a long shot. Slashdot is growing (in readership and staff), and it's coped well so far.

    Cheers,

    timothy

    p.s. Full-time editorship is less than a month away, so relax.

  • Jon... you have a /. E-Mail address. I assume you have a /. login. Use it! Also, on the topic of Linux worshipping... If you would just start being more technology savvy then people would call you a technology mogul instead of some guy who reads the first 3 sentences of some NYT.com, writes a way too long article about it that is stating the obvious, then claiming that you are shaping the views of society. Jon, start writing about interesting things in an interesting manner, not just fluff. Everything I have read by you from this to your movie reviews just seems like the fluff you would see on the back of a VHS tape (you know... where they try to sum up the movie in 2 paragraphs).
  • The gap between the middle and lower-classes will close:

    He's talking about what has been called the "Digital Divide". With Ford giving out all these PCs they will be giving many to those who don't have them. Yes, some very poor people still won't have machines, but more that couldn't afford one before will have them. This is called progress. The gap may not close, but every step closer is a good thing.

    This is not the greedy corporatism that Katz has fearlessly railed against:

    Seems to me that Ford is very much acting in their self-interest, enlightened self-interest you could call it. Giving some now while fully expecting to get more back later (mostly in intangibles for this initiative).

    Katz is flip-flopping on this issue fairly easily, but when everywhere you look you see darkness, even the slightest ray of hope is worthy of noticing.
  • "A distractive factor so the people do not read and think"

    That's funny. We're sitting here right now on the internet typing into a discussion forum. People can participate in discussion all around the world coming from different financial and social circles. They can also choose from millions of sites. They are not a captive audience with the limited content of television. I think it is not a valid comparison.

    There are many people being denied access to information. There are, of course, many who do not want information. However, when anyone can type into a search engine an interest or query for information, they will be able to do it with relatively little effort compared to going to the library (which has lots of out-dated and uninteresting information, relating to many interests of many people). When people can congregate online and discuss opinion and exchange information there is a change.
  • Your on to something here. Now I know why Ms is renaming Win2K to Wind*ws Excursion just before the launch. (G)
  • I respectfully disagree.

    My company sponsors employee purchase plans for PCs. We had factory people lined up to take advantage. And, over the past three years, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the PC skills of our people. We can pretty directly attribute this skills increase to the purchase plan.


    ...phil

  • The only problem with this is then Ford thugs will descend upon you and have a right (based on the ruling in the recent Northwest Airlines incident) to take THEIR computer back and go through it to see what you've been doing.

    And let's not fall into the trap of thinking encryption will save us; Ford could easily respond to the presence of any encrypted data with "give us the key, or you're fired, per paragraph 13, section D, subsection 4 of your agreement".
  • Let's not forget Henry Ford himself was famous for blatantly having thugs beat senseless employees who wanted to unionize. What do you think they'll want to do if you're emailing to incite sickouts?

    Am I the only one who read this as "senseless employees who wanted to unionize," instead of "beating employees senseless"? :)

  • The gap between the middle and lower-classes will close:
    He's talking about what has been called the "Digital Divide".

    Specifically he's talking about employees of Ford, and he sees this beneficence being extended to other corporations enabling their employees to have these machines - most of the people working for these companies could afford $300 to get an old 486 and shove Linux on it.
    I consider phrases like the digital divide, which formulate the inequality in society as being due to possession/non-possession of a particular material thing, to obscure the real divide - power/non-power. It is true that the particular thing is lacking and that this is bad for those people but it's not the root cause. This leads to the next point that you make:
    the gap may not close, but every step closer is a good thing.
    It's more of a moving target - by the time the masses have PC's the expensive, power delivering new thing will be there and guess what - poor people won't have it. It's like looking back to the turn of the century and talking about how soon everyone will have a car (oh wait, he did that didn't he?, that was part of Ford's wonderful legacy) and this will enhance mobility. Looked great then, but right now would you rather sit in traffic like everyone else or use your small, private air-craft?
    Katz sure is flip-flopping - it's because his analysis is trite and based upon unrealities, so he blows with the winds of fashion.


  • File encryption and high security just aren't on the minds of the masses, yet. I'm sure many of the people that take part in Ford's program will be overwhelmed with functionality that many of us consider to be extremely basic. High level concepts like public key encryption, firewalling, and enabling/disabling cookies will not be things they easily understand.


    So, maybe we should write up instructions on how to do that, put those pages in easy-to-find places, and try to share our expertise and knowledge with them.

    That's been the philosophy of my web pages ever since I put them up (though, the first incarnation back 6 or 7 years ago was just pics of me).

    I haven't been updating the Linux info on my home page as much as I should (some of it is out of date now), but when it was topical and current, I actually got quite a few hits on my poor, overworked 56K modem.

    It's a nice feeling knowing that you're helping someone else develop an interest in your hobby (something as general as 'computer security' or as specific as 'firewalls under linux').
  • From the Ford website:

    The overall program will be coordinated by PeoplePC, Inc. of San Francisco. The computers and printers will be provided by Hewlett-Packard Company of Palo Alto, Calif. UUNET, an MCI WorldCom company based in Fairfax, Va., will provide the Internet service.

    The base computer will have a 500-Mhz Celeron chip, 64 MB of RAM, a 4.3GB hard disk for storage, a CD-ROM, software, a 15-inch monitor, speakers and a modem. The printer will be a color inkjet. Employees can upgrade to three more powerful computers at their expense and the monthly fee will cover incidental personal use.

    I believe that the program would be much more useful if the employees were allowed to choose from a wider range of hardware & software. These systems seem to be little more than cheap Wintel boxes. Buying 350,000+ of them ought to get a bit of a discount, so on the scale of corporate employee benefits, "this ain't that big."

    It seems that Ford is attempting to create a corporate culture here; unfortunately, this culture looks to have all the variety and creativity of the model T. ("Any color they want, so long as its black." paraphrase attributed to H. Ford)


  • You're probably right. I mean, it's not as if Ford is giving out computers to people who aren't employees, right? We can only assume, then, that they're trying to enhance their business model by doing so.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Malc (1751)
    Slashdot has the potential to be a role model. Bad writing is just another form of laziness. If our role models are lazy, what hope is there?

    Where I live (Ontario), I get some of the news broadcasts from Detroit: the quality is shocking. I can't believe that people would watch it, but obviously they do because the broadcasts continue. Talking to your average person on the street in America (I lived in Denver for three years) was very tricky for me (I'm English): many people were almost incomprehensible. It seemed to me that the local television news "dumbed-down" so that they used the same lazy mannerisms of the people that they were trying to appeal to. Doing this, they are doing the average person a disservice as they are taking away a potential role model by which people could improve themselves. And yes, it's not a problem restricted to America: I used to take pride in my Estruary English; now I find cockney influenced talking just as irritating

    Slashdot is an international forum with many readers who do not speak English as their primary language. Therefore I think that it is even more important that they pay attention to detail. Using colloquialisms might help express meaning, but only to those who understand the nuances of the local language. I often got in trouble for saying "I will aroung to knock you up tonight", and the prosecution in the Louis Woodward trial tried to miss-interperet her saying "I popped the baby on the bed".

    There is no excuse for laziness. There's also no excuse to be found in other services being lazy too.
  • Point taken about overriding the meaning of a statement due to its incorrect grammar [fragment] ;).

    However, The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of [redundant] for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. [run-on] is clearly a run-on. He uses "has" twice; read it again.

    My point is this: if Katz is writing for a living, he ought to pay attention to the details of his job, just as any of us. If I didn't care enough to check spelling on print queue names I set up, or directories I create, I would look pretty sloppy. And so does Katz [fragment]. I guess I nitpick because I tire of his writing, in general, and his lack of attention to detail and research, in particular.

  • There are some obvious reasons that Fnord did this, and not just for altruism alone.

    The first is obvious: people in the offices can be required to take work home with them. Heck, they have a computer, why not?

    The system can check to see if an employee is really at his (fith or 6th) granmother's funeral, or if he's on the web.

    UUNET can spike their email to Fnord Motor Company as official communication. This is unlikely, but possible since they still OWN the computers.

    The Fnord connected websites can easily coerce employees into doing extra work, like commenting on conditions on their own time. I see nothing wrong with this, but it raises the possibility.

    I just can't personally see a company computer. It reminds me too much of the "company store"

    whatddya get? another day over and you're deeper in debt.
  • I agree with some of what you say:
    • Nothing companies do is free
      Likewise for advertising etc, all that goes towards raising the price of the product. I'd rather see a simple technical detailing of the merits of the product and then I'll decide between them on a rational basis - screw clever superbowl ads
    • But the biggest economic falsehood that Katz furthers is that money not "given away" is idle
      I think I've noticed you posting this point before and I agree with it - but I draw different conclusions from it than you do. The money flows inn investment patterns, people get little cuts of it if they're small guys providing services. Those services they provide are creating real value, it's productive, they make something (knowledege or material), they labour. They add to the world by work. However, BillG (as an example) controls the flow of the money and takes the labour that this little guy does. He allows him to have as little of it as he can (enough to satisfy his lowly needs for a Lexus and a nice PC and a mortgage and health-care) as determined by how many other people can do the labour that little guy can. With the excess labour skimmed from this guy and many others like him Bill G is able to control the labour market, the policies of the government and the social conditions (to be sure there are limits to this and it needs the aquiesence and complicity of the little guy - otherwise you get a revolution) and the media (good propaganda is necessary to make sure that the little guy gets a picture of the world that makes him believe that this is the best way). So the money definitely doesn't lie idle in the simplistic sense that Katz would have it, nor yet is it simply flowing through BillG's hands and into the hands of his technicians and plumbers without any other effect.
  • But Ford doesn't sell computers, software, or network connectivity, so how do your examples apply?
    Because Katz claims that "Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Apple ought to be particularly mortified that they didn't think of it first." I can't speak about the benefits at any of these specific companies (I have done work for IBM and HP, but not as a direct employee), but there are companies in that sector who did think of the benefits of PCs and net access for employees a while ago. Indeed, before The Septemeber That Never Ended, you pretty much got net access either though your school or your job; very few private ISPs existed.

    Ford's action could be an interesting step forward, but it's not as radical as Mr. Katz makes it out to be.

    Some clients take forever to allocate resources (like a PC and a phone) to consultants.
    Too true!
  • Ironically, I've never had the popcorn!

    The dressing is a little pricey, (@50 cents more than the 'National Brand') but even the standard oil and vinegar is good enough to make a plain lettuce salad appealing..
  • I'm most definitely not a fan of Microsoft, but he has done more for people by creating a company that employs and enriches thousands than most charities ever do.

    Why pick on Bill Gates to give PCs to kids? Why not Warren Buffet? Eric Raymond (he's flush at the moment)?

    In the real world, people don't get rich to give money away, they get rich to enjoy the proceeds that it brings. In creating a company, they enrich other people (employees, customers, suppliers etc) in the process.

    You seem to mis-understand why companies exist. You seem to think they are there to swan about the world doing good deeds, and giving people jobs. They're not. They are there to enrich their owners by providing a good or service that people want. That's all they are there to do, and that's all they owe anybody.

    If Ford are giving PCs to employees cheap, then good luck to them. But I hope they are doing it for sensible financial or business reasons, not to impress the gullible.

    And honestly, Jon, you really are a hack. Your stories are all written to a formula.
    - Take a big event in the news
    - Tie it into how it proves that the internet is great
    - Bend your logic to show that it proves open source is the way of the future
    - Mention Linux
    - Mention Microsoft and how it proves that they are evil.

    The irony is you are writing these stories for the most die-hard bunch of Linux loving, Microsoft-hating open source evangelists ever gathered together in one place, and you still get no respect. It is a tribute to their discernment that sucking-up gets you nowhere.

    Try leaving the odd band wagon un-jumped upon. Your writing might improve.
  • Anyone with a thimble-full of common sense knows I'm not implying their going to come and physically assault you. Not in this day and age.
    Of course not. Megacorps just buy enough influence in the government to have the police come and threaten you unless you comply with their wishes. No need for corporate execs to get their hands dirty.
  • While I don't disagree with Jon Katz' post, I do think it is important to take care in realizing just how truly malevalent Henry Ford himself was when talking about his "positive accomplishments".

    As well as the extremely violent strike-breakers he regularly employed, who murdered and mutilated a large number of his employees, Henry Ford was certainly the most infamous and most prominent anti-semite of his time. He was an extremely enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler's rise (this is not Goodwin's Law in this context)... going as far as direct monetary support of that regime. As well, Henry Ford republicized and brought to prominence the hate tract _Protocols of the Elders of Zion_. Probably worst of all, Ford himself was author of the millions-selling _International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem_.

    Just something to keep in mind when thinking of the basis of Fordism.
  • by barzok (26681)
    All the "deals" I've seen were for computers at street price or worse. I went to Clarkson University, one of the first schools in the country to give a computer to each incoming freshman. In 1995, I was handed a 486DX2/66 with 4MB of RAM. We were given assignments in Calc I and II (among other classes) in Maple V which needed more power than they could provide. Wanna get something done? Try to get into a PC lab (486s with 16MB) or jump right into one of the (now non-existent) AIX labs and try to figure out UNIX.

    THe year after my freshman year, they discontinued that program, and offered packages students could buy with a few options. Zeniths and NECs were the 2 brands. You paid for the computer in June, and got it in August. Yeah, that's nice. They realized that was a failure and dropped it altogether - now they "very strongly recommend" that you come with your own PC, and if you can get a NIC installed before you arrive, they're even happier.

    Liverpool, NY's high school proposed last week that all incoming 10th graders be required to own and bring a laptop. 10th graders!. And last I heard, no subsidies from the gummint or the school. Those machines would get destroyed in a matter of days. Or stolen. Or you'd have kids sitting in the library/class playing games instead of doing what they're supposed to be doing.

  • That program was discontinued in '97. Students were bringing better computers than Clarkson could offer at the same price.
  • Not to mention, when Northwest Airlines can have employees' home computers searched and seized without due process even when the company did NOT provide the computers, how much easier would it be if the company _did_ provide the computers?

    This becomes basically carte blanche for the company to legally search and seize everything you do, at work or at home. Legally you end up not having a private life since so much activity can be done and coordinated over a computer that the company actually provided. There's no way a present-day court would allow a citizen any rights under these circumstances. I mean, if you can get your computer seized when _you_ bought it, and impounded and searched, what possible excuse can you have for privacy and right to your own property when the _company_ buys the computer for you?

    Jon, Jon, Jon. You really ought to read slashdot...

  • Probably not, but it's dead simple to monitor where the users go, and who's going to argue that the company shouldn't monitor the usage of these computers that they themselves supplied? Then it's simply a matter of the 'chilling effect' of wondering whether you can be fired from Ford because they know you read slashdot and fear you are a hacker :)
  • blah blah blah
    Ford gives computers to employees...

    How is this an "astounding better idea"? Better than what? How is it even relevant to the business they're in? It's nice and all, but wouldn't raises accross the board be a better idea? I mean, it's not going to be some great boon to internet society that an extra few thousand or hundred thousand come online. If I were a Ford employee I'd feel screwed. What if I /already/ had a computer and internet access? I sure would rather get a raise or better health coverage. This is just a ploy. Sort of like how dumping tons of money into computers for public schools was supposed to be some sort of panacea that would magically make everything better.

    Jazilla.org - the Java Mozilla [sourceforge.net]
  • Yes, you can get monochrome VGA. I've still got an old 12" Amstrad mono VGA monitor in the basement. Quite a nice crisp display, actually. X looked a bit wierd on it, though.
  • Ford's support of Adolf Hitler had very little to do with anti-Semitism. It had more to do with the developing German economy and their trends towards industrialization. The Germans greatly admired Ford's approach to engineering and manufacturing and wanted to copy the process to get the German economy back on its feet as fast as possible. To the engineering-oriented German, Henry Ford was a sort of Linux Torvalds, willing to help and keeper of some sort of secret that he would freely give them. This was not lost on Ford. He felt it was quite the ego boost and graciously helped them as he admired their work ethic.

    Just like Katz rather glorifies Henry Ford, you rather vilify him. The truth to Henry Ford lies somewhere in the middle has he is human, with both admirable qualities and awful flaws. This whole computer deal lies somewhere in the middle, too. Yes, Ford is doing a great thing by helping their employees, but at they same time, they expect to (and probably will) receive a return on their investment that includes a more educated work force and a happier employee base.
  • Col. Panic wrote:

    However,
    The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of [redundant] for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. [run-on] is clearly a run-on. He uses "has" twice; read it again.


    Actually, no, it isn't. The first "has" refers to Gates ("he has been head"), the second to the industry ("the industry has discovered the need").

    The phrasing may be awkward, but it's not a run-on sentence. Can't you just uncheck Katz-written articles? :)

    (Note: this is not a flame. I agree that editing on /. is a valid concern, I just disagree with what you said here about this piece.)

    timothy
  • Used in this fashion computers are same as TV - opium for the masses. A distractive factor so the people do not read and think.

    Do you really think that Ford is giving (well, subsidizing) computers to employees so that they'll be used in this way? In my more cynical moments I might think so, as television is indeed an opium for the masses, and one that indoctrinates and sells things to them too. But in my more logical moments I know better. If distraction and indoctrination were the real motive behind this apparent act of generosity, why wouldn't Ford just hand out televisions? Or subsidize cable for those employees who can't afford it?

    Computers can be used like television, i.e a mindnumbing distraction. I've used them that way myself. But they can also be used like books or telephones, i.e. a stimulant to the mind. I use them for that even more. Watching television is not a valuable workplace skill, but literacy definitely is. Ditto for the ability to use a telephone. I think Ford - and the other, unsung corporations and individuals who are contributing computers to those who would not otherwise have them - are doing this out of a mix of generosity and enlightened self-interest, not mere greed.
  • Okay, seeing as nobody actually knows what's going on with how the computers are going to be purchased, I thought I would enlighten people.

    My Girlfriend's dad works for Ford in KC and was telling me about all of this over Christmas break. Its been in the works (at least in KC) for a couple of years and this is what is going to happen: Every year, each Ford employee due to union contracts get a certain amount of money to be spent upon educational persuits. Most of the time this lets employees to go to a local community college and get a few classes in each year. The money that would be used this year (and I think next year too) will instead be spent on the computers and the associated internet access. The only thing that Ford is actually going to own here is the contract that is getting the employee's computers at the incredibly massive discount. At no point will Ford or the union is going own the computers! This is money that has already been set aside for the empolyees that is being spent by the employees.

    Okay, hope the clears up a few things.
  • Depends on the agreement. If you were given the computer for work, then they could do this, and have all the rights that they would on computers at the workplace.

    But... It would be hard to say that they gave their employees families computers for work. It's obviously a gift, as an employment incentive. Gift can't be taken back, so they would have no more luck than if you bought the computer yourself.

    But... as we've seen from the Northwest (spit spit) incident, a large corp can get thugs to do their bidding even with no legal leg to stand on.

    So in the end, it really doesn't matter. If the matter ever reaches a judge who isn't bribed, there are limits to what they can see. I doubt they could demand your spouses encryption key for even if the data was on a work computer. But, companies like this have a real tendency to just skip all this problematic fair trial stuff and send in the goons.

    So, if Ford wants, it'll send thugs to get the data, no matter what the employee's sign. But, because it's obviously a gift, they don't have the right to.
  • They did so send thugs. The thugs they sent were wearing police uniforms, with search warrants, but what does that matter? If they get obviously illegal search warrants, and pursue it in that matter, it's still a thug pounding on the door, demanding compliance under pain of injury or death, no matter what uniform they wear.

    Any big company can toss around enough money to get the government to look the other way, which is what Northwest did. They had no good legal leg to stand on, but that didn't seem to hurt their ability to get a search warrant. Wonder if that judge has a new car, or free flights, or something...

    A thug by any other name will still beat you senseless for not complying.
  • Yeah, but compare the following responses.

    "Up next: several web sites were brought down by a distributed DoS attack..."
    "Huh? Distribu-what? I bet channel 5 has better news. *click*"

    "Up next: several web sites were hacked..."
    "Oh my god there's HACKERS around and they're probably STEALING IDENTITIES and SODOMIZING OUR CHILDREN right now! I'd better watch!"
    --

  • There are many things that are considered a commodity-- a 'must have' item.

    Let's assume the following numbers (which are completely fabricated, as I have no knowledge of the Ford company):

    Company 'X' has 300,000 employees, making an average of $50k/year. Those people might each pay an average of 35% in state and federal taxes. They give each employee a $2k computer. It's like giving each employee a $3k raise, as that's what it'd have cost them to get that computer.

    You wonder 'but didn't it just cost them $600k to do it?' Probably not. When you're buying in bulk like that, people cut you deals. On the order of 30-40%, but we'll be conservative, and say 25%.
    So it only costs them $450k [$1.5k per machine].

    [I'd have looked at the possibility of taking it as an operating expense for the company, but salary qualifies, I think, so they'd have saved that money either way]

    So, anyway, you've just made a person happy, without paying $3k/person, but only spending $1.5k/person. It makes sense to me.

    Also quite possible, is that they're using the purchase of the computers as some sort of a bargaining chip, too: 'If we agree to buy X units from you, will you agree to buy Y units from us?', which results in big sales for them, and drives their stock price up while they're at it.

My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income. -- Errol Flynn Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure. -- Errol Flynn

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