- For Teachers
The topic is about Microsoft, specifically about a story about Microsoft written by Douglass Coupland.
His story is called "Microserfs", which can be found at Wired 2.01: Microserfs
When the general public hears the word “Microsoft”, they may
immediately think of incredible technological processes or of the vast
amount of money that company is worth. But in truth, the conditions at
which the company runs is almost the complete opposite of what the
general public think.
It’s true enough that if you think Microsoft, you also generally think
“geeks” or “nerds”. It’s because Microsoft is a player in the big
leagues, and they do not just hire people through random selection.
Every candidate is examined and tested for their skills as a computer
“code-writer”. But, what most people do not know is that this is all
what Microsoft employees do, write computer code. They know not much of
what’s going on to the outside world. I say outside world because
Microsoft has created a neighborhood for its employees to live in, and
what goes on outside of this neighborhood goes by unnoticed. Microsoft
employees seem to live in a bubble, they are not the rich living in huge
mansions and partying on yachts all day. Anything the employees think
about somehow relates to work or something that happened at work.
They’re literally working drones, programmed programmers. Microserfs
have even fallen into a mind-set that revolves around greed, for
example, “ ‘It's never been, 'We're doing this for the good of society.'
It's always been us taking an intellectual pride in putting out a good
product - and making money. If putting a computer on every desktop and
in every home didn't make money, we wouldn't do it.’ That sums up most
of the Microsoft people I know.” They live to work only for the benefit
of themselves, nothing else matters.
If one of the deepest cultures as a citizen of the U.S. is simply
becoming rich, then yes a Microsoft programmer fits the bill exactly.
Though Microsoft’s employees all make ample amounts of money, they
basically sell their souls for it. Most of the employees live in “Group
Houses” near their respective offices, and most of them are absent of
lives. The narrator, Dan, even describes his life as empty and boring,
“Living in a group house is a little bit like admitting you're deficient
in the having-a-life department, but at work you spend your entire life
crunching code and testing for bugs, and what else are you supposed to
do? Work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep.” Living off instant noodles
and microwave foods is just a way of life for these millionaires. What
is confusing is how these Microserfs are making so much money yet live
in worse conditions than college students.
Since these workers live their life around their jobs, they also seem
to worship their upper classed employees. “Bill's so smart. Bill is
wise. Bill is kind. Bill is benevolent. Bill, Be My Friend...Please ”
is the general dream, and it seems to boarder on obsession. These are
the worlds brightest minds working for one other “brighter” mind. With
such educated minds, why not just go and become independently employed?
Probably because they’ve all obeyed all the rules all their lives and
have never experienced anything “outside-the-box”. Without Bill’s mere
presence, the employees don’t know what their supposed to be doing.
Without a “Bill Gates” at Microsoft, the company really is empty, “But
then maybe Bill simply provides a focus for the company when no other
focus can be found. I mean, if it weren't for the cult of Bill, this
place would be deadsville - like a great big office supply company.
Which is sort of what it is. I mean, if you really think about it.”
Which is true, when it comes down to facts Microsoft is just a tool that
gets work done. What is especially comical is how Michael is also
looked up to after just being in the presence of Bill Gates. Everyone
wants to know what the “big guy” is like, what he talks about, etc.
It’s like God running a company full of devout Christians. Here’s some
proof, “Sometimes, in the employee kitchen, when I'm surrounded by the
dairy cases full of Bill-supplied free beverages, I have to wonder if
maybe Microsoft's corporate zest for recycling aluminum, plastic, and
paper is perhaps a sublimation of the staff's hidden desire for
immortality. Or maybe this whole Bill thing is actually the subconscious
manufacture of God.”
As a “Microserf”, it is his or her duty to carry out any demands made
by any higher ranking official. None of the Microserf’s make their own
decisions, they all obey orders, follow instructions, they live in a
world that’s been planned out for them day to day, doing the same things
over and over again. What’s funny is that the employees have stressed
and studied for their degrees, and for what? They come out of their
colleges incredibly bright, yet they are still in a system where they
have to obey the rules set by people who outrank them. The Microserfs
have basically worked their way up from one monotonous life and found
another, better paying monotonous life at Microsoft. Sure, many of the
employees enjoy being told what to do, because they don’t know how to
lead a life of their own. But if they keep taking orders, what will
happen when the day comes that Microsoft doesn’t need as many employees
as it has? Microserfs are not only unable to have fun, they are unable
to lead lives outside of Microsoft.
The book Microserfs reveals to us that Microsoft employees aren’t all
glory and glamor at all. People think that by sacrificing all those
years studying to be a computer engineer will pay off, and maybe it does
pay off if all they want is money. But leading a life that consists of
nothing but work, being incapable of leading a normal life or
experiencing certain activities that an average person would, doesn’t
really sound like the “sweet deal” that is misleadingly offered in a
position at Microsoft.