A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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July 28, 2000

Politically Correct

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

The recent developments in the Justice department case against Microsoft should be enough indication that the worlds of technology and politics have become more enmeshed than ever before. In the past, high-tech workers might have been able to ignore the consequences of their political representatives, but today, it is important for all high-tech workers to be aware of the actions of politicians and the effects they can have on high-tech industries and the careers of those who work there.

High tech comes into its own

As I have mentioned in previous columns, high-tech, in general and computers, specifically have become an integral part of our society. Every action, from buying groceries to banking now has a technology component. This integration of technology into every part of our lives has brought technology within sight of those people we elect to represent us in governments of all levels, local, state and federal.

You only need look to the news media to find examples of this new found attention. In the past, regulations on the use and export of encryption technologies would have been of interest solely to military and other governmental entities. Today, though, anyone can use encryption and it is becoming increasingly important in day-to-day transactions. Limits on the use of encryption can cripple a company’s ability to do business, but freely available encryption can allow dishonest people to hide their crimes behind a high-tech barrier. Regardless of your position on encryption you can see the importance of monitoring and understanding the actions of our representatives regarding such an important topic.

Microsoft is only the beginning

The Microsoft anti-trust case is another good example of how government actions can directly effect people who might never have considered what operating system or web browser they were using. Not since the breakup of AT&T have more people been interested in or effected by an antitrust decision. We in high-tech careers are effected even more directly than most so we must take an active role in such decisions. We must stay informed and we must use political tools, both traditional and high-tech, to make our wishes known.

The MS case is only the first of many anti-trust cases to come. The Internet and the computer industry in general make it easy for one company to profit unfairly at the expense of others. Worse yet, one company can develop a monopoly position very quickly compared to companies in other, more traditional industries. This makes it all the more important for you to pay attention to politics in the future.

What can you do?

In this growing climate of common interests between high-tech and there are a few actions you can take to insure that you are protecting your interests as a high-tech worker. First, stay informed. Being knowledgeable about current issues and those that might arise in the future will allow you to help educate your representatives in the effects of their actions on their constituents. There are a plethora of traditional and online media sources dedicated to helping you sort through all the political issues and jargon. This can range from the staid New York Times ( or ( to online rabble-rousers like SlashDot ( or ( Staying informed is always your best defense against being blind-sided by unforeseen laws and government policies.

Once you have the information you need, the next step is getting involved. Too often high-tech workers are content to let others fight their battles. This almost always results in incomplete or misguided solutions. High-tech workers need to take a hand in molding public policy in regards to technology. You have the deepest knowledge about what is required and often know the best way to implement any changes necessary.

You can get involved in many different ways. Letters to your representatives are one of the first steps. You can send email to nearly any elected official today, but a traditional letter still carries a little more weight in government offices. You can also join groups or political campaigns and help effect policy decisions at that level. Everyone from your local neighborhood council to your Senators in Washington can use information regarding high-tech issues and how those issues can effect their constituents.

No one can voice high-tech issues in society better than those directly involved in its creation, maintenance and application. Take a few minutes to stay informed and get involved. The success of your career may depend on it.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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