No Degree For Billy G. (10/21/99)

You'd think that the richest man in the world could pretty much buy anything he wants, right? In fact, when you're that rich, people even give you stuff you never asked for-- it's kind of backwards, but it's true. So we found it profoundly refreshing that apparently the bigwigs at the University of Victoria (you know, in Canada) were able to keep the dollar signs out of their eyes long enough to vote against offering Bill Gates an honorary degree. Faithful viewer Keith Lim pointed out an article in The Globe and Mail with all the details on this rare academic snub.

Bill, as you probably know, has been making noises about how he plans to give away a lot of his filthy lucre to charitable causes over the next ten years. And he's given lots of money to educational institutions in the past-- and the lucky recipients aren't chosen at random, either. For instance, there's the twenty million bucks he gave to MIT's Lab for Computer Science, which even the most gullible observer could interpret as a Microsoft investment in talent rather than a charitable donation. And another twenty million went to Duke University-- his wife's alma mater. Coincidence? Yeah, right; the "gift" came right after she was named to the board of trustees. Before that, Gates mostly gave to the University of Washington instead.

So the University of Victoria is to be commended for voting against throwing a degree at Bill in hopes of getting a big check (er, cheque) thrown back-- especially given all the reasons raised why Bill didn't deserve the honor. There's the 1997 higher-education licensing change, which removed students' rights to use University-licensed software on their dorm-room computers via the campus network. There's the blatantly shifty 1998 deal that offered professors $200 bribes to "[mention or use] Microsoft programming tools in a scholarly presentation." And of course there's that whole "Redmond Justice" antitrust thing still going on. To that list, we at AtAT would like to add the fact that in his "Redmond Justice" deposition, Mr. Gates revealed a startling lack of command of his own native language, as he asked for definitions of simple words including "concern," "complete," and "we." Really, would you give this guy an honorary degree? (Ask us again when there's a $20 million carrot dangling in front of our faces.)

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The above scene was taken from the 10/21/99 episode:

October 21, 1999: Mac OS 9 is ready to roll, and the rest of Apple's product line joins in for a weekend chock full of Demo Days madness. Meanwhile, our local Sears may get a Steve Jobs smackdown if Apple implements a customer retail report form on its web site, and Bill Gates won't be getting an honorary degree from the University of Victoria, despite his deep, deep pockets...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1860: Gear Up, Party Down (10/21/99)   Here we are, scant hours away from the debut of Mac OS 9. Well, the official debut, anyway-- there were those 450 copies accidentally sent out early by some poor schmoe at Apple who likely had his pink slip autographed and laminated by the Mighty Steve himself...

  • 1861: Pyrotechnics in Sears (10/21/99)   Longtime fans of the show are painfully aware that AtAT's local Sears is an absolute disgrace when it comes to Macintosh sales displays. Not that Sears stores in general are the Aristotelian ideal for the effective floor display of any product, but there's a definite relative difference in badness when it comes to Macs at this particular store...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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