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December 1999

The Scrooge In The Network A Play Of Convergence

The curtain rises, revealing a maze of cubicles. Only one cubicle is occupied. Within it, beneath a harsh, fluorescent light, Bob Cratchet, the MIS director of ScroogeTech, Inc., toils late into the night.

Bob Cratchet: Mr. Scrooge must have reviewed my request by now. Will I go this year or not?

An angry clatter erupts from stage right, where Ebenezer Scrooge, president and CEO of ScroogeTech, Inc., fusses over a recalcitrant photocopier.

Scrooge: Damn this contraption! Paperless office, indeed! Sheer humbug!

Cratchet: Excuse me, Mr. Scrooge. This may not be the best time, but…

Scrooge: Harumph! Cratchet, is it? I know what you want. You want to know if I’ve approved your travel request. You’ve got a lot of nerve, I say. But I suppose you’ll argue that it’s only appropriate, this being the season of convergence.

Cratchet: Well, sir, I was hoping… Uh, what I mean is, it may prove a real benefit to the company.

Scrooge: Or, just as likely, a benefit to your own career. Tell you what, Cratchet. I’ll approve the time off, but you’ll have to take care of your own travel expenses. That’s as generous as I’m prepared to be. I say bah to convergence! A sorry excuse to pick a man’s pocket every first week of December!

The curtain falls. When next it rises, we see Scrooge in the master bedroom of his split-level, finishing the remains of a TV dinner. Suddenly, Scrooge’s television flares to life all on its own.

Television: Ahh-oooohhhhh!

Scrooge: I thought I had turned that damned thing off already! This sort of thing never happened when televisions still had tubes inside them.

Television: It wasn’t easy reaching you, Scrooge. But the delay is my fault, really. I assumed that you would have subscribed to a cable service by now. Still, perhaps it’s just as well this way. I had intended to appear via the public access channel.

Scrooge: That voice! Why, it sounds just like… No, it can’t be!

Television: Yes, Scrooge, it’s me, Marley, your old business partner. I’ve come to warn you of the dark fate that awaits you — unless you mend your ways.

Within the television, Marley brandishes a prodigious length of chain.

Marley: Look upon this chain, Scrooge. It is my burden in the afterlife. I forged it link by link, in my living days, with my every exercise of techno-cynicism. Wah-oooooohhhhh! And you, Scrooge, have forged such a chain as well. And it continues to grow at an appalling rate, well beyond that which you might have expected, even accounting for Moore’s Law. Ahhh-eeeeeeeehhhh!

Scrooge: But Marley, you were always a good man of business!

Marley: Yah-heeeeeee! Oooooohhhhh! Convergence was my business! Mark well my words, Scrooge. You will be visited this night by three spirits. The ghosts of convergence past, convergence present, and convergence yet to be. May these ghosts present you with visions sufficient to inspire within you a change of heart.

The television suddenly goes out, and a terrified Scrooge dives under the covers of his bed. But not for long does Scrooge enjoy peace. Soon, a mirrored globe descends into the room. The globe begins rotating, reflecting the light of innumerable lamps as they flicker to life. And disco music begins to swell, louder and louder, as a sprightly figure on roller skates glides into the room.

Convergence Past: Wake up, Scrooge!

Scrooge: I can’t believe my eyes. A roller disco. Am I in hell?

Convergence Past: No, Scrooge. This is a scene from your youth. See? That’s you over there in the corner, celebrating your latest success at ScroogeTech, Inc.

Scrooge: I see, and I remember! I was so proud. I had just deployed a digital phone system. The company had outgrown the old, analog system. With the new system, the future seemed so bright.

Convergence Past: And it did shine brightly, at least for a while.

Scrooge: Yes, with voice mail, automatic call distribution, and (gulp!) my beloved screen pops!

Convergence Past: Hey, Scrooge, they’re playing your song. [The distinctive strains of Do The Hustle filter in, as Convergence Past begins gyrating to the beat, exclaiming, “Do the screen-pop!”]

Scrooge: I can’t take any more! Arrrrggghhhh!

The room plunges into darkness, and the disco trappings disappear, much to Scrooge’s relief. His relief is short-lived, however. A dapper man steps into the bedroom. Leaving the door open behind him, the man can hardly be heard above the din in the room beyond.

Convergence Present: Mr. Scrooge! Please take my business card!

Scrooge: [Scrutinizing the card.] The Ghost of Convergence Present? Egads! And you’ve got your own Web site!

Convergence Present: You wouldn’t believe the number of unique visitors it attracts! The site is audited, don’t you know. But never mind that. We’re here about you. And I can’t stay long. I’m delivering a keynote at the show outside.

Scrooge: Show? [Scrooge peers over the spirit’s shoulder, into the room beyond.] Oh my! That’s the very show Bob Cratchet intends to visit!

Convergence Present: He’s here, Scrooge, along with lots of other people you know. Is it true what they say, that you still use an abacus?

Scrooge: It’s a slide rule!

Convergence Present: Whatever. But before I run, I wanted to encourage you to explore the Exhibit Hall. Take this V.I.P. pass, with my compliments. Learn about the latest in the voice/data convergence space.

Scrooge: Oh, back to the speaker ready room with you!

Seizing the visitor, Scrooge forces him toward the door. Convergence Present struggles, anxious to impart just one more thought.

Convergence Present: Tell me this, Scrooge… Have you ever considered that the shift from closed, proprietary platforms to converged, IP-centric networking could represent as significant a shift as that from analog to digital systems? You yourself participated in that earlier shift, and witnessed the breakthroughs in features and functionality. What might happen with this new shift? Doesn’t it stimulate the imagination? Aren’t you the least bit intrigued?

Scrooge: Oh, my God! He’s starting to make sense! Get out! Go! Away with you!

Scrooge finally shoves Convergence Present through the door, and shuts it securely. He heaves a sigh of relief. He is alone again. But not for long…

Scrooge: Hey, it’s cold in here. Did someone open the window?

A tall, dark, shrouded figure looms behind Scrooge. Finally, Scrooge turns around, and gasps at the figure’s menacing aspect.

Scrooge: Your appearance… Your demeanor… It seems so… so negative. Are you an editor?

The shrouded figure gestures stage left, where a dimly lit graveyard emerges from the gloom, wisps of smoke obscuring numerous hulking forms. Eventually, Scrooge recognizes these forms as the legacy elements of the network at ScroogeTech, Inc. Wandering amongst the rusting hardware, Scrooge recoils in horror as he approaches a file cabinet.

Scrooge: It can’t be! It’s too cruel! That file cabinet… One of its drawers is labeled with a Post-It note, and the note says, “File Scrooge here.” It must be a joke!

The shrouded figure points to the drawer, urging Scrooge to open it. Scrooge, though his whole body trembles, finally complies.

Scrooge: Arrrrrrgggghhhh!

As Scrooge’s blood-curdling scream still echoes, the stage plunges into darkness. After an uncomfortable pause, the dim light of dawn can be seen filtering through Scrooge’s bedroom window. Finally, Scrooge stirs.

Scrooge: What? Morning? Can it be?

Rushing to a pair of sliding glass doors, Scrooge fumbles with the lock, and manages to push the door open. He stumbles onto the deck outside.

I’m alive! Perhaps I still have a chance to mend my ways! Hey, you out there! Yes, you, the paperboy! What day is this?

Paperboy: Why, sir, it’s the first day of CTI™ EXPO!

Scrooge: Wonderful! They’ll be starting the conferences today, and the exhibits tomorrow! Tell me young man, are you online?

Paperboy: Well, uh, yeah. Like who isn’t?

Scrooge: Here, then. Take this. [Scrooge hurls down his platinum card.] Log onto www.tmcnet.com. And sign me up for a half-dozen full conference passes. I’m taking my whole staff to CTI™ EXPO!

The curtain falls. When next it rises, we see the Exhibit Hall of CTI™ EXPO, chock-a-block with vendor booths, crammed with attendees. Scrooge and his staff raise a toast to the next generation of communications solutions, as the mirrored globe again descends into view, and DSP chips fall like so much confetti.

Cratchet: Thank you so much, Mr. Scrooge. With what I’ve learned at CTI™ EXPO, I’m full of confidence and enthusiasm. I no longer dread the future.

Scrooge: Glad to hear it, Bob. Just watch yourself around that one. [Scrooge gestures toward Convergence Future.] I suspect that he’s in the company of editors.

Cratchet: Are you sure? It seems he wants to party like it’s 1999.

Scrooge: That reminds me. Not to be macabre, but I’d like you to be in charge of disposing of my remains, when the time comes. I just want to be sure I’m not filed — err, I mean buried.

Cratchet: You mean you want to be cremated?

Scrooge: No, Bob. I want to be … packetized!

While Cratchet blanches, Scrooge looks up, dreamily.

Scrooge: Who knows what novel routing paths my packets might take?

Cratchet: [Regaining his composure.] I’m sure, sir, that whatever paths they do take, your packets will be labeled with the highest priority!

Convergence Future waves, then makes his exit, as a disco beat begins to pound, and a familiar theme fills the air... Shake, shake, shake… Shake, shake, shake… Shake your IP! … Shake your IP! … Shake, shake, shake… Shake, shake, shake… Shake your IP! … Shake your IP!

The End.

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