General Motors Replies to Bill Gates
Joke: General Motors issued a caustic press release in response to Bill Gates’ comparison of advances in computing to the automotive industry.
Examples: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release (by
If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.
4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.
5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought ‘Car95’ or ‘CarNT’, and then added more seats.
6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.
7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single ‘general car default’ warning light.
8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.
9. The airbag would say ‘Are you sure?’ before going off.
10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.
11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car’s performance to diminish by
12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
13. You would press the ‘start’ button to shut off the engine.
Origins: Jokes sometimes take the long way around on their journeys from mere humor to “this really happened” tales.
The basic premise of this
There’s word in business circles that the computer industry likes to measure itself against the Big Three auto-makers. The comparison goes this way: If automotive technology had kept pace with Silicon Valley, motorists could buy a
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates made a brief reference to the existing PC vs. automobiles price comparison concept during his remarks at the COMDEX computer exposition in November 1997:
The PC industry is different than any other industry. The volume, the openness, the innovation, it’s really unequaled. In fact, comparisons are often done between this industry and others, and it’s just stunning when you look at it. The price of a mid-sized auto, it’s about double what it used to be. Cereal, I admit I don’t buy that much cereal, but research shows that, too, has doubled in price. And if you take that and say, what would those prices be if it were like the PC industry, the car would cost about $27, and the cereal would cost about one cent. So, I think there’s a lot to be learned by watching how this industry has done what it’s done.
As typically happens in the urban legend cycle, a generic tale that invoked types of businesses was quickly transformed into a version that specifically attributed it to the biggest and most well-known corporate representatives of those businesses: “the computer industry” became Bill Gates of Microsoft, and “Detroit” was replaced with “General Motors”:
At a computer expo (COMDEX) Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles/gallon.” Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement: “Yeah, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?”
By 1998, someone had taken the evolving joke and tacked on a list of humorous comparisons between Microsoft software and the auto industry, one which played on consumer perceptions of Microsoft as a greedy, rapacious producer of flawed software incompatible with other vendors’ products:
Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement: “Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?”