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REDMOND, WA--In what CEO Bill Gates called "an unfortunate but
necessary step to protect our intellectual property from theft and
exploitation by competitors," the Microsoft Corporation patented the
numbers one and zero Monday.

With the patent, Microsoft's rivals are prohibited from manufacturing
or selling products containing zeroes and ones--the mathematical
building blocks of all computer languages and programs--unless a royalty
fee of 10 cents per digit used is paid to the software giant. "Microsoft
has been using the binary system of ones and zeroes ever since its
inception in 1975," Gates told reporters. "For years, in the interest of
the overall health of the computer industry, we permitted the free and
unfettered use of our proprietary numeric systems. However, changing
marketplace conditions and the increasingly predatory practices of
certain competitors now leave us with no choice but to seek compensation
for the use of our numerals."

A number of major Silicon Valley players, including Apple Computer,
Netscape and Sun Microsystems, said they will challenge the Microsoft
patent as monopolistic and anti-competitive, claiming that the
10-cent-per-digit licensing fee would bankrupt them instantly.

"While, technically, Java is a complex system of algorithms used to
create a platform-independent programming environment, it is, at its
core, just a string of trillions of ones and zeroes," said Sun
Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, whose company created the Java
programming environment used in many Internet applications. "The
licensing fees we'd have to pay Microsoft every day would be
approximately 327,000 times the total net worth of this company."

"If this patent holds up in federal court, Apple will have no choice
but to convert to analog," said Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs, "and I
have serious doubts whether this company would be able to remain
competitive selling pedal-operated computers running software off vinyl

As a result of the Microsoft patent, many other companies have begun
radically revising their product lines: Database manufacturer Oracle has
embarked on a crash program to develop "an abacus for the next
millennium." Novell, whose communications and networking systems are
also subject to Microsoft licensing fees, is working with top animal
trainers on a chimpanzee-based message-transmission system.
Hewlett-Packard is developing a revolutionary new steam-powered printer.

Despite the swarm of protest, Gates is standing his ground, maintaining
that ones and zeroes are the undisputed property of Microsoft.

"We will vigorously enforce our patents of these numbers, as they are
legally ours," Gates said. "Among Microsoft's vast historical archives
are Sanskrit cuneiform tablets from 1800 B.C. clearly showing ones and a
symbol known as 'sunya,' or nothing. We also own: papyrus scrolls
written by Pythagoras himself in which he explains the idea of singular
notation, or 'one'; early tracts by Mohammed ibn Musa al Kwarizimi
explaining the concept of al-sifr, or 'the cipher'; original
mathematical manuscripts by Heisenberg, Einstein and Planck; and a
signed first-edition copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being And Nothingness.
Should the need arise, Microsoft will have no difficulty proving to the
Justice Department or anyone else that we own the rights to these

Added Gates: "My salary also has lots of zeroes. I'm the richest man in
the world."

According to experts, the full ramifications of Microsoft's patenting
of one and zero have yet to be realized.

"Because all integers and natural numbers derive from one and zero,
Microsoft may, by extension, lay claim to ownership of all mathematics
and logic systems, including Euclidean geometry, pulleys and levers,
gravity, and the basic Newtonian principles of motion, as well as the
concepts of existence and nonexistence," Yale University theoretical
mathematics professor J. Edmund Lattimore said. "In other words, pretty
much everything."

Lattimore said that the only mathematical constructs of which Microsoft
may not be able to claim ownership are infinity and transcendental
numbers like pi. Microsoft lawyers are expected to file liens on
infinity and pi this week.

Microsoft has not yet announced whether it will charge a user fee to
individuals who wish to engage in such mathematically rooted motions as
walking, stretching and smiling.

In an address beamed live to billions of people around the globe
Monday, Gates expressed confidence that his company's latest move will,
ultimately, benefit all humankind.

"Think of this as a partnership," Gates said. "Like the ones and zeroes
of the binary code itself, we must all work together to make the promise
of the computer revolution a reality. As the world's richest, most
powerful software company, Microsoft is number one. And you, the
millions of consumers who use our products, are the zeroes."

A southeast Florida laid back beach bum and volunteer bikini assessor who lives on island time. 


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