Intelligent Technology

Will someone deal with this? If anyone up top sees it, they’ll shit a brick. -lw

HP Scanjet 3300C, scanner - FREE [redacted]

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Date: 2011-01-16,2:38AM EST
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I wish to God I'd never bought the damn thing. That was before, and I didn’t know.

This is a good scanner. It's too good, in fact, which is why I'm getting rid of it. The farther away you live, the better. You have to come to my house, no exceptions. I don’t drive anymore unless I have to.

I’d throw it away, but I don’t think I can. Not anymore. Maybe it’s too late for that to help.

As you can tell from the pictures, it's a Hewlett Packard Scanjet 3300C. Partially covered by the cords are the words "HP Intelligent Scanning technology,” which is the problem.

Back in the early 90’s, Hewlett Packard was in trouble. Lexmark, Xerox, and Compaq were closing in, like sharks around a wounded seal. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the downturn hit. They had one of those back then, too.

Profits dropped, even more than the other tech firms. HP was close to going out, not that you’d know it now. They needed a miracle. God didn’t answer their call, so HP turned to their R&D division, Agilent.

Here's a little pertinent history for you: Agilent was spun off in the 50's as Dynac. Do a search for Dynac, and you'll see there's nothing they didn't get their fingers in - mining control systems, traffic monitoring, lab equipment, oil reprocessing.

The little branch that could was too profitable, and was eventually folded back into HP - but not before they created Transdyn. Their focus? Critical transportation facilities. Airports. Military bases. NASA.

"Our systems control some of the most essential facilities in the world" their website brags. I shiver each time I read that. Problem is, I’ve read it so much I can see it when I close my eyes; I hear it before I fall asleep, whispered like my name.

Back in 1999, HP tried to replicate their success with Agilent. They put all their wireless technology and data transfer geniuses in the same place and gave them almost unlimited funding. And you know what? They did it. Biggest initial offering in the history of the Valley.

My buddy used to be an engineer with them, and he'd tell me things when we drank together. This was years after all that stuff. I thought it was the typical "we're going to change the world with technology" utopia bullshit, just a bunch of hot air that smelled like dollar drafts.

Sometimes, especially if we'd had a few too many, he didn't seem so excited anymore; scared is more like it. His eyes would get red and swollen, like they were gonna hatch.

One night he got good and ripped after asking the bartender to leave the bottle. Said he’d had a hard day at work. I thought that was some real movie shit, and I half expected the bartender to say no. He must’ve seen enough dollars signs over the drunk engineer to forget about liability, though.

Out of nowhere Tommy [not his real name] asked, "Duncan [not my real name either, of course], you ever think about the air?"

"What do you mean?"

"You ever think about how full it is?"

He said things like that all the time, so I was used to it. I remembered a physics teacher who was the same way. He’d show us a glass jar. “Empty?” he’d ask. “No, never empty. Always full of air!” Most of the kids laughed at him, not with him, but he didn’t care.

"You mean like pollution?"

"No, man! Information. It's all just floating around.” He wiggled his fingers, then abruptly stopped. “Right now you've got webpages and a dozen people on cell phones talking inside you.”

He giggled, a nasal, unpleasant sound. “Someone's reading the Bible online, and their holy writ is travelling through your scrote on the way."

"I never thought of it like that,” I said, humoring him.

"Course not. All people want is for it to WORK!"

He pounded the table, hard, and some of my drink slopped over the edge.

"Christ, you want to get thrown out? Calm the fuck down."

He continued in a low voice, leaning closer.

"We've got something going now. Top. Top secret. It's gonna clear the air - poof!"

He spread his hands out, like an old timey stage magician showing there was nothing up his sleeves.  

“Tommy, who the hell is we? You work for _G&E.”

He gave a drunken cackle that sounded like a door creaking. I looked around and noticed no one was paying any attention to us, to him. It was mostly the same crowd of drunks as always. Bar like this, someone was liable to come over and shut the loud guy up.

“Sure I do, buddy. Got a bridge you can buy too, but I’ll only take wooden nickels.” Tears of what I assumed were laughter leaked out of his bleary eyes. We’d been friends long enough that I could tell he meant what he said, drunk or not.

Before I could say anything else, he got a shit eating grin on his face.

"We're gonna take control of the information in the air. No more internet in your colon, pal! " He put his head down, and started playing with the peanut shells. "And you know what?"

I made a grunt that could have been curiosity or anger. How long had he been lying to me? I’d been to his kids’ birthday parties, for fuck’s sake.

He looked up with his huge eyes, capillaries standing out like he’d never slept a day in his life.

"It's gonna be eaaaaaaaasy."

That's how he said it, like he was strung out on painkillers. I got goosebumps on my arms, looking into those eyes. He was pretty quiet the rest of the night, and so was I. I called him a cab when he finally passed out. That was the last time I saw Tommy.

Agilent, Transdyn, Dynac; whatever you want to call them, they pulled HP out of the fire. People started buying their stuff, like they’d forgotten all along they meant to. You'd never know HP had a bad spell at all, if you weren’t paying attention.

That's about the same time things started showing up with "intelligent this" and "intelligent that" on their labels. Pretty soon, people had an HP scanner hooked up an HP computer with an HP printer, never questioning why. They just bought more intelligent technology.

I don't know how far it goes. I don't know what it can make you do. I don't know if it can change you, but I think it can. And I think they know that I know.

Lately I've been having some bad ideas about myself - little stuff, like bearing down too hard when I shave, or smashing a glass into my lips when I take a drink, breaking them open on my teeth. I don’t mean to, but my hands won’t listen.

One morning I woke up to find all the kitchen knives lined up on the counter.

Someday soon, I'm going to forget to use my brake. I'll want to, but instead I'll watch the car in front of me get closer till I can see each fleck of mud on the license plate. It'll scream towards me at 60 miles per hour, and I'll stare at my foot, my own goddamn foot, willing the traitorous little son of a bitch to do something, do anything!

When I'm dead, the ambulance call will ride right through my body.

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