The Null Device
The Howard Era's paternalistic censorship regime strikes again. A Tasmanian band were fined for importing their own CDs to Australia. Customs officers seized 207 copies of the latest album by Intense Hammer Rage (let me guess: they're a metal band of some sort). The CD is released by a US label and is legally available over the counter in the US; in Australia, it is a prohibited product, because it contains "offensive lyrics".
(Offensive lyrics are banned in Australia? They should go down to the Arthouse some evening.)
U.S. government harshly criticises Saudi Arabia for allowing the recent terrorist attack on Western enclaves despite being aware of the al-Qaida cell behind them for two months prior. Perhaps they should have added "don't make us develop solar-powered cars" or something like that.
Meanwhile, a video has been found of the alleged leader of the terrorists holding a Kalashnikov and kissing it. Or maybe it was an old Madonna video.
Minitel, France's proprietary information network, is 20 years old. Initially started as a means of replacing paper phone directories, it evolved into a model of what the Internet would have been like if the French had invented it: centralised, subsidised, run by a state-owned monopoly, based on proprietary technology and tidy, if a bit bland. Oh, and it's based around 1980s-vintage technology and phone lines. Though even while the French embrace the Internet, Minitel is far from dead; the lightweight, micropayment-based model of information exchange embodied in it is apparently being adapted to mobile phones, where it will undoubtedly prove as spectacularly popular as WAP.