Editor's note: The Weekly's April 1 cover story generated a huge response from around the world, spawning everything from interesting Web links (put "Rupert Tollefsen" into the AltaVista search engine and see what you get) to one angry reader who threatened to give the editor a bare-bottomed spanking with a 6-foot paddle (!). Most responses fell into one of two categories . . .
Does no one care at all that there is a 9-year-old boy who is away from his family and having his own mind "mined" by a corporation that sees him as a business venture?! Putting all tech issues aside, when did it become acceptable to do this?! Such an idea boggles my mind, and that it has been put into practice without anyone seeming to care that this boy's childhood and formative years with his family has been denied by what comes across in your story as parental greed is horrifying. I may have been discontented with Microsoft's business practices before, but now I can't even think about the company without feeling ill. Give me some hope that if indeed what I would almost call a form of child abuse is occurring, any such abuser will not be left to continue such a foul business. Or, if there can be justification for stripping this boy of the simple chance at a decent, self-governed life, instead of being the first version of Microsoft Drone, let's hear it now!
I would like to say that this article was most excellent and unlike a lot of other news-related information online, very well written.
Keep up the good work, and if possible continue on this subject. Because it gets worldwide attention. For example, I am from Iceland.
Theodor Ragnar Gislason
This article scared me a lot. Please keep it available for as long as possible because I have created a chain letter pointing to its current address in hopes that many people will read it and know what's going on. Thanks for the good reporting.
First, the article was interesting, but incomplete. The following critical issues were not addressed:
"In 5:30am/Out 6:30pm"—Rupert begins his day at Microsoft at 5:30am and it ends at 6:30pm. This would seem to warrant immediate investigation by Washington state authorities charged with enforcing child labor laws. How much of Rupert's day is spent working on behalf of MS? How much is dedicated to schooling? What's the point of child labor laws if they are not investigated and enforced?
Host family: The article referred to Rupert living with a host family, while working for MS. In an arrangement that includes many millions in compensation to Rupert, and millions more invested in the lab, why wasn't Rupert's real family relocated at MS's expense? Maybe Rupert's mother needs better legal advice, since she is the adult signing any contracts. As a minor Rupert may not enter into contractual agreements without guardian consent.
Covert?: It seems clear the concept of "covert" in this operation is more PR drama than reality. Since it seems it took very little effort for the reporter to develop his article, even getting a few brief words from Rupert, the covert nature of the project is a joke. Microsoft should drop this silly facade of covertness. It makes them look stupid, and if they really believe they are running a covert operation, perhaps it's time people review their holding of MS stock.
"If they're serious about this kid taking over for Bill Gates," says one industry analyst, "he's got to come through with TR by himself": Would someone please tell me exactly when Bill Gates did anything by himself? As far as I can recall, MS was founded by at least two or more folks.
And finally, would Bill Gates tolerate his children being treated in the manner Microsoft is treating Rupert, socially and financially? If yes, then perhaps DSHS should review whether the Gateses deserve custody of their children.
Cary Thomas Seattle
Um . . . by any chance do you have the e-mail address to this "secret" part of the lab. I want to snoop around and inquire, plus I want those old computer parts. Thanks.
The boy's mother sold her son. What a shame. . . .
I would like to commend you on your very well-written feature article. I read with great interest about the amazing accomplishments of this child and the technology that he is supposedly developing. Part of my interest stems from the fact that Rupert is from Soap Lake, which is only 5 miles away from my hometown of Ephrata. You mention an account of a 6-year-old Rupert somehow prompting "Ephrata Sucks" to appear on a scoreboard during a basketball game. I was a senior in Ephrata High School during that time and never heard of that incident. Nor have I ever heard of the Soap Lake Tribune where the story regarding the Thought Recognition channel changer for Rupert's grandmother was supposedly published.
The fact that I never heard of the "Ephrata Sucks" incident or have ever read the Soap Lake Tribune coupled with the astonishing claims about a child prodigy employed by Microsoft, raises serious doubts about the credibility of your article, particularly in light of the fact that it was published on April 1. You either did a great job of investigative researching or you are a very creative writer. In either case, congratulations on your article.
I understand that this is an April Fool's joke, but I think it is irresponsible of you to print this story and then not explain anywhere on the page that it is a joke. You really should reconsider your journalism ethics and make sure that you really want people passing around this link and spreading rumors about Microsoft. Of all companies, it wouldn't be smart to be on their bad side.
Heather R. Franz
sharon Hills, Pennsylvania
Editor responds: The clue on the cover is that the first letter of each word in the subhead spells "April Fools."
Bravo! The Manchurian Program . . . Firefox technology . . . strip-mining my brain. . . . I loved it all! I'm adding you guys to my "favorites." Thanks.
Scott W. smith, MD
greenwood, South Carolina
In "Microsoft's New Brain Project," Bruce Barcott wrote "those software radicals and conspiracy theorists who hear the voice of Beelzebub in every cough and burp emitted by the company." The correct spelling is "Billzebub," although some like to use the alternate spelling "Bill$ebub."
Michael W. Dodge
So when ya gonna own up? I was ready to believe that a 6-year-old kid could rewire the house for HBO, that a grade-school child could reconfigure a school scoreboard . . . even that his grandmother could psychically will herself around the television dial.
But then you shattered credibility: "Microsoft has all but conceded the next five years of the operating system market to Linux"? I don't believe that Bill Gates has conceded the operating system on my next toaster, much less my next PC upgrade.
But I enjoyed the story, especially the shots of "Rupert," the Radio Shack gear, and the "bodyguards"; the kid is a real ringer for Gates, ain't he?
Great April Fool's joke. I sent it to all the UNIX bigots I know.
As a founding member and vice president of the Sidd Finch Fan Club, as well as Sidd Finch's personal agent, I would like to inform Bruce Barcott that Mr. Finch is considering returning to his abruptly abandoned baseball career after a long yet productive absence, and we both believe that, based on his sensitive treatment of the Rupert Tollefsen saga, Mr. Barcott would be the ideal choice to tell the exclusive story of the resurrection of Sidd Finch. If he is interested, please have him contact me.
Rupert seems a truly remarkable human being. In fact, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Sidd Finch in more ways than one. Thank you for telling his inspiring, spiritually uplifting, and—dare I say it—almost unbelievable story.
Thank you for an amusing April Fool's tale. If life were truly like this, you would find me holed up in Montana rereading the biography of Ted Kaczynski.
Your reporter thought he was writing an expose, but he missed the real story sitting right in front of him. Well, beside him anyway. One look at Rupert makes it clear what is going on. Rupert is a clone. I don't know how Bill did it, but it's obvious: He cloned himself nine years ago and is now grooming the clone to succeed him. Hey, why not? Bill's been good for Seattle so why not keep him?
Of course the first response as you start reading the article is to laugh it off as an April Fool's joke. But you begin to wonder, with this amount of realism, could this be real? Until today I had that feeling, wondering whether this was a prank or not, until I saw the anagram disguised in the article's title. Bravo to the author. His all-too-real description is admirable, much to the likes of Ernest Hemingway or George Orwell. Although I am not the most educated of men. I know what I like, and I liked this article.
Unlike your paper, I have a subscription to the Weekly World News. That means I actually pay for the magazine. Seattle Weekly I pick up when I need toilet paper for my in-laws and the welfare checks haven't come in yet.
So, the checks are late on April 1 and I pick up your paper. Damn. What a fine job. Sounds like you are copying the Daily of the University of Washington. They had a lot of fun with April Fool's too.
Bill Gates is much deserving and if you keep making up the news everyday, your circulation should increase. Learn from the pros and give Eddie Clonz a call at the Weekly World News. Your credibility is up 10 points in my book, you wankers.
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