Greg Schmidt

If Babies Were Software...

In the beginning, there were only a couple of types of baby, but as hospitals realized that there was a large market for them, more and more types were invented. Early babies were all command-driven ("Eat your supper"), but later research invented the GOOEY (Give Out Oodles of Edible Yummies) baby ("Eat your supper and you can have dessert"), which people found much easier to interact with. However, it is often harder to get them to do exactly what you want, so they are also sometimes called "point-and-smack" ("Eat this!" smack).

An ingenious hospital in Seattle came up with the idea of segregating the behaviour of the baby from the physical makeup, and convinced most other hospitals that they would be better off to use a standard baby (with customizable hair, eye, and skin colour) and just write their own behavioural models. Another hospital tried something similar, but based their babies on a proprietary genetic code. Despite having better looking babies, and a lower incidence of catastrophic baby failure (see Technical Note #4075: "Projectile Vomit"), their market share remains low.

(Years later, the justice department began to investigate the Seattle hospital, on charges of forcing other hospitals to purchase a behavioural model with every physical baby, even if they didn't plan on using it, and punishing hospitals who used competing behavioural models. The hospital responded that they are not exploiting their market position; rather, the behavioural model is simply being integrated with the baby.)

As competition heated up, hospitals started advertising campaigns every year or two telling people about all the features available on new babies, and urging them to upgrade to the new model. People threw away their old children and got new ones, only to find that the crib, stroller, high chair, and clothes were no longer big enough and needed to be replaced. Hospitals promised that there would be easy ways to add new features to existing babies, but in practice this just caused strange mutations and defects.

To keep a step ahead, rather than correcting problems with past baby releases (see Technical Note #4075), new features were released, without proper testing (see movie: "Gattaca").

Parents found that everything that was learned raising the last baby was made obsolete with each new generation: there were new procedures for changing and feeding. Dr. Spock had to scramble to publish a new revision of his book every year, and faced stiff competition from "Babies '98 for Dummies".

In an effort to build market share, hospitals started teaming with toy manufacturers to bundle pre-approved toys known to be enjoyed by their children. The Seattle hospital began a logo programme, whereby any toy which doesn't dismember children or put anyone's eyes out during testing may carry an sticker on the package, indicating that their babies can safely play with it.

Daycare service providers experienced problems as incompatible children refused to play, and instead started killing each other.

A new medium was invented, allowing babies all over the world to communicate instantly with each other. Communist governments realized that they could no longer prevent their citizens from playing Monopoly, and free markets began to break out.

People who decided that they wanted to keep their old child and also get a new one found that the two couldn't communicate, as they used different versions of SLANG (Simple LANGuage). It became common for the acquisition of a new baby to destroy the environment in which the old baby was comfortable, causing the old baby to suffer a nervous breakdown and cease to play for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Some people resorted to building a second house (or at least physically splitting their existing house) in order to replicate the original environment for their first child, but most decided that they just couldn't afford to support two children.

People who kept their children for extended periods found that they started to crash a lot around age 16. By this time, the child was out of warranty, and the hospital refused to fix them without charging exorbitant amounts. People who purchased the extended warranty ("insurance") faced lower bills.

Ninety-five years after the release of the first babies, vendors realized that there would be a problem when they reached 100 years old. ("We never thought they'd live that long.") Lots of people proposed various infeasible solutions ("Let's just make everyone 20 years younger"), and hospitals promised that none of the newer babies would suffer from this. Mostly, people just hoped for the best, until the elderly begin complaining that they were being refused admittance to nightclubs, and were no longer qualifying for seniors' discounts.

To be continued...