The Gorbachev NetworkWASHINGTON - The U.S. has just installed a new hot line to the Soviet Union to prevent accidental war. Instead of phones, the system uses desk computers. That's the rub. Anyone who has ever watched someone using a computer at an airline counter, a hotel registration desk or a dupartment store has to be very nervous. Computers and the people who use them never seem to be working together at the same time.
Th1s is my nightmare:
"I want to speak to Mr. Gorbachev on the hot line."
"Just a minute, sir. I don't show any Mr. Gorbachev on my screen. Do you have a first name?"
"Mikhail Gorbachev. Hurry up, the survival of the whole human race depends on your networking Gorbachev in the Kremlin."
"Do you know his Social Security number?"
"No, but if you don't connect me in the next three minutes your body will turn into a glass of heavy water."
"Let me try bypassing the computer by way of Armenia. Hold it, 'in flashing a telephone number for M--rn Gorky. Will he do?"
"I want M. Gorbachev and no one but M. Gorbachev."
"Sir, the hot-line terminal on the other end says it is sold out at the Bolshoi Ballet, but is willing to trade two house seats for a pair of tickets to 'The Phantom of the Opera'."
"Tell your computer to try Gorbachev at his dacha."
"We have no access to his dacha, but I can get you an airline seat on Aeroflot to Raleigh, North Carolina."
"Your computer was supposed to be programmed to immediately bring me in touch with the Icauci of the Communist world. How do you explain this foul-up?"
I don't know, sir. We talked to someone in the Soviet Union the other day."
"What did you say?"
"We confirmed he had a double room at the Holiday Inn in Atlantic City."
"The clock is running. Is there no way of jumping the program so I can get through directly to the Politburo?"
"I'll try this. I'll retrieve all the Gorbachevs in the Moscow telephone book and then sort them out in my memory bank,"
"Did it work?"
"No, the only thing the computer says is a Mrs. Gorbachev owes Bloomingdale's $12,50."
"Where did you learn to run a computer, young man?"
"National Airport. The machines there are much easier to work than this one, sir. I could get a Russian on my Delta Airlines reservations screen any time I wanted to."
"Hurry, man, someone has goofed and World War III is upon us."
"Do you want me to feed that into the computer?"
"Uh, oh - something has gone wrong because it says we transmitted a faulty entry on a rental car in Lincoln, Nebraska."
"Forget it, I'll call Gorbachev on the phone."
I don't have to - he is on the phone."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought you wanted to speak to him on the computer."
"Mikhail, I'm glad to talk to you. I don't want you to get mad, but tomorrow morning you are going to be receiving 100 million Reader's Digests in the mail. Just send them back to us and we'll pay the postage... . No, Mikhair, these aren't the same operators who will be running Star Wars. The Star Wars programmers are being trained by Eastern Airlines."
The Gorbachev Network