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The Tolkien Ring Network

Willian Robinson

Reproduced without permission from Network World

The gathering storm brought them together. Each had unanswered
T questions, though not all feared what they might hear. Many knew from
T what source the storm sprang, and though none were certain, some
thought the storm heralded greatness, not destruction.

The house of Elrond was honored by the assemblage. Gandalf, greatest of
wizards, Frodo and Bilbo, the hobbits, Aragorn and Boromir representing the
men, Gimli the dwarf and Lefolas the elf were gathered around a great
table, discussing the future of Micro Earth.

It had been many ages since all the folk of Micro Earth were in Rivendell
at the same time. The dwarfs burrowed deep in the mountains, elves
wandered the forests, men plowed the fields and hobbits ate. Each spoke
their own tongue, and though they knew a common one, they had no reason to
use it. Now the rising storm could change all that forever.

Gadnalf looked at the young hobbit seated next to him. "Bring forth the
ring," he said. "It is time all knew its secret."

Frodo paused, as if some unseen force wished to keep the thing hidden
from sight. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and drew forth the plain
golden rihg, heavy in his hand. Forged in the eternal fires of Mount Doom
in ages past, the ring bore no mark, no sigh of its Power, save a line of
finely etched runes that only the wise could read.

Gandalf spoke in a tongue nearly forgotton, reading the ancient words:
"One Ring to rule them, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all
and in the Darkness bind them."

The elves present covered their ears and cried in anguish. Elrond spoke
for all his people, saying, "Long ages have passed since the language of
Sauron was spoken in this hall. Too well do we elves remember our battle
against the power of the Blue Lord in the First Age."

"Indeed, " Gandalf said. "Perhaps we should remind ourselves of that
ancient struggle as we debate our course with the Ring of Power."

The bearded Wizard told the tale of the battle between Sauron and the
folk of Mainframe Earth. He spoke of King Sperry the First, who ruled long
and counted many people but in the end could not collect the taxes. He
told of the wizard Digital, whose followers wielded the powerful magic of
VAX and PDP. Burroughs, the King of Banking, and Cyber, Lord of the 60-bit
Word, entered the tale with many others who fought beside them.

"When the battle was over," Gandalf concluded, "Sauron had not won and
yet he had not lost. While his enemies survived, he would dominate their
destinies throughout the Age of Big Machines. All found niches in which
they could survive and even prosper, yet none would ever mount a serious
challenge to the great Power again."

Frodo listened intently, the Ring safely back in his pocket. The Age of
Big Machines was fascinating, but he could scarcely see any connection
between the great battle and the current crisis. At length, he turned to
the aged Wizard and voiced that question.

Gandalf considered his reply for some time. "Your question has no easy
answer," he said, stroking his beard. "The world has changed, and the
power of the Blue Lord is not what it once was. Errors has he made, errors
that may yet be his undoing. Yet he remains more powerful than any other
and his followers grow daily more numerous.

"The ring is the key. Back upon Sauron's finger, it could bind together
the folk of Micro Earth, ending the separation that now marks our lives.
Whether the change would be for good or ill, none can yet say.

"In the early years of Micro Earth, all was at peace. The young Fruit
King of Cupertino ruled beside Commodore Pet, commander of the Navy, and
CP/M of the Eight Bits. Youthful exuberance was everywhere, much volleyball
was played at lunch, and many BMWs were driven. The Valley of Silicon
seemed unconquerable, and the demand for Fruit unlimited.

"Far to the East, in a land known only as Armonk, Sauron had built a
device of Power. He had seen the Fruit King prosper and grew ever more
jealous. Sauron's machine was greater than the creations of the Fruit
King, and Sauron knew his many minions would eagerly seek its Power. He
called upon his 500 greatest followers, the Most Fortune-ate, and quickly
did the Machine become their standard.

"Loudly did Sauron profess his commitment to the wise God of Open
Architecture. Though suspicions remained, wizards in the Valley of Silicon
wrote many spells to add Power to the Machine. They devised new Card
tricks and worshipped the God of Peripherals.

"The Fruit King's power waned, the Princess Lisa died a painful death,
and his new fruit was thought less tastey than the old. His fields became
full of Mice, and his screens lost their color.

"Yet the Valley itself shone as never before. Its people prospered and
were happy. Sauron had limited their activities but had rewarded them
well. They grew content to work on his engine and soon ceased to dream of
creating engines of their own.

"Sauron's victory was not complete. The Fruit King did not die, though
he came under the thumb of the Cola Lord. When Sauron brought forth the
smaller, Chicklets-powered Machine, the Fruit King, his Commodore and the
wizard Atari destroyed it with little trouble. Sauron's mobile Machine
suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Clone Lord Compaq.

"Sauron thinks too much in terms of Mainframe Earth, and has not adapted
well to life in the Micro plain. The price of his Machine is too high for
many, and the legend of his strength carries less weight than in ancient

Frodo fidgeted. Frodo yawned. Bilbo leaned over to his young friend and
whispered, "He'll answer your question in the next week or so, don't

Gimli spoke, interrupting Gandalf. "What you have told us so far only
confirms what my people believe. Sauron has been good to Micro Earth.
Surely, the existence of the Clone Lords and the continued power of the
Fruit King show the benevolence of Sauron. He is no longer an evil Lord,
facing destruction at tha hands of the Gods of Antitrust."

Fire burned in Gandalf's eyes. "Have you heard nothing that I have
said?" he asked the Dwarf, his voice full of anger. "Sauron battles from
within. He has destroyed the spark of creativity. He leads, and others
follow blindly."

The Dwarf stood his ground. "But what of the Clone Lords?" he insisted.
Gandalf spoke now as a teacher to a well-meaning but misinformed pupil.
"They make machines in the image of Sauron's. What independence does that
show? Sauron could eliminate them with ease, were he to change the basic
spell by which his Machine is driven. They survive by taxing their folk
less, not by their own wits. nay, the fire of innovation burns not within
them." He paused for effect. "And," he intoned, "you forget the Ring."

Boromir had stood at the mention of the Clone Lords. "Take care in thy
criticsm of the Clone Lords, Wizard, "he said. "The Clones have saved us
much, and their Machines are superior to those of the Blue Lord. Yea,
though their innovation may be less, we gain by their presence. And you
speak falsely when you declare that the Clones could be easily destroyed by
Sauron. So long as the Great Spells of Lotus, WordStar and dBase may be
cast on the Clone Machines, they can survive any assault by the lord of

"Indeed," Boromir countinued, "it was the great error of Sauron to keep
his taxes so high that the Clones could gather the strength. Now, as weeds
in his garden, they have strong roots that are difficult to remove. Sauron
may even find a backlash on Mainframe Earth, as his 500 Most Fortune-ate
followers discover that the three mystic Blue runes hold less magic than
was thought." Boromir sat, satisfied of the truth in his words.

Gandalf's face was tense. Frodo looked puzzled, as did many of those
assembled. Could it be that the Wizard was less wise than they had
thought? Could his vision be failing him at so critical an hour? Or was
it Boromir's human frailties that hid the truth from his eyes?

Aragorn turned to his friend and spoke kindly. "There is much truth in
what you say, Boromir of Gondor. Yet one flaw may crack a large stone. As
time passes, the Machines become more and more powerful, and the wizards
improve the spells that run them. If Sauron changed the Spells of BIOS,
the Clones would suffer greatly.

"As new and mightier spells of Spreadsheet or Words appeared, the Clones
would find their Machines rendered useless, their power a shadow of the
might they once possessed. And remember Gandalf's warning not to forget
the Ring."

At the mention of the Ring, Frodo snapped back to attention. He felt its
cold smoothness in his pocket and asked, "What of the Ring?"

Gandalf took this cue. "With the Ring fully in Sauron's power, every
Machine on Micro Earth could be bound together. And the Machines of Micro
Earth could be bound to those on Mainframe, Sauron's domain.

"Great wisdom has been promised to those who would join with him and the
Ring: new visions yet unseen, new paths yet untravled, new worlds open to
explore. Above all, the Ring holds the promise of Power. The many Elves
of Micro Earth could be linked together, able to share their spells and
songs without delay, even over great distances.

"But the ring excludes those who are not compatible with Sauron's plan;
some spells work not on the Ring, and simple folk have been turned into
Wraiths in the deadly embrace of the new Machine. The Gateways that open
paths from Machine to Machine often fail, trapping the innocent in limbo

Once again, Boromir had heard enough. "Wizard," he cried, "every object
has many sides, and you reveal but few. The Traders of Gondor can use the
Ring to ease their way and lessen their costs. Great groups of machines,
linked together, will speed trade throughout Micro Earth and all will

benefit. The ring opens many doors, and Sauron gains nothing from our
passage into most. He forged the Ring, but we can control its Power."

Legolas considered what Boromir had said. "I see no difference between
the great Ring system you describe and the vast Machines that rule
Mainframe Earth," he said. "The same problems may arise. A break in the
link can disrupt many, not just one. Secrets can be pirated away down the
dark passages. The system grows ever more complex, not like the simple
Machines we now use."

The elf continued, "There is no gain, only a further loss of the
individuality that is slipping like sand through our fingers. A giant
collection of simple Machines? Nay, I say that is a great waste. If many
must speak, let them use the Machines of Mainframe. I dream of seeing our
LAN lush with trees and Fruit, not bound with the chains of wire."

Frodo was again confused. "I see the advantage for the Traders," he
said, "but of what use is the Ring to simple folk who wish for nothing more
than a warm home and a cold beer?"

Boromir answered, "Through the Power of the Ring, common folk will be
able to bank with out leaving their homes; they will have access to the
Great Markets where stocks are traded, and the financial universe shall
open before them. Travelers will be able to obtain rooms at inns, spare
horses or berths on the Wind Ships from their dining rooms. Many will be
their options."

Bilbo smiled sarcastically and whispered to Frodo, "Boromir thinks a
commoner is someone with only one Mercedes."

Gandalf rose to his feet and spoke in his most commanding voice, "The
time has come to stop this debate and decide our course of action. We may
cast the ring into the Cracks of Doom and destroy it, or weild it and face
the consequences, good or ill."

Frodo spoke, "I will take the Ring to the South, toward Gondor and the
Realm of Sauron. It is a long journey, and Destiny will decide our

Few of ther folk around the table had expected such a statement from the
quiet hobbit, but quickly they nodded in unspoken agreement: Frodo should
lead them to the edge of Sauron's domain. Perhaps them the great forces of
Destiny would act to show the way.

As Frodo and Bilbo walked down the stone path to the small room they
shared, the elder hobbit looked at his friend and asked him why he had
chosen this way to travel.

Frodo walked on in silence for a moment, as if concerned only with not
tripping over cracks in the stones. "I know that the traders can use the
Ring to great advantage, and all of Micro Earth will be enriched," he said.
"I fear that Gandalf and Legolas are also right, that creativity and
innovation are curtailed by Sauron's scheme.

"Though no one mentioned it, I believe that fewer new and unusual spells
will be written if the Ring becomes the way of things and people look to
share one great spell, rather than buying their own. I have yet to see any
advantage for the common folk, but the natural curiosity of men may bring
forth some unknown and useful task. Most of all, I feel in my bones that
the Ring will come to be used and thought of differently than anyone now

"I will go toward Sauron and the Cracks and hope that along the way I am
given a sign to follow. The ring tempts me. It cries out to be worn and
used. Another voice inside me wishes I had never heard of Sauron or his
Ring. I may destroy it, or I may give it to Sauron and help him wield it.
I only fear that I will have to choose before I know which course is

The two hobbits continued down the path without speaking, both knowing
that further words were unnecessary. The greatest minds on Micro Earth had
been gathered around that table, and Bilbo saw that Frodo had the farthest
reaching vision of all.

The histories of both Micro and Mainframe Earths were fill of leaps into
the unknown, some successful and some not. Perhaps, Bilbo thought,
neatness and order should be brought into the chaos. Perhaps the Wizards
should be made to try rational behavior just once.

The old hobbit laughed out loud. And perhaps they can teach a pig to
sing. []

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