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"The Good, the Chad, & the Ugly"

November 13, 2000

Satire by
Lauren Weinstein


The world is in a tizzy over chad -- those tiny pieces of paper that come loose from punchcards when they're punched, like those used for the recent voting in Florida. Lots of people have had a lot to say about hanging chad, swinging chad, pregnant chad, and other sorts of chad, but I wanted to consult a genuine chad expert. I contacted Jeremy A. Chad, the president of the only remaining chad manufacturing company in the United States.

"Jeremy, thanks very much for joining me. I know this must be a busy time for you, and I'm proud to meet the man whose family name and heritage is synonymous with the modern chad industry."

"It's a pleasure, Lauren. We haven't had so much excitement around here at Piscataway Perforated Paper in years!"

"I have to admit I've never thought too much about where chad comes from," I said.

"You'd be amazed how few people really do," said Jeremy. "But without it, our modern hi-tech world, even the World Wide Web, probably wouldn't even exist! Chad is the key to punched card technology, and that's the entire basis of the computer industry as we know it today. And making chad ain't easy, I'm telling you!"

"I understand that it involves precision manufacturing of the utmost quality."

"Indeed. Each individual chad is machined to tolerances of at least a thousandth of an inch. And our deluxe high precision chad product line approaches micron specifications. You won't find better chad anywhere, ignoring the fact that nobody else makes the stuff anymore," said Jeremy.

"Why is such extreme precision required?"

"Our customers -- the punchcard manufacturers -- demand high quality. Remember, they have teams of employees who have to glue each individual chad into the holes on every raw punchcard before those cards can be shrink-wrapped and shipped out. If the chad and the holes don't align perfectly, you can have a real mess on your hands."

"Speaking of messes, any thoughts on the Florida election situation?" I asked.

"Lauren, we can't take responsibility for the way our product may be folded, bent, spindled, or mutilated once it leaves our factory and has been integrated into punchcards themselves. We're a reputable firm with an excellent product, and we stand behind our chad. But we're not going to take a fall for those folks in Florida. Of course, any chad that is shown to have been defective at the manufacturing stage may be returned and will be replaced with chad of equal or better quality, but our limited warranty clearly immunizes us from consequential damages, including election results and cuts or other injuries that might be caused from using chad as confetti. Chad is not a toy!"

"Nobody's trying to blame you for anything," I said. "Tell me, are any new products using chad, or is it only of legacy interest?"

"Oh, we're very excited about chad's future! One of the most interesting projects is using our experimental nano-chad to store up to 100 gigabytes of information on a single punchcard."

"That's amazing!" I said.

"Yes. Once we figure out how to keep the cards from going white hot and liquefying we know this is going to be a killer product!"

"Well Jeremy, thanks again, it's been an interview with real punch. I hope you'll join me for another chad chat sometime in the future."

"Be glad to. Call anytime, we'll be hanging around."

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Lauren Weinstein

For information about the author, please see: http://www.vortex.com/lauren

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