Zarko Kecic (zkecic@cs.uml.edu)
Mon, 29 Jan 1996 00:51:56 -0500 (EST)

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Billy's Letters

The following appeared in a computer magazine in Mr. Dvorak's column:

Dear Mr. Dvorak:

Ann Landers wouldn't print this. I have nowhere else to turn. I have
to get the word out. Warn other parents. I must be rambling on. Let me try
and explain. It's about my son, Billy. He's always been a good, normal
ten year old boy. Well, last spring we sat down after dinner to select a
summer camp for Billy. We sorted through the camp brochures. There were
the usual camps with swimming, canoeing, games, singing by the campfire --
you know. There were sports camps and specialty camps for weight reduction,
music, military camps and camps that specialized in Tibetan knot tying. I
tried to talk him into Camp Winnepoopoo. It's where he went last year. (He
made an adorable picture out of painted pinto beans and macaroni). Billy
would have none of it. Billy pulled a brochure out of his pocket. It was
for a COMPUTER CAMP! We should have put our foot down right there, if only
we had known. He left three weeks ago. I don't know what's happened.
He's changed. I can't explain it. See for yourself. These are some of my
little Billy's letters.
Dear Mom,
The kids are dorky nerds. The food stinks. The computers are the
only good part. We're learning how to program. Late at night is the best
time to program, so they let us stay up.
Love, Billy.

Dear Mom,
Camp is O.K. Last night we had pizza in the middle of the night. We
all get to choose what we want to drink. I drink Classic Coke. By the
way, can you make Szechuan food? I'm getting used to it now. Gotta go,
it's time for the flowchart class.
Love, Billy.

P.S. This is written on a wordprocessor. Pretty swell, huh? It's
spellchecked too.

Dear Mom,
Don't worry. We do regular camp stuff. We told ghost stories by the
glow of the green computer screens. It was real neat. I don't have much
of a tan 'cause we don't go outside very often. You can't see the
computer screen in the sunlight anyway. That wimp camp I went to last
year fed us weird food too. Lay off, Mom. I'm okay, really.
Love, Billy.

Dear Mom,
I'm fine. I'm sleeping enough. I'm eating enough. This is the best
camp ever. We scared the counselor with some phony worm code. It was
real funny. He got mad and yelled. Frederick says it's okay. Can you
send more money? I spent mine on a pocket protector and a box of blank
diskettes. I've got to chip in on the phone bill. Did you know that you
can talk to people on a computer? Give my regards to Dad.
Love, Billy.

Dear Mother,
Forget the money for the telephone. We've got a way to not pay.
Sorry I haven't written. I've been learning a lot. I'm real good at
getting onto any computer in the country. It's really easy! I got into
the university's in less than fifteen minutes. Frederick did it in five,
he's going to show me how. Frederick is my bunk partner. He's really
smart. He says that I shouldn't call myself Billy anymore. So, I'm not.
Signed, William.

Dear Mother,
How nice of you to come up on Parents Day. Why'd you get so upset? I
haven't gained that much weight. The glasses aren't real. Everybody wears
them. I was trying to fit in. Believe me, the tape on them is cool. I
thought that you'd be proud of my program. After all, I've made some money
on it. A publisher is sending a check for $30,000. Anyway, I've paid for
the next six weeks of camp. I won't be home until late August.
Regards, William.

Stop treating me like a child. True -- physically I am only ten years
old. It was silly of you to try to kidnap me. Do not try again. Remember,
I can make your life miserable (i.e. - the bank, credit bureau, and
government computers). I am not kidding. O.K.? I won't write again and
this is your only warning. The emotions of this interpersonal
communication drain me.
Sincerely, William.

See what I mean? It's been two weeks since I've heard from my little
boy. What can I do, Mr.Dvorak? I know that it's probably too late to save
my little Billy. But, if by printing these letters you can save JUST ONE
CHILD from a life of programming, please, I beg of you to do so. Thank
you very much.

Sally Gates, Concerned Parent