Dilbert: Man of the 90's

First published in the Illinois Technograph

[A Cool Dilbert Strip]

People magazine named him one of the most intriguing people of the year. He has been featured on the covers of Newsweek and Fortune. Remarkable books about him became New York Times bestsellers and millions of copies are in print. His irresistible pictures regularly appear in more than 1,500 newspapers worldwide. His wonderful homepage (http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert) is one of the most visited Web sites. People proudly hang his portraits in tens of thousands of offices across the country. No, it's not Bill Clinton, and it's not Bill Gates. This is some guy named Dilbert who is just a simple engineer at some average company. And he is not even human!

Nobody knows his last name or his exact address. Yet about 150 million people in almost 40 countries open their newspapers every morning just to read the latest news about this extraordinary fellow. He has a small cubicle at work and that's the place he spends most of his life, pretending to work or arguing with his idiot boss. Whether he gets transferred, downsized or even killed, he somehow always manages to come back there to continue his endless adventures.

[Dilbert] At home he has a lovable and witty dog - Dogbert, and a smart rat - Ratbert, who appear to be his only friends. He has inspired his pets to transform into the most extraordinary animals on the planet. Dogbert, for example, has managed to become the CEO of a large company, conquer the World with his hypnotic superpowers, write books and earn millions of dollars.

Dilbert himself has become a new kind of a Super Hero. Unlike any other cartoon character of the past, he has emerged as a symbol of technological revolution and, most importantly, the engineers who stand behind it. Nowadays, he is an organic part of America's everyday life. In this regard, Dilbert is completely unlike the Far Side nerds of the preceding era, who were nothing more than social misfits, though everyone still loved them.

The general public has always possessed rather limited information about the engineering profession. This comes as no surprise, since engineers rarely appear in movies, on the TV screen or in the newspapers. For the first time ever, an average reader can get some insight into the affairs of the people who have been left in the shadow for many decades. What the public has discovered, however, is the bizarre everyday reality of this long overlooked profession.

Most other occupations have had prominent cartoons dedicated to them for quite a while. Doonesbury makes fun of politicians, Donald Duck laughs at businessmen, and Beetle Bailey portrays professional soldiers, just to name a few. Engineering, however, has turned out to be a totally different story and America was shocked and stunned when it found out the truth. It can even be said that Dilbert's revelation has forever altered the social landscape of this country.

First of all, given the popularity of Dilbert cartoons, few sane high school graduates will ever consider going into engineering. Who can blame the poor kids? Nobody wants to spend his or her entire life in a cubicle, working 80 hours a week, grossly underpaid and completely isolated from the outside world. That's just human nature.

Secondly, those few who have already started studying toward an engineering degree, are now given an opportunity to see the "harsh future" that's waiting for them. Some will drop out, but many will try to get an MBA or stay away from the "real world" for as long as humanly possible. One of the common ways of deferring the entrance into the Dilbertized workplace is going to graduate school. This might explain the sharp rise in Masters and Ph.D. program enrollment observed in the recent years.

Thirdly, people who have been unfortunate enough to become engineers before they ever found out the truth, are now faced with a choice. They can either go with the flow and adopt Dilbert's techniques, or they can struggle against the specter of Dilbert. From now on, engineers are expected to look like Dilbert, talk like Dilbert, and, most importantly, think like Dilbert. But do they want to be Dilbert?

Dilbert and Dogbert have done what the Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, miserably failed to achieve - They Have Taken Over The World!

[A Cool Dilbert Strip]

[Made with Macintosh]

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