Commander Riker’s “Turbolift Pitch” for Early ’90s Enterprise Software

Here’s a video promotion from 1993 by Boole and Babbage (supposedly “the first software company in Silicon Valley”, acquired by BMC Software in 1998) featuring Johnathan Frakes as Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Commander Riker. Boole and Babbage made “software to help corporations stitch together computer networks,” a rather messy prospect in those days before we standardized them around the internet protocols.

You don’t have to be a programmer or IT person to enjoy the nostalgic cheese on this video. It opens with a chaotic scene at an early ’90s airline logistics centre, where the reservations system has crashed.  Harold, the only employee “with vision”, is contacted by Commander Riker through the monitor on his 386-based PC. Riker tells Harold that Mainview, Boole and Babbage’s network monitoring software, can solve him problem. After some quick technobabble that’s as vague and hand-wavey as any you’ve seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mainview gives Harold the solution he needs: “Reroute through Cleveland” (which isn’t all that different from the standard deus ex machina on the show: reroute some energy through the ship’s main deflector).

I’m pretty impressed that Boole and Babbage were able to get Paramount to go along with letting them use Star Trek and the bridge set of the Enterprise for this promo. I’m less surprised that Frakes would sign up for the gig: over the years, he’ll appear on anything, no matter how cheesy.

There is one line near the end of the promo that rings true for techie today, even with our pocket-sized devices that run circles around the best desktops of that era and far, far better networks: “Doing more with less will be your constant challenge in the coming years”.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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