Not your usual Microsoft keynote: Tom Brokaw

Last Wednesday in Los Angeles, developers and admins expecting Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer were treated to Tom Brokaw, a developer of a different kind with a message that changed the tone of the day, and maybe of Microsoft as well.

LOS ANGELES (BetaNews) - The message this time wasn't about how great things are, or how empowering the acceleration of agility can motivate the enterprise to harness the power of workflow. It was a mangled metaphor-free message, and it came from a source no one expected to hear from that day: former NBC News managing editor and NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.

We present Brokaw's words in their entirety.

TOM BROKAW: I'm not here to write any code, to design new apps, build a network or even to wire this room. I'm hoping that we can have a kind of a conversation, because while I am a prolific user of my PC and have been since its inception, it's inner working really remain an opaque mystery to me. In fact, I fall back to an I've used throughout my career, when people ask me, "How does the picture get to where you work in your studio to where I see it at home?" I just say, "It's a miracle" and leave it at that.

Former NBC News managing editor Tom Brokaw, speaking 2/27/08 before the Microsoft 'Heroes Happen Here' launch event.But I do think that we are at a very important time in our lives collectively, not just in this business or in this country but around the world. From the very beginning, I was astute enough to recognize the power of the personal computer and the many facets of software programs that drive it, and the explosive reach and power through the Internet world to fundamentally alter our times and our world. And so it has.

Here and now, however, still at the dawn of this new age, I like to believe we are in the seminal stages of what I call the "Second Big Bang." The first Big Bang, of course, formed the physical universe [that houses] the world today in which we live. This Big Bang means that there are planets out there still trying to find their place in this universe. Some of them have already drifted too close to the sun and burned up. Others have merged. Still others of them seemed to be not very significant on the horizon a few years ago, and they have now become a very powerful force.

But as I say, we're still at the seminal stages of the formation of this new universe, the possibilities seem endless and utterly exciting.

The expansion of this new technology has been advanced not by a small collection of monkish wonks working in secret laboratories, but instead by a vast and ever larger population of teenagers, lab scientists, physicians, academics, business executives, merchants, farmers, military analysts at the Pentagon, grunts in the field, environmentalists and geologists, journalists, and librarians, NPOs and multi-national corporations. All of them with the same foundation and ability to move this technology and change our world, limited only by their imagination.

Historians will look back on this time in our lives as a truly transformational age in the long history of the world, a time when the planet got much smaller, much more intimate, and the possibilities of every aspect of our lives got much larger.

However, the test of our place in this world is not yet complete. After all, we don't want to become Easter Island or the Mayan civilization. Life -- you have to remember every day, as you use this technology -- is not just a virtual experience. If we develop capacity, however unlimited it may be, and leave out compassion or common sense, what is the reward to us, either individually or collectively?

If speed overruns reason, what else gets cancelled?

When I talk to young people...I like to remind them that global poverty will not be resolved by hitting the Delete button. We'll not solve climate change by hitting Backspace. What I believe in my heart and my mind is that it will do us little good to wire the world if we short-circuit our consciousness, our souls, and we short-change our potential to use this technology to advance mankind.

Next: Brokaw's heroes...

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