Frustrations: Guerrilla War Against Computers

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A middleaged, overweight free-lance journalist who plays the jew's-harp is hardly the prototype of a revolutionary. But Harvey Matusow, 46, has full credentials for conspiracy. An American Communist in the 1940s who turned FBI informer and spent five years in prison for perjury (after admitting that he had testified falsely against some 250 supposed Reds), Matusow now lives and plots in London. He is the self-appointed president of the International Society for the Abolition of Data Processing Machines, which claims 1,500 members. Like Matusow, they look on the computer as an exploitative monster that has turned on its creator.

Members receive, free of charge, an I.S.A.D.P.M. identification card decorated with a red slingshot, symbolic of David's battle with Goliath. They also get a year's subscription to Matusow's anticomputer newsletter, which he plans to start publishing soon. For 6s., they can get a copy of his 125-page The Beast of Business, a handbook of guerrilla tactics for computer haters that might have been conceived by Che Guevara.

Harvey's Roulette. "The computer has a healthy and conservative function in mathematics and other sciences," Matusow allows, but "when the uses involve business or government, and the individual is tyrannized, then we make our stand." The methods he proposes for dealing with the Enemy are fiendishly sophisticated. No simple stapling, folding or mutilation of a computer card for him. "That will nullify the effect of the card," he says. "But it will make it easy to spot and will not have much effect on disrupting the system."

Instead, he suggests playing "computer-card roulette"—placing the card on a drawing board, carefully cutting out three or four extra rectangular holes with a razor blade, and returning the card to sender. Matusow claims to have altered a magazine subscription card in that manner. As a result, he received 23 copies of the magazine each week and a note thanking him for using the publication in his current-events class.

Subtler souls might prefer other Matusow tactics—like erasing the magnetic coding on their personal checks by running the code numbers under an electromagnet. "The effect," he says, "is that your checks will not be processed by the automatic sorting device. Someone at the bank will have to handle them personally. But after all, it's your money, and it should get the loving care it deserves."

A prime rule in Matusow's anticomputer campaign is to "always let the enemies know that you are at war with them." He suggests that recipients of a computerized bill destroy the returnable portion, then mail back a check together with a note explaining what they have done and why. When paying utility bills, Matusow advises doing it promptly—but overpaying or underpaying by a penny or two. The effect, he says, is to send an unsophisticated computer into a state of hysteria.

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