Charles Lingo: Microsoft's worst enemy

The retired hospital maintenance engineer is mad as hell at Microsoft: Now it's payback time.

The man who put a face on the California class-action monopoly pricing lawsuit against Microsoft on Friday isn't a programmer, an information technology pro or an obsessed hacker.

Instead, he's a 62-year-old retired hospital maintenance engineer who may better represent the typical user of Windows software than the conventional perception of a computer geek.

But Charles Lingo of San Jose, Calif., has strongly held views about Microsoft.

Because he couldn't buy a laptop without also paying for the Windows operating system already that came with the machine, he says the Redmond software giant has, in effect, "extorted" money from him.

"Microsoft has forced me to pay a tax I'm not willing to pay," Lingo said in an interview from his home. "You cannot buy a laptop without their software installed. That is unreasonable."

Lingo is a longtime computer user, having purchased a Commodore in the early 1980s. By the early 1990s and another Commodore later, he graduated to a 386DX using a chip from Advanced Micro Devices. It also used the DR. DOS operating system. It was a short time later that Lingo ran into his first distasteful experience with Microsoft.

"When I tried to upgrade to Windows 3.1, I ran into a Windows exclusionary tactic. I put the disk in to try to upgrade, and it said I was not operating Microsoft DOS."

Since that day, Lingo resolved to never use Microsoft products, given a choice. Instead of using any Windows operating system, Lingo has since relied on IBM's OS/2.

No flowers for Mr. Bill
His disdain for Microsoft intensified a year ago when he decided to purchase an Acer 391C laptop that came bundled with Windows 95. Lingo installed OS/2. At the time, he said, he tried to obtain a refund through Acer -- to no avail.

His next attempt came this month after a group of Linux operating system users started a grass-roots "refund" movement, urging users of alternative operating systems to petition Microsoft directly for a refund. This effort also came to no avail.

Lingo also took part in the "Refund Day" protest that took place at Microsoft facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York. It was after participating in the protest that he was asked to become a representative in the suit.

Lingo, who uses his computer for keeping personal records, writing letters and using the Internet, said he is not an activist in other causes.

"This is a just case where I may have a chance to get back money that Microsoft extorted from me," he said. "I feel it was extorted from me."


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