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Plagiarized Poem – Why Computers Sometimes Crash! by Dr. Seuss

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on 16th June 2006

Outline:
An amusing poem about computing that has circulated widely online and via email is attributed to American writer, Dr Seuss.


Status:
The poem was actually written by Gene Ziegler, not Dr. Seuss and is an abridged and plagiarized version of the original.

Example:
You must read this out LOUD!!!Why Computers Sometimes Crash! by Dr. Seuss.
(Read this to yourself aloud – it’s great!)If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort, and the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort, then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

[Remaining verses removed: The verse above and the verses that I have removed from this example were stolen from a longer poem by Gene Ziegler – See analysis below for details.]

Well, that certainly clears things up for me. How about you?

Thank you, Bill Gates, for bringing all this into our lives



Detailed Analysis:
This amusing and well written poem has become an Internet favourite. It has been posted on a great many websites and circulates via email almost continually. The poem commonly sports the title “Why Computers Sometimes Crash!” and its authorship is attributed to famous American writer and cartoonist, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). Another, version of the poem circulates with the title “What If Dr. Seuss Wrote Technical Manuals?” and lists the author as “Anonymous”.

Astute recipients would have suspected that the piece was not actually penned by Dr. Seuss (who died in 1991) and was attributed to him simply because of its Seuss like style. That said, many of us are perhaps guilty of believing that the poem was just one more among the thousands of jokes, poems and stories of unclaimed and unknown authorship that make their way around Cyberspace.

In fact, the piece is part of a longer poem written by Gene Ziegler in 1994 and titled “A Grandchild’s Guide to Using Grandpa’s Computer”. The complete poem, is still available on the archived version of Gene Ziegler’s website. In a history of the poem on the same web page, Gene explained:

Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, some scoundrel whose editing skills exceeded his or her ethical standards edited the poem, reduced it by half, removed my name, and recirculated it under the title “If Dr. Seuss were a Technical Writer”, attributed to the ever prolific “Anonymous.”

The version included above attributes the poem to Dr. Seuss himself and adds a reference to Bill Gates along with advice to read the poem aloud.

After he discovered that his work had been stolen, Gene Ziegler wrote another, very witty poem entitled “Hang the Information Highwayman!” in which he eloquently condemns the plagiarist.

The fact that the plagiarized versions of the original poem have become so popular and spread so widely is testament to its quality and appeal. It is sad and unfair that Mr. Ziegler has been so often denied the credit he deserves. Please do not circulate or publish the stolen versions of the poem.


Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer