'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, except Papa's mouse. The computer was humming, the icons were hopping, as Papa did last-minute Internet shopping. The stockings were hung by the modem with care in hopes that St. Nicholas would bring new software.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of computer games danced in their heads. PageMaker for Billy, and Quicken for Dan, and Carmen Sandiego for Pamela Ann. The letters to Santa had been sent out by Mom, to [email protected] - Which has now been re-routed to Washington State because Santa's workshop has been bought by Bill Gates.

All the elves and reindeer have had to skedaddle to flashy new quarters in suburban Seattle.  After centuries of a life that was simple and spare, St. Nicholas is suddenly a new billionaire, with a shiny red Porsche in the place of his sleigh, and a house on Lake Washington that's just down the way from where Bill has his mansion. The old fellow preens in black Gucci boots and red Calvin jeans. The elves have stock options and desks with a view, here they write computer code for Johnny and Sue.

No more dolls or tin soldiers or little toy drums will be under the tree, only compact disk ROMS with the Microsoft label. So spin up your drive, from now on Christmas runs only on Win95. More rapid than eagles the competitors came, Bill whistled, and shouted, and called them by name. "Now, ADOBE! now, CLARIS! now, INTUIT! too, now, APPLE! and NETSCAPE! you're all of you through, it is Microsoft's SANTA that the kids can't resist, it's the ultimate software with a traditional twist - recommended by no less than the jolly old elf, and on the package, a picture of Santa himself.

Get 'em young, keep 'em long, is Microsoft's scheme, and a merger with Santa is a marketer's dream. To the top of the NASDAQ! to the top of the Dow! Now dash away! dash away! dash away - wow!" And Mama in her 'kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap, when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, the whir and the hum of our satellite platter, as it turned toward that new Christmas star in the sky, the SANTALITE owned by the Microsoft guy.

As I sprang from my bed and was turning around, my computer turned on with a Jingle-Bells sound. And there on the screen was a smiling Bill Gates next to jolly old Santa, two arm-in-arm mates. And I heard them exclaim in voices so bright,