Oh ye technocrats of little faith. Ye computer nerds whose souls have been sold to the PC, and ye programmers whose hearts long only for the dots dancing across your terminals. Listen to the prayers of St. $ilicon, the self-anointed “fourth-quarter prophet” and founder of CHIP, the Church of Heuristic Information Processing, the world’s first user-friendly religion.
“Our program who art in memory, Hello be thy name; Thy Operating System come, thy Commands be done, on the Printer as they are on the screen.”
So begins “The Keyboard Prayer,” one of scores of pun-filled psalms, prayers and corny one-liners included in “The Binary Bible of St. $ilicon,” a $14.95 book of high-tech religious parody.
The bible is part of an entire computer religion comedy shtick developed four years ago by Jeffrey Armstrong, a former computer marketer and one-time student of comparative religion.
As a performer, Armstrong appears as St. $ilicon at computer conventions, high-tech company parties and sales meetings where he delivers his sermons and asks: “Has your data been saved?” As is the custom with some other ministries today, St. $ilicon augments his preaching by selling bumper stickers, plastic statues and T-shirts.
Life wasn’t always so.
Until launching his church, Armstrong, now 41, worked as a marketing manager for a variety of Silicon Valley computer companies, including Apple Computer. But his real interest was in psychology, comparative religion and writing, the subjects he studied at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1960s. When jobs in those fields proved hard to come by, Armstrong joined the ranks of high-tech workers.
Eventually, the entrepreneurial bug bit. But without a strong technology education and background, Armstrong decided his best bet was to become a high-tech entertainer.
Now, working out of his home in Santa Cruz, Armstrong says he is making a decent living, commanding $2,000 to $3,000 for a performance. But he says he hasn’t forgotten his “data-distressed” flock: the nation’s 50 million computer users.
“These computer users need a way to integrate the computer system into their lives,” he says. “They need to laugh. They need to feel that these machines can be more than just work.”
And a “strict fun-damentalist” priest whose vestments include a computer chip taped to his forehead and a necktie with flashing lights is probably just the guy to deliver those laughs.
“He’s terrific. Very creative and talented,” says Grant Bushee, president of InfoCorp, a Silicon Valley high-tech market research firm that hired Armstrong to entertain at a business luncheon last year. “We were all laughing.”
Although Armstrong says his preaching is intended to “humanize” computers for the uninitiated, people who have seen him perform say the sermons require far more than a passing knowledge of computer lingo.
“He’s funny for a technical group,” says Michael Luirette, director of domestic sales at Alpha Microsystems in Santa Ana. “He uses all the buzz words for the industry. But he’s not likely to take Las Vegas by a storm.”