CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

5 Fictional Companies Owned by Microsoft

Original image
Getty Images

Microsoft runs an entire corporate empire you might not know about, but are probably hosting somewhere on your computer. They are the companies of Access and SharePoint, of Excel and SQL Server, and comprise all of that sample data included to give you some idea of how the software works.

1. Contoso

According to Businessweek, Sony has a financial services division that mostly sells life insurance policies. This division is worth more than the rest of the company combined. As one analyst put it, “Sony is a life insurance company with a money-losing TV business.”

Clearly, then, a company like Contoso Ltd. is not without precedent. There’s Contoso Bank, with divisions in the United States and Australia, and an arm in Singapore called Asean Bank. Contoso Pharmaceuticals is spread across the United States, with offices in Denver, Chicago (where its IT center is located), Atlantic, Sacramento, and its corporate headquarters in New York City.

The IT department of Contoso Pharmaceuticals alone supports 195,000 users, which suggests a total headcount somewhere in that area, including contractors and interns. (For comparison, Verizon Communications employs a total of 193,900 people; Disney “only” employs 156,000.) It’s hard to estimate how many people fall under the combined corporate empire, but it likely blows United Technologies—which builds both elevators (as Otis) and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. Army—out of the water.

2. The Volcano Coffee Company

The Volcano Coffee Company is renowned not only for its blends, which continue a legacy “reminiscent” of ancient Mo’a Mana tribal ways, but also for its forward-thinking embrace of technology. Its owners have developed an InterNET Home Page for the World Wide Web. They’ve even accepted sponsorship by way of a rectangular animated Compuserve GIF.

The company’s name derives from a little known botanical fact that coffee plants grow natively only in the volcanic region of South Sea islands. The Volcano Coffee Company wants you to know that the coffee fields “yield the plumpest, most flavor-filled coffee beans in the world.” Coffee mugs are available from the online gift shop for a mere $25, which means 20 years after Volcano set the web standard, nobody’s figured out how to make and sell a cheap mug online.

3. Northwind Traders

GeeksEngine

According to its business plan, the mission of Northwind Traders is “to become the premier provider of adventure vacations for 25- to 35- year-old professionals.” And the company seems to be well on its way. It started as a clothing store employing seven people. (Last year, the retail arm of the company earned profits of $200,400 on sales of $1,419,500.) Today, Northwind employs 200 people, with a goal of adding another 420 employees in its first year as a travel agency, and raising the total to 1400 the following year.

Before fully divesting itself of the clothing store, the company intends to raise $83,500 from outside sources, making it the most efficient company in Seattle. Still, before investing, one really ought to consider the area. Because Northwind is located in a technology hub of the nation, one has to wonder how the company plans to make everyone forget about the Internet and companies with William Shatner as their front man, to say nothing of Margie’s Travel, another Microsoft baby.

(Those of you downloading your business school essays from the Internet should be warned that ABN Traders has a suspiciously similar business plan to Northwind, as does Aussie-One Travel Agency, which in a twist has a partnership with Margie’s Travel.)

4. World Wide Importers

Just as its name suggests, World Wide Importers imports things from around the world. The company specifically focuses on clothing, which is then sold to U.S. retailers. World Wide Importers employs 4500 people, which is just about the same number as Groupon. Really. (I have no idea what those people are doing all day.) World Wide Importers has locations in three cities: Chicago, where marketing, research, and HR operate; Boston, for sales, shipping, and inventory; and Denver, for customer service.

5. Blue Yonder Airlines

Frequent flyers should go ahead and bookmark Blue Yonder Airlines. It is “the leading adventure charter airline in the US!” with “the industry’s best safety record.” More importantly, though, it has an on-time-every-time guarantee, which has to be the worst business decision in the history of enterprise, but the best deal a traveler is ever going to find. There’s no hedging here, either. Their guarantee reads: “If we fail to depart or arrive on time, we will pay for your accommodations.” Before you start eyeing a Skyloft at the MGM Grand, however, you should probably take note that Blue Yonder has a 100 percent on-time record.

Original image
iStock
arrow
literature
10 Classic Books That Have Been Banned
Original image
iStock

From The Bible to Harry Potter, some of the world's most popular books have been challenged for reasons ranging from violence to occult overtones. In honor of Banned Books Week, which runs from September 24 through September 30, 2017, here's a look at 10 classic book that have stirred up controversy.

1. THE CALL OF THE WILD

Jack London's 1903 Klondike Gold Rush-set adventure was banned in Yugoslavia and Italy for being "too radical" and was burned by the Nazis because of the author's well-known socialist leanings.

2. THE GRAPES OF WRATH

Though John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, about a family of tenant farmers who are forced to leave their Oklahoma for California home because of economic hardships, earned the author both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, it also drew ire across America become some believed it promoted Communist values. Kern County, California—where much of the book took place—was particular incensed by Steinbeck's portrayal of the area and its working conditions, which they considered slanderous.

3. THE LORAX

The cover of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Google Play

Whereas some readers look at Dr. Seuss's Lorax and see a fuzzy little character who "speaks for the trees," others saw the 1971 children's book as a danger piece of political commentary, with even the author reportedly referring to it as "propaganda."

4. ULYSSES

James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses may be one of the most important and influential works of the early 20th century, but it was also deemed obscene for both its language and sexual content—and not just in a few provincial places. In 1921, a group known as The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully managed to keep the book out of the United States, and United States Post Office regularly burned copies of it. But in 1933, the book's publisher, Random House, took the case—United States v. One Book Called Ulysses—to court and ended up getting the ban overturned.

5. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

In 1929, Erich Maria Remarque—a German World War I veteran—wrote the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, which gives an accounting of the extreme mental and physical stress the German soldiers faced during their time in the war. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book's realism didn't sit well with Nazi leaders, who feared the book would deter their propaganda efforts.

6. ANIMAL FARM

The cover of George Orwell's Animal Farm
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The original publication of George Orwell's 1945 allegorical novella was delayed in the U.K. because of its anti-Stalin themes. It was confiscated in Germany by Allied troops, banned in Yugoslavia in 1946, banned in Kenya in 1991, and banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.

7. AS I LAY DYING

Though many people consider William Faulkner's 1930 novel As I Lay Dying a classic piece of American literature, the Graves County School District in Mayfield, Kentucky disagreed. In 1986, the school district banned the book because it questioned the existence of God.

8. LOLITA

Sure, it's well known that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is about a middle-aged literature professor who is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl who eventually becomes her stepdaughter. It's the kind of storyline that would raise eyebrows today, so imagine what the response was when the book was released in 1955. A number of countries—including France, England, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa—banned the book for being obscene. Canada did the same in 1958, though it later lifted the ban on what is now considered a classic piece of literature—unreliable narrator and all.

9. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

Cover of The Catcher in the Rye

Reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is practically a rite of passage for teenagers in recent years, but back when it was published in 1951, it wasn't always easy for a kid to get his or her hands on it. According to TIME, "Within two weeks of its 1951 release, J.D. Salinger’s novel rocketed to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Ever since, the book—which explores three days in the life of a troubled 16-year-old boy—has been a 'favorite of censors since its publication,' according to the American Library Association."

10. THE GIVER

The newest book on this list, Lois Lowry's 1993 novel The Giverabout a dystopia masquerading as a utopiawas banned in several U.S. states, including California and Kentucky, for addressing issues such as euthanasia.

Original image
Heritage Auctions
arrow
Lists
10 Vintage Canes With Amazing Hidden Features
Original image
Heritage Auctions

Sometimes a vintage walking stick is more than a dapper statement piece. It can also be a men’s grooming kit, a croquet set, a microscope, or even a projector. Multipurpose canes were all the rage at the turn of the 19th century, and now some of the most unique examples of the trend are going up for auction.

The Gentleman Collector auction from Heritage Auctions will feature dozens of canes, many of which offer bonus features beyond what meets the eye. Check out these useful, sneaky, and oddly specific specialty canes, which hit the auction block on September 22.

1. THE COIN COLLECTOR’S CANE

Cane with a weight in the handle.

Can’t decide if you identify more as a rabologist (someone who collects canes) or a numismatist (someone who collects coins)? This artifact will appeal to both halves of your heart. Inside the ebonized wood handle of this late 19th-century cane is a space for weighing and storing coins. Just push a button to reveal the tiny brass scale.

Estimated price: $7000 - $10,000

2. THE MAGIC LANTERN CANE

Cane with hidden projector.

Who needs a bulky iPhone taking up space in your pocket when you can carry a miniature movie theater in your walking stick? The top of the "magic lantern" cane slides up and acts as a portable projector. Point it at the nearest wall to view the hand-painted illustrations housed within the shaft. A tiny torch brings the full-color slideshow to life.

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000

3. THE CIDER MAKER’S CANE

Cane that makes cider.

There's nothing like a long walk to work up a thirst for a glass of cider. With this walking stick in hand, you can get to work making one immediately. The interior wood rod of this device doubles as an apple press. Along the the tin shaft is a siphon and spout for collecting juice.

Estimated price: $1000 - $1500

4. THE ARCHITECT’S CANE

Cane with hidden architect's tools.

With a mahogany shaft and a leather-wrapped handle, this walking stick is a piece of art on its own. Architects can twist it open and use the supplies inside to draw up something equally exquisite. The handle has two secret compartments containing a compass, graphite, and drafting tools. Inside the lower part of the cane is a level, straightedge, letter opener, an elevation drawing, and a plumb-line (a pendulum with a rope-suspended weight).

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000

5. THE WELL-GROOMED GENTLEMAN’S CANE

Cane with hidden grooming kit.

The original owner of this grooming kit/walking stick combo was likely the envy of every fancy gentleman in town. Inside the cane’s segmented oak shaft are vials, brushes, a sponge, a button hook, and shaving supplies—everything necessary to look fresh and fine on the go.

Estimated price: $4000 - $6000

6. THE SPY CAMERA CANE

Chrome handle of a cane.

The hidden camera is the quintessential spy accessory. This circa 1980 cane, based on a patent from 1904, holds its camera and film winder inside the chrome handle. Snap it closed and the device transforms back into an inconspicuous, black walking stick.

Estimated price: $6000 -$8000

7. THE SPITTING CANE

Cane handle shaped like a face.

The handle on this item portrays a man’s face scrunched up into a nasty expression. What it does is even nastier: Push a button on the top and liquid comes shooting out the mouth. The trick cane could possibly be used for good, like refilling people’s drinks at parties. Or you could just fill it with water and spray anyone who invades your personal space.

Estimated price: $1500 - $2500

8. THE CROQUET PLAYER’S CANE

Cane with miniature croquet set.

You wouldn’t think that a mallet, a ball, and a full set of wickets would fit easily inside a cane, but a 19th-century inventor found a way to make it work. Of course, this croquet set is much smaller than one you'd find on a lawn. Luckily a desktop makes a fine alternative to a playing field.

Estimated price: $800 - $1200

9. THE MICROSCOPE CANE

Cane with hidden microscope.

A botanist going on a stroll through the woods would be fortunate to have this walking stick with them. Upon spotting an interesting specimen, they could pause their journey and use the cane as their miniature laboratory. The ebonized wood shaft contains a compartment with glass slides and vials, and the detailed silver handle holds an actual brass microscope.

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000

10. THE CROSSBOW CANE

Cane with wooden eagle handle.

If you’re still not convinced that canes can be hardcore, take this specimen from the late 1800s. The carved eagle-head handle is intimidating on its own, but pop it off and you have all the components necessary to put together a crossbow. Brandishing a dangerous weapon never looked so classy.

Estimated price: $1500 - $2500

All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios