Since the afternoon of April 28, when the government made public its demand to break up Microsoft Corp., this historic antitrust case has been in what Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post’s media columnist, likes to call “the spin cycle.”

The one man who is out of the spin cycle holds the decisional power: Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who must apply the law to the government’s demand for remedies. To do that, he will be dusting off some old precedents. A key case that will determine the rules that govern the New Economy dates from 1947 and involved two patented machines that made rock salt, the “Lixator” and the “Saltomat.” It suggests that Jackson can do what he wants on remedies.

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