I first read "Alice in UNIX Land" (by Lincoln Spector, Texas Computer Currents, Sept. 1989), probably around the time when it was written — and at that time didn't understand very many of the jokes. Having gradually gained some experience (or at least age) I think I get nearly all of it now except this one passage:
"But then again," suggested the Woodpecker, "what about the shrinkwrap issue?"
Suddenly, everyone leaped up and started dashing about, waving their hands in the air and screaming. Just as suddenly, they all sat down again.
"Now that that's settled," said the Woodpecker, "let's go back to tasting flavors."
In context I get that the jokes are mostly about evaluating the various types ("flavors") of Unix and other operating systems at the time, generally to point out some sort of weakness. Apparently "the shrinkwrap issue" causes all the characters a lot of stress, so much so they just move on to the next topic without settling anything despite stating the contrary.
"Shrinkwrap" sounds like it refers to selling boxed software in a store. But at the time I thought commercial Unix was almost exclusively sold in conjunction with hardware generally from the same manufacturer (*). So I don't see how that would apply.
Were there Unix vendors trying to sell directly to the PC market at the time?
Or if not, what's the joke?
(* Maybe that was not true for something like BSD, but I didn't think BSD was sold on shelves anyway).