Today celebrates an important anniversary in the history of the Net: On Sept. 19, 1982, computer programmer Scott Fahlman typed colon, dash, closing parenthesis, making :-) on a primitive Internet bulletin board and showing us how to show emotions in cyberspace. Since then, 1.5 billion emoticons have been unleashed on an unsuspecting public (OK, maybe not that many, but there have been quite a few), causing soccer moms and day traders alike to spend countless hours trying to figure out what all the little slashes and semicolons mean (you can find out definitively here).

The Motley Fool 50, down 2.5% today, prefers face-to-face conversation and never uses instant messaging.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Electronic Data Cut in Half

Electronic Data Systems (NYSE: EDS) issued a chilling earnings warning after the bell yesterday, and other computer services companies are paying for it today.

Electronic Data said it would likely earn only $0.12 to $0.15 a share in the third quarter, nowhere near the $0.74 it expected. Much of the shortfall is the result of reduced spending from existing customers, fewer new sales, and the company's increased spending on "sales pursuits and processes to leverage an increased business pipeline." Also hurting earnings is a writedown related to the bankruptcy of US Airways.

Electronic Data stock was down about 50% this afternoon, and investors have been punishing other companies in the sector as well. The world's top provider of computer hardware and services, IBM(NYSE: IBM), lost 6%. Sun Microsystems(Nasdaq: SUNW), Computer Sciences Corp.(NYSE: CSC), and Accenture(NYSE: ACN) all lost 10% or more. Even PC makers like Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ) are feeling downward pressure, as investors wonder if consumers will be forced to rein in spending.

To be sure, Electronic Data has serious problems. But perhaps Wall Street is overreacting with the rest of the sector, especially IBM. After seeing earnings estimates cut today by several analysts, a spokesman for Big Blue told Bloomberg, "Based on what we understand, and given the substantial miss, the key issues appear to be unique'' to Electronic Data.

Now near a four-year low, this Big Blue chip might warrant a spot on your watch list.

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Top 15 Casualties of the Dot-Com Bust

A couple of days ago, Bear Stearns(NYSE: BSC) sent an email to all employees telling them to cut the casual. Yes, workers at the Wall Street firm now have to revert back to suits and ties -- even if they have no contact with the public.

Businesses like Bear Stearns loosened their dress codes a few years ago to keep employees from leaving for more relaxed Internet environments. But with so many dot-coms imploding, the stuffed shirts are gleefully making their workers uncomfortable once again.

The stricter dress code is not the only change we're seeing these days. For instance, here are the:

Top 15 Other Casualties of the Dot-Com Bust

15. Someone replaced couch in "nap room" with a conference table.
14. sock puppet no longer cute or charming.
13. Toys "R" Us completely overstocked with Nerf guns.
12. Employees must rediscover the alarm clock.
11. Bean bags are out; bean counters are in.
10. Domain now pronounced Doh-Main rather than Dough-Main.
9. Overdue repair bill has kept Foosball table in the shop for months.
8. Children named after websites sue parents for pain and suffering incurred from playground bullies.
7. Businesses must somehow survive without Grand Master Pooh-bahs of Bootylicious BizDev.
6. Gold-plated espresso maker in reception area replaced with refurbished copy machine.
5. Corporate hot tub filled in with planter dirt and shrubbery.
4. Executive firefighter pole used to slide down to office lobby now serves as support column.
3. Dog-walking service canceled.
2. EBITDA is now EAITDA -- Earnings AFTER Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.
1. Stock options now used as wallpaper.

Quote of Note

"Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." -- Henry David Thoreau

Pixar's Monster Day

We expected Disney(NYSE: DIS) and Pixar(Nasdaq: PIXR) to swing for the fence with Tuesday's release of Monsters, Inc. to the home-video and DVD market.

The all-time second-highest grossing animated theatrical release, starring Billy Crystal and John Goodman, captured both the child and adult audience with its eclectic tale of monsters who frighten children to power their town with screams. But who would've expected the computer-rendered Oscar nominee to set a new record with five million units sold on its first day?

A lot of people. With DVD players selling briskly, it's a wide open market for film entertainment companies. The Consumer Electronics Association reports that 8 million DVD players have been sold stateside so far this year, bringing the format's cumulative sales to the 35 million mark.

But why should this matter? Aren't DVD disc sales simply replacing units that would've otherwise been sold on the tape-based VHS format? Not exactly. The average DVD owner bought 15 discs last year. That's twice as many movies as the typical VCR owner. And Monsters, Inc. is a DVD goldmine. It's a two-disc set with a playground full of bonus candy that finds the second disc running more than twice as long as the movie itself.

It's also animated. That seems to matter, as kids love to subject themselves to repeat viewings of the same subject matter. Although that may be a sore spot for AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL), who was banking on its Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings releases to set new records. Alas, Frodo, it was not to be.

Discussion Board of the Day: Pixar

Looks like there's more life after Toy Story for Pixar. Have you picked up your copy of Monsters, Inc., and what do you think about computer animation? What about the fact that Pixar plans to fully fund its 2006 film project? Can the company patch up its relationship with Disney? All this and more -- in the Pixar discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

FedEx (NYSE: FDX) reported boffo earnings today for its Q1 ending Aug. 31. EPS clocked in 45% higher at $0.52, versus last year's $0.36, on revenues up 8% from $5.04 billion to $5.45 billion. The increase was due, in part, to a 33% jump in ground shipments resulting from fears of a Teamsters strike at competitor United Parcel Service(NYSE: UPS). FedEx predicts Q2 EPS of $0.75 to $0.85.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley(NYSE: MWD) announced today its Q3 EPS dropped to $0.55 from last year's $0.65 -- its eighth straight quarterly decline. Revenues from its securities business (investment banking, trading, and brokerage) fell 36%. On the upside, Bear Stearns(NYSE: BSC) reported its third consecutive quarterly EPS increase, up 22% to $1.23 from $0.95 a year ago. The company also bumped up its dividend 13% and cited positive results in stock and bond trading and cost cutting.

The Federal Trade Commission and Citigroup(NYSE: C) settled a lawsuit over alleged predatory lending practices committed by its Associates First Capital subprime lending unit. Associates was accused of charging loan fees up to 8% and "aggressively" seeking debt refinancing business. Citigroup will pay a $240 million fine -- the largest ever in an FTC consumer protection case.

The nation's No. 1 rehab hospital operator, HealthSouth(NYSE: HRC), disclosed that the SEC is investigating possible insider-trading abuse. The stock collapsed 65% after the company announced in August that Medicare payment rules would cut profits by $175 million. It dropped another 18% today. CEO Richard Scrushy sold 2.5 million shares in July, and the investigation presumably aims at whether he had material, non-public information -- the Medicare news -- at the time of sale. In August, the company announced a spinoff of its less Medicare-dependent surgery centers. That may be on hold.

Housing starts nationwide fell for the third month in a row, this time 2.2%, but they varied by region. Starts fell 18.7% in the Midwest and 1.6% in the West, but rose 9.4% in the Northeast and 3.1% in the South. Builders cited the rains in the Midwest for the drop there. At the same time, the average rate for a 30-year conventional mortgage loan fell to 6.05% with 0.7 points -- an all-time low since Freddie Mac(NYSE: FRE) began keeping track in 1971.

And Finally...

Today on The author of Conquer the Crash offers a different investing perspective.... 10 Tips to Save McDonald's.... In Hot Topics, will Greenspan become irrelevant?... What you can put in an IRA, in Fool's School.... And Bill Mann says, don't be afraid of Spiders.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim