E-tales: The best ‘www’ story never told

Despite having a physics degree, our e-taler couldn't make head or tail of it

The best ‘www’ story never told

A recent e-tale about a meeting with internet guru Tim Berners-Lee stirred a memory for another e-taler, who recalls receiving a document from the man back in the mid-1980s describing in “deeply technical jargon” what later became the internet.

Despite having a physics degree, our e-taler “couldn’t make head or tail of it, although I was told it was important. As a tech journalist, it was probably the biggest story not told at the time.”

At the time, Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the high-energy physics laboratory in Switzerland and home to the Large Hadron Collider. Our e-taler was working at the British end, the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory near Oxford.

Mind you, our e-taler did have one of the earliest email addresses ever, in 1986, courtesy of JANET (Britain’s Joint Academic Network, which is a bit like our KAREN).

Boxy beast that was

And while we’re trundling down memory lane, E-tales came across a piece of New Zealand computer history in an old New Zealand Computer Society book titled Looking Back to Tomorrow. Contained in it was this old Evening Post picture of Don Hay stroking New Zealand’s first computer.

The boxy beast that is the console of an IBM 650 was housed at the Treasury’s offices and the picture was snapped in 1961.

The exact status of the IBM 650, however, is a bit unclear. Last year, when computer historian John Pratt described ASB’s 1967 vintage IBM 360 as the second computer in New Zealand, one correspondent described it as “quite a late arrival”, citing the 650 and an Education Department computer as the first two.

Pratt, however, responded that the 650 “wasn’t a computer, even in IBM’s lexicon”.

“It was a tube-based calculator on its best day. The first IBM computer (programmable, binary etcetera) was the Model 704, and there was apparently just one sold in New Zealand,” Pratt wrote.

I’m late, I’m… not early

TUANZ needs a lesson in positive marketing. Last week one of our e-talers received an invitation to the organisation’s second Rural Broadband symposium, to take place in Rotorua, on July 3 and 4.

This is the second issue of the notice and would-be delegates are exhorted to register immediately. “Only seven days before the late fee kicks in,” says the invitation, making our e-taler feel like a delinquent taxpayer.

The right thing to say, of course, would be: “Only seven days left for privileged Early Bird discount”.

Tapping and tinkering

Like IT people journalists aren’t keen on having their work trivialised, so E-tales was rather disappointed to read UK Guardian COO Derek Gannon’s comments on journalists’ work in the near future: “As a journalist, you’ll tap out 2,000 words, shoot your own video, then take your own pictures.”

Leaving aside the fact that there are three highly-skilled jobs in that one package and being great at them all is doubtful, what’s this: “tap out 2,000 words”? Where’s the thought, the interviews, the difficulties, the angst that precedes the tapping? Ah well, IT’s just tinkering when you come to think of it, isn’t it?

To check out Gannon’s otherwise interesting views, see Computerworld, June 9, page 27.

Right on, Nokia!

We’re not sure where this image comes from but it hits the spot. Love those Tui ads. They have the right blend of cynicism and humour — not too heavy not too light.

Stripper-scanners — just say no

Having been somewhat perturbed by that ultimate in privacy invasion: the Millimetre “stripper” Scanner, E-tales was disturbed to learn that the security-mad US is already swinging them into action.

The scanners have apparently been installed at 10 US airports and have drawn the ire of US Civil Liberties Union, which says people have no idea they visually “strip” off their clothes, so the security bods get to see very detailed graphic images of unsuspecting passengers as “millimeter waves” go through cloth to identify metals, plastics, explosives… the precise contours of your body, beautiful or not. People’s faces will be blurred and the images not saved, according to the Transport Safety Authority.

Yeah right, as Tui might say. How long until an image makes its way onto YouTube? E-tales advice: take the pat-down.

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