Fifteen years after 9-11 threats have evolved, too

Fifteen years after 9-11 it’s interesting to reflect on how much our lives have — and haven’t — changed as a result of that attack. One very obvious change for all of us since 9-11 is how much more connected we are to the world and to each other than we were back then. Politico has a great post quoting many of the people flying on Air Force One that day with President George W. Bush as his administration reacted to the unfolding events. Reading the story one thing that struck me was the lack of immediate information about the attacks available to the airborne White House. They had televisions with rabbit ear antennas and […]

John Ellenby dies at 75

ellenbyI wouldn’t normally be writing a column early on a Saturday morning but I just read that John Ellenby died and I think that’s really worth mentioning because Ellenby changed all our lives and especially mine.

If you don’t recognize his name, John Ellenby was a British computer engineer who came to Xerox PARC in the 1970s to manufacture the Xerox Alto, the first graphical workstation. He left Xerox in the late 1980s to found Grid Systems, makers of the Compass — the first full-service laptop computer. In the 1990s he founded Agilis, which made arguably the first handheld mobile phone that wasn’t the size of a brick. Finally he […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part Two

BigDataIn Part One of this series of columns we learned about data and how computers can be used for finding meaning in large data sets. We even saw a hint of what we might call Big Data at Amazon.com in the mid-1990s, as that company stretched technology to observe and record in real time everything its tens of thousands of simultaneous users were doing. Pretty impressive, but not really Big Data, more like Bigish Data. The real Big Data of that era was already being gathered by outfits like the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — spy operations that were recording digital communications […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part One

BigDataBig Data is Big News, a Big Deal, and Big Business, but what is it, really? What does Big Data even mean? To those in the thick of it, Big Data is obvious and I’m stupid for even asking the question. But those in the thick of Big Data find most people stupid, don’t you? So just for a moment I’ll speak to those readers who are, like me, not in the thick of Big Data. What does it mean? That’s what I am going to explore this week in what I am guessing will be three long columns.

My PBS series Triumph of the Nerds was the story of the personal computer and […]

Remembering Brentrance (not Brexit) and Steve Jobs returns to Netflix

HeathBritons are today voting whether to remain a part of the European Union, their so-called Brexit referendum. Watching the coverage on television makes me recall a night back in 1973 when I stood in a crowd outside the Houses of Parliament while inside the chamber was being held the vote that made the UK part of what was called back then the Common Market. If today’s vote is for Brexit, that night 43 years ago was the Brentrance.

It wasn’t clear that night which way the vote would go. The Tory government of Prime Minister Edward Heath was all for the Common Market and so that’s how the vote went sometime before midnight. The […]