The World Wide Web at Twenty: The Birth of the World Wide Web

August 2, 2011

“Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked. . . .Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which anything could be linked to anything. All the bits of information in every computer at CERN [Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire – the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland] and on the planet would be available to me and to anyone else. There would be a single, global information space.”[1]

This vision, which would be the basis for what he later would name “The World Wide Web,” was that of Tim Berners-Lee – a young, British, Oxford-educated physicist. It came to him in 1980. Just fourteen years later, by 1994, an approximation of his initial vision – though not all information stored on computers everywhere – was becoming a reality. Continue reading “The World Wide Web at Twenty: The Birth of the World Wide Web”

Christian Chadd Taylor and the Search for the World Wide Web

August 31, 2012

One warm summer afternoon in 2000, Christian Chadd Taylor, a young lawyer in his sixth year as an attorney at a prominent law firms, Kirkland & Ellis, found himself driving a rental car up a long, narrow and steep road in the Alpine foothills outside Geneva, Switzerland. Taylor, a lean, broad shouldered, wiry individual who enjoyed rock-climbing, had humble beginnings—a workingman’s family in the tiny community of Shoals in southern Indiana, population 807. A decade earlier he had earned a degree in electrical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he had been president of the student government. Continue reading “Christian Chadd Taylor and the Search for the World Wide Web”

Briefly In The Presence of the Queen

Author’s note:

In honor of tomorrow’s royal wedding, here is a short story about a young Carleton College graduate in the autumn of 1962 who happens upon a royal holiday and commemoration ceremony. His name for the purpose of the story is Jack Grantham. All other names and events are authentic. A short silent video provides documentation.

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland, October 17, 1962

The second week in October Jack Grantham arrived by train in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, where Allen Shaw and his wife, Leslie, met him at the station. He could not know when he arrived in this ancient city of stone on high, treeless moors, he was about to have one of the memorable experiences of his life. He had planned to arrive on a Thursday, visit for a couple of days, and on Saturday return to Oxford. Accordingly, Allen and Leslie drove Jack by car to their townhouse and, the following morning, in an unexpectedly luxurious touch of hospitality, served him breakfast in bed. It was, they said, their way of delaying his having to arise for the day before the house had a chance to warm from the night’s chill from the glow of its freshly-lit fireplaces in each room.

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The Supreme Command and Allied Success

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

By the time he received his fifth star in December 1945, Eisenhower had been responsible for the success of four amphibious operations (which Clausewitz called the most difficult tactical maneuver). The last, at Normandy, involving 156,000 men in one day, was the largest in history. It was part of a larger assault codenamed “Overlord” — with its D-Day naval phase codenamed “Neptune.” The former included not just the landings but the ensuing campaign on the European continent to destroy the German army and Hitler’s regime. It thus met Clausewitz’s definition of “an offensive for the total overthrow of the enemy,” an undertaking recalling Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812 – that was the most difficult strategic military undertaking. The enemy is on the defensive, always the stronger mode of battle. He is behind fortifications on familiar terrain, protecting his home soil, and if he retreats, he has ever shorter lines for reinforcement and supply.

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Ike’s Activities During the Battle

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

Colonel Jimmy Gault of the British Army became, among other things, the supreme commander’s “advance man” to locate sites for — and supervise setting up — AFHQ’s advanced command posts. His duties also included accompanying the supreme commander on troop inspections and official visits of various kinds. Fortunately for historians, Gault kept a diary, noting in it that in the weeks leading up to D-day, Ike departed SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) each Monday evening for dinner with Churchill. On May 26, however, he recorded that Ike had lunch alone with the king and queen at Buckingham Palace. After D-day but before establishing on August 7 his advanced command post in France, Gault wrote that Ike visited Normandy eight times. The first of these, on D+1 (June 7, 1944) while attempting to view the fighting at Omaha Beach—“the supreme commander kept telling them to go in closer”– the fast mine layer Apollo carrying him and his party, including Admiral Ramsay and Butcher, went aground on a sandbar. After numerous insistent orders to the engine room to move the vessel first forward and then backward in reverse gear, the captain was able to get the ship back into open water. It had to limp at slow speed to the flagship with bent propellers and drive shafts. A destroyer then came alongside and carried the supreme commander and his party back to Portsmouth. The event delayed Ike’s return by six hours.

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D-day: Its Approach and Aftermath

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

In England during the build-up for D-day under Ike’s command in January, 1944, the mishaps continued. An amphibious training exercise in the spring of 1944 at Slapton Sands on the south coast near Plymouth, involved nine LSTs (the large Landing Ship Tanks) and 30,000 troops. Unfortunately, 749 American army and navy personnel died — figures that were concealed at the time as a matter of wartime security. Summersby later described it. “Eisenhower and other allied commanders were” embarked “on an infantry landing craft to witness the exercise [codenamed “Tiger”] to simulate the one anticipated by the 4th infantry division on beach [Utah] at Normandy on D-day,” she recalled. “But the maneuver went sour. Bombers, navy vessels, airplanes, and special units fouled up in everything from timing to orders.” To ensure realistic battle conditions, Eisenhower had authorized live fire. Several troops were killed. But the major damage came from enemy action the following day. The LSTs came under attack by nine German fast patrol boats (e-boats) based on the other side of the Channel in Cherbourg. Poorly defended by just one Royal Navy destroyer, one LST was sunk, one abandoned, and another badly damaged.

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Minesweep Officer: U.S. Navy in the Vietnam Era

On Active Duty in the U.S. Navy: Toward War in Vietnam and Afterwards

March 18, 2011

It was Saturday morning, January 28, 2011. The telephone rang and as usual, Jeanne answered it. She had been piecing a quilt in the lower level of their modest, two-story home in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Jack, as he often did during these retirement years, was lingering at the breakfast table reading the morning’s New York Times. Suddenly, Jeanne appeared at his side—an unusual response to a telephone call, which most often was for her. If not, normally she would simply call upstairs to say: “the call is for you.” This time she handed him the remote handset, whispering excitedly: “It’s Paul Jacobs.”A slight chill went down his spine as he collected his thoughts, grasped the handset, and glanced in the small window at the large digital words: “Paul Jacobs.”

A series of sensations came over him. Recently, he had begun wondering if his memory had started playing tricks, as though the accretion of experiences that made him who he was, events documented in the filing cabinet beside his desk (and on his computer’s hard drive), were a dream. Jack had heard nothing from Paul Jacobs, his former commanding officer on the USS Meadowlark (MSC 196), since he, Jack, had departed that vessel, a coastal minesweeper in Cuba on August 2, 1965—forty-six years earlier.

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