Sunday 12 December 2010


I knew my father was always ahead of his time, but the Wikileaks phenomenon has made him seem even more prescient. I now realise he invented the Internet, the iPhone, Facebook and Wikileaks - in the late sixties!

In 1971 he published a book called ISOWORG, standing for the International Society for World Government. Its spy hero, Thorne, was able to ring a telephone number which was answered by a computer that spoke with his voice, thought as he did, behaved as he did, but was wired up to a collection of computers around the world that contained the sum of mankind's knowlege. Don't forget he was writing this in about 1967!

"The world's going to get more crowded, more heavily armed, emergent nations more ambitious. No assembly of men could ever be sufficiently competent or sufficiently objective to handle such a problem and the penalty for failure is annihilation. A computerised administration could do it. Isoworg is building up the most powerful computer in the world. It will be able to handle all the information and problems which would occur in the context of a world government. It has memory banks which contain all the information to which you could refer if you knew where to look. Plus, of course, a great deal that it acquires from its own resources. All Isoworg operatives are linked to it, linked together, in the same way that you will be if you join. This means it know what's going on in the lives of all other agents simultaneously. Also, the extent of these memory banks is almost unlimited. You will, as I said, have instant recourse to most of the world's available knowledge."
"How does it work?" asked Thorne.
"It works according to a new principle. Imagine a dish of acid. In one corner is an electrode connected to a wire. All the information about you gets coded into electrical impulses and fed through the wire into the electrode. This causes a growth to occur on the electrode in the acid - it looks like a fern. The more information that is fed in, the more the fern grows. Given your compliance, it will learn you totally - whims, weaknesses, experience, knowledge, the lot. It will grow and become what you are. It will be your alter ego."

So when the Internet started, he, quite rightly, used to jokingly boast, 'Oh I invented that', which, in theory or concept, he had.

The other thing I'd always known, but had thought absurd, was that Isoworg's agents were dedicated to finding every country's state secrets, and publishing them to the world! Their agents were therefore enemies to everyone and would be tracked, hunted and killed by alliances of otherwise mutually hostile governments. For Thorne, read Assange!

"The purpose of Isoworg is to glean top-secret information from all countries and publish it to the world, because secrecy breeds suspicion, suspicion fear, fear tension and tense people press nuclear buttons. It's not only military information, it's political, scientific, trade secrets - anything that inhibits world-wide free intercourse and development."

And the iPhone? Here's how Thorne communicates with his computer:

"There." She pointed to an object like a cigarette case. "It's a mini two-way radio. You can talk to it whenever you like. You can sit and talk to it for the rest of your life, I should think."

I wrote an In Memoriam website after he died, and there's a description of the book here.

It's actually on sale here at eBay too.

Monday 27 September 2010

Microsoft rant

This is a rant while I wait for Office 2010 to roll back the installation it had nearly completed until it found a folder it couldn't access and therefore couldn't continue and the folder is protected so you can't delete it so you have to abandon the installation. It then can't find files it needs to un-install and comes up with "Error 1712 - we screwed up, no sorry, just piss off, we can't be bothered to write a sodding error trap and fix to get you through this."

Hey, Bill, the point is this: I just made a clean install of Office 2007 on a new drive - two weeks ago. I'm now upgrading to Office 2010 (don't ask, it's a long story). And IT WON'T DO IT!!

I mean how much do you have to pay a Microsoft employee, for a product that retails at about $600, to writing the effing code, to make sure that you can always install the bloody thing. It makes me see red. I could write the code to do that, and I'm an amateur. What is going on??

I have struggled with PCs and Microsoft since they started. I fix people's computers, I'm a bit of a geek. Here I am in 2010 and Microsoft can't even write an installation program that anticipates and solves problems. Give me strength.

OH. OH. Now get this. I go to Add/Remove programs to remove Office 2007 and it tells me "The language of this installation package is not supported by your system." It's ENGLISH you American tossers, what the hell do you think it is!!

Ok so now I'm running the FixIT file that uninstalls Office 2007. IN DOS!!! So why ON EARTH isn't the online FixIT file IN THE INSTALLATION PROGRAM???? Why do I have to go and search for it? You know, you get to think of this rubbish as normal, but I bought a Mac last year and oh boy. The loveliest thing in the world in Finder - you can find any file, instantly, anywhere. Bliss. And the rest. Years of my life have been wasted staring at progress bars.

DOS. Der. I should have deleted the folder in Dos. Kuh.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Boris Biking Day One

I spent all today on a Boris Bike.

Registered yesterday, £45 for the year, less than yesterday's return rail fare to Birmingham to do an episode of the Archers. Key arrived this morning, registered it online before going to work, bus to King's Cross, crossed road, put key in slot, had a bike! First 30 minutes free, biked to Soho, didn't have to take saddle off, find lock, find key, attatch bike to pillar, worry that bike would be stolen - no, just went CHUNK into a slot and strolled round the corner to do a voiceover for Jaguar sponsoring cricket.

Sashayed out 20 minutes later, put key in slot (in pouring rain), cycled gently to Knightsbridge to have much needed haircut, CHUNK, not my responsibility any more, ate sushi from Waitrose sitting on a wall (this bike business has got me on a fitness thing), had haircut, got bike back, went to Victoria to meet old friend from America, drank beer, reclaimed bike, drove up Mall, up Tot Ct Rd, turned right onto cycle lane city then, triumphant with new found excitement and fitness, just needing to ditch it at King's Cross to get bus home, couldn't find anywhere to dock the bloody bastard thing. In three different places, all the docking places were full, despite my brilliant iPhone app that told me they were free. Teething prob here - in the evenings, it will be impossible to find a docking station free near any of the mainline stations unless they make some more. Big it up for Errol from Maintainance who was pulling out a duff bike as I arrived at my last ditch docking port (this is beginning to sound like Star Trek). Top man Errol.

It's great. I have spent years bicycling around London and it's always been a hassle. The difference with this is that you've got a big London Transport roundel on the front and as such you're not a pesky cyclist, but a sort of one-man bus. In bus lanes I could sense Buses and Taxis giving me more respect. I know they loathe 'cyclists' - I've got an HGV licence and I know how difficult it is to negotiate people on bicycles driving a large vehicle. I can re-assure regular cyclists however that you don't pass that test until it is seen that you have a hyper awareness of cycles and pedestrians. The HGV test is akin to the idea of Noblesse oblige - "I know I'm the bigest thing on the road, so I don't, like some dickless midget in a BMW, have to keep trying to be, so I will be aware and considerate." Taxis slightly less so, but they too spent years getting the Knowlege and are to be respected. Buses I am never sure of, because their drivers vary from the absolutely brilliant, to the psychotic and lethal.

Also, when I used to ride my own bike, I felt that bicycle lanes were somehow an affront to my independence - I don't need some interfering, health and safety pedant telling me what part of the road I should wobble in - I'll go where I like - I'm free!!

Well I'm 57 now, and I totally adored the sturdy, sit-up-and-beg, London Transport, little bit of London, pootle down the cycle lane, ignore the driving rain, feeling sort of Dutch, stopping for the traffic lights, getting where you want to, CHUNK and walk away-ness of it all.

I had more conversations with perfect strangers today than I've had for years. Everyone was giving me the thumbs up, having a chat, 'What's it like?', laughing, 'Brilliant!' - if I'd been single I would absolutely have pulled.

Finally. 'Boris Bike". Ok, I know that it was Ken's idea in the first place, and good on him for that, but it really is a good idea and it will become as much a part of London as the double-decker very soon. What would we really rather its nickname was, a Boris bike or a Ken bike? I rather feel that if I'd ridden round London today on a Ken Bike, I might have encountered a girl on a Barbie Bike. I saw four others today on, to give them their true name, a Barclays Bike, and none of them were wearing helmets. I know it's dangerous but I was born in 1953 and spent my whole childhood on a bike -AND I'm pootling in a green cycle lane. I'm a Londoner. I like this freedom. It's more Boris-ish than Ken-ish.