August 16th, 2018 – That explains a lot…

In one corner of Rockweather is Luke’s workshop. I often sit out there with a coffee, just quietly watching him at work. He has been building a steam-powered NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit recently.

Occasionally, he is in a talkative mood. I jump at those opportunities. He looked up at me yesterday and asked: “What’s on your mind, lad?” He has this rich Somerset accent that rolls words around as if they are delicious and need to be savored.

“I know you told me once you were born in 1822.” I replied. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

The Difference Engine

“Aye, I do indeed. I’ve got a brother, name of Tim, but he is not like me. We are twins.”

“Really? I never knew that.”

“Yeah, he’s a big feller…a LOT taller than me. Quiet too. You wouldn’t take him for a gnome.”

“You grew up together?”

“Oh yeah, Tim and me were inseparable as kids. It was all string, copper wire and Leyden jars for batteries. Them’s was our toys. We got into electronics early, you know. Tim knew this bloke called Faraday. He had a laboratory. We got leftover bits from him in return for mowing his lawn and frightening the crows off his vegetable garden.”

“You really knew Michael Faraday?” I asked, amazed.

“Yeah, nice bloke. Humphrey Davy was a bit of a tosser but Faraday was all right. Tim introduced me to Charles Babbage, must have been about 1837. Tim worked in his laboratory but was getting nowhere with the stubborn old geezer. I said I’d give it a go. Ada Lovelace…now there was your classy, smart lady.”

“Lord Byron’s daughter. I would have loved to have met her. So, you were there, right at the start of the computer age? I am stunned, Luke. I never knew.”

“Did you know I taught W.C.Grace how to play cricket? Ah, that’s for another chat though… anyway, Babbage and me had this falling out. I wanted to put an Ethernet socket on the side of his Analytical Engine and Ada, she’d made this maths co-processor but he wouldn’t have a bar of it. ‘You got to network them’ I says to ‘im. ‘The future is all distributed Analytical Engines, Charlie. There gonna be everywhere…’ … Stubborn git.” 

“Wait. You invented Ethernet? Next you are going to tell me you thought up TCP/IP too.”

“Naaaah, that was Robert Kahn, but Tim gave him the idea for it…

“Right… So what’s Tim doing now?

“Oh, he’s still around. He hangs around CERN. Is that in France or Switzerland? Me geography is a bit wonky..”

“Hang on – you have a brother called Tim who hangs around CERN? Luke, what is your surname?”

“Berners-Lee. Why’d you ask?”

“Your brother is Tim Berners-Lee? Are you are trying to tell me that the Internet and the World Wide Web were invented by two garden gnomes?”

“Pretty much. And it is ‘Sir Tim’ to you lad. To be fair, we had a long time to think about it…”

A twinkle came into Luke’s eye: “What are you thinking now?”

“I was thinking that this might explain a lot about the way the computer industry is today.”

“That it does lad” he laughed, turning back to work on his NAS. “That it does….” 

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