Archive for history

Bad golliwog, nasty golliwog

Posted in Venting with tags , , , , on March 21, 2008 by Apollo

I don’t normally give flying **** about racism, and with my own mixed background may (or may not, in the eyes of some) be qualified to comment on it, but having drawn an adverse comment when I suggested that the spokesperson  for the Romany, Gipsy and Irish Traveller Network should be replaced by someone who could do a better job, the subject has continued to hovered on the border of my radar.

Today I read that an Englander has exported their brand of racial righteousness north of the border to the quiet little Scottish holiday town of Rothesay, and Victoria Bird, from Dulwich, south London, contacted the town’s local paper, The Buteman,  to express her concern after she saw a ‘golliwog’ for sale at Bute Tools in Montague Street during a visit to family living on Bute.

Ms Bird gave the world the benefit of her opinion as follows: “I was shocked, dismayed and frankly outraged that a giant golliwog was in the window at Bute Tools, I can’t believe that such an offensive toy would be sold, and I would be embarrassed to bring my many foreign friends to Bute in case they might be offended. Clearly Bute is not a diverse multi-racial area, but that does not negate the tacit acceptance of such an offensive toy. I suggest that Bute Tools remove the toy from sale.

Where exactly would Ms Bird like to start/finish her campagn of hiding away, and ridding the world of historic facts that point to the past, be they positive, negative, comfortable, or embarrassing?

I recall taking an Iraqi friend sightseeing around Scotland a few years ago, while he was over on business for a few days (he and his family had been driven out years ago, losing all they had). At the time, Iraq was featured heavily in the news, and there were numerous tales about torture and how the country was living in past, and barbaric etc etc. A fairly standard script, justified or not, that’s yet another debate. On this particular day, we landed in Inveraray, and decided to stop for a meal, and to have a look around the various point of interest. One of these is the village’s jail, which is now a tourist feature. Inside, you are treated to close-up and detail history of “justice”, and how it was meted out: one of their examples being “Before the days of prisons, for petty theft you could have been branded with a hot iron, had your ear nailed to a post or been publicly whipped“, very civilsed.

One of the largest displays in the museum is based on torture in this country in “The Good Old Days”, and this was very uncomfortable to walk around in the company of my guest, given the sort of media coverage his home country was being given at the time. While his history was being portrayed on TV as barbaric, we were waking around exhibits which detailed the application of torture in this country, in the name of justice: thumbscrews, actually used on fingers, hands, toes, and feet – tightened by the jailer until the bones were broken and crushed; the boot, comprising wooden splints applied to the legs, with a wedge driven between them using a sledgehammer, not until it hurt, but until the victim’s legs and leg joints were smashed and crushed. Given the facilities of the time, and absence of treatment, these punishments were little more than long, slow, lingering death sentences.

So, I came out of the exhibition ebarrassed, shocked, and dismayed at what had been done in my own county in the past, especially as that same country was currently pointing at another and accusing it of barbarism. But, and this is the important thing, I didn’t decide that these emotions meant that the fact of what I had seen and thought meant it should be censored, wiped away, hidden, suppressed, or otherwise erased. Rather that it should be seen to be seen, so that others can learn from it, and hopefully understand what was wrong with it.

And, I think the same is true of the humble golliwog – it remains a symbol of something significant from the past, and should be used as such.

Now, if the shopkeeper is be shown to be a racist, selling golliwogs with the intent of being racist, and taking part in other activities to promote racism,that’s another matter altogether, but I doubt that’s likely to be the case in Rothesay.

I could easily have added a pic to go with this, but choose not to, because I’m free to do so – if golliwog pics were outlawed in the way Ms Bird would undoubtedly like, then I would have included a pic, in defiance of censorship, rather than upsetting someone.


How old is the web?

Posted in Noteworthy, Tech with tags , , , on January 7, 2008 by Apollo

It was with some disappointment that I realised I couldn’t pin down the date of when I officially started using the web. Thinking about this ‘important date’ soon revealed that there were a number of reasons for this:

I’d cut my ‘computing teeth’ on bare-board micros, Commodore PETs, corporate mainframes (with HUGE 10 MB hard drives), and had brought ‘The PC’ into our business when it had nothing but two very floppy disk drives in it, with 360 kB capacity each, of which one usually held ALL the programs, and the other held any data produced.

There was no public internet or web for mortals to use. email was all that ‘advanced’ business used, and we all had to have suitable modems to dial and connect to allow our mail servers to pass messages, and couldn’t email anyone if we didn’t know their modem’s phone number. This situation improved (in the offshore oil/gas industry at least) when one enterprising individual set up a universal hub that the oil majors and their suppliers could all connect to (still only by dialup) and which translated the various incompatible email servers and systems so that anyone on the hub could email anyone else without worrying about whether or not they used a commercial or in-house mail system. As I recall, he was wiped out when the net came into being.

A lot of the interesting stuff was communicated by Bulletin Boards, which were nothing like what we refer to by the same name today. You dialled them up, made a connection, then had to navigate numerous menus, one option at a time. Downloads ran at 14.4 kB if you were lucky, half that or less if not (no streaming video then), and you could easily be connected for between 4 and 8 hours just for one download.

The easiest option that came along for internet access was CompuServe, one payment and you got access it all its toys, easy email, and of course, access to web sites. Very few pages were html as we recognise it now, and web pages were just reams and reams of text, with only the biggest companies at the time having pages that rendered as fancy text with a few graphics or small (remember, 14.4 kB) images. As I recall, we used CompuServe for many years, as internet providers were few, and expensive in those days. I see the local isp we used is still in business. I don’t understand why as his connection packages are priced way over what you can get even from the supermarket now.

Computing wasn’t my day job then, even though business depended on me looking after it, and our web site was contracted out to a local software house. I wish I hadn’t had my day job diverting me, as I wasn’t involved in the first web site we had, and could have made a small fortune if I’d known how easily naive customers could be fleeced! The final site had something like 30 pages or so, and after a year, one of our directors expressed the opinion that the weeks it took to have a page altered wasn’t good enough. I agreed and was now in a position to influence things, and went to the host and asked them to provide us with an editing option. I discovered they had been getting about £300 per page change, and their response to my request was a quote for £3,500 to upgrade the package to allow us editing access. Good job they don’t look after any of my sites, one has 530 pages, and is not due to stop growing. A few days later I cancelled our contract, demanded a download of the web files, and never saw them again. At the time, I just had to stick it into FrontPage (I think the first version had just been released then) and live with the messy code, but later started using html editors.

Broadband was also little more than imagination even in those days. The choice was dialup, which was useless of you had more than one user (yes, by then we had Novell Netware providing a network, superseded by Windows NT); leased line (megabucks – £5 k to £7 k per line per annum dependent on traffic); or ISDN. The last option was far from cheap, charged by the connected minute, and much more expensive per line than normal phone lines. Its one saving grace was that we could have an internet connection that only lifter the line when it was needed, and dropped it when it was not in use – fine when it worked, but still cost us a fortune whenever some fool left a PC connected to a web site that was constantly changing. The line never dropped, and we eventually had to make a rule that PC were killed at the end of the day. We had to do that anyway, as the same fools would leave out networked software open and running as they ran off home at night, and this meant out automated backup would skip the open files which, surprise surprise, were the most important ones that it was essential to backup. It’s amazing how responsive some people become become when you threaten to fire them, and point out that they’ve had enough warnings about the damage their sloppy attitude could do to mean that ‘Unfair Dismissal’ doesn’t enter into the equation any longer

However, since I couldn’t pin any dates down for when the above started (even CompuServe is gone, as is my account, which wouldn’t have helped as the company paid for that anyway, so I never had the paperwork), I was intrigued to be passed a list purporting to be the first 100 commercial web domains to be registered. I had a look, and it certainly seems to be valid; the first looks as if it’s still working in 1985 mode, and the second has its placement as the second commercial web domain to be registered highlighted on its web site.

The First 100 Commercial Domains

1. 15-Mar-1985 SYMBOLICS.COM
2. 24-Apr-1985 BBN.COM
3. 24-May-1985 THINK.COM
4. 11-Jul-1985 MCC.COM
5. 30-Sep-1985 DEC.COM
6. 07-Nov-1985 NORTHROP.COM
7. 09-Jan-1986 XEROX.COM
8. 17-Jan-1986 SRI.COM
9. 03-Mar-1986 HP.COM
10. 05-Mar-1986 BELLCORE.COM
11. 19-Mar-1986 IBM.COM
12. 19-Mar-1986 SUN.COM
13. 25-Mar-1986 INTEL.COM
14. 25-Mar-1986 TI.COM
15. 25-Apr-1986 ATT.COM
16. 08-May-1986 GMR.COM
17. 08-May-1986 TEK.COM
18. 10-Jul-1986 FMC.COM
19. 10-Jul-1986 UB.COM
20. 05-Aug-1986 BELL-ATL.COM
21. 05-Aug-1986 GE.COM
22. 05-Aug-1986 GREBYN.COM
23. 05-Aug-1986 ISC.COM
24. 05-Aug-1986 NSC.COM
25. 05-Aug-1986 STARGATE.COM
26. 02-Sep-1986 BOEING.COM
27. 18-Sep-1986 ITCORP.COM
28. 29-Sep-1986 SIEMENS.COM
29. 18-Oct-1986 PYRAMID.COM
30. 27-Oct-1986 ALPHACDC.COM
31. 27-Oct-1986 BDM.COM
32. 27-Oct-1986 FLUKE.COM
33. 27-Oct-1986 INMET.COM
34. 27-Oct-1986 KESMAI.COM
35. 7-Oct-1986 MENTOR.COM
36. 7-Oct-1986 NEC.COM
37. 27-Oct-1986 RAY.COM
38. 27-Oct-1986 ROSEMOUNT.COM
39. 27-Oct-1986 VORTEX.COM
40. 05-Nov-1986 ALCOA.COM
41. 05-Nov-1986 GTE.COM
42. 17-Nov-1986 ADOBE.COM
43. 17-Nov-1986 AMD.COM
44. 17-Nov-1986 DAS.COM
45. 17-Nov-1986 DATA-IO.COM
46. 17-Nov-1986 OCTOPUS.COM
47. 17-Nov-1986 PORTAL.COM
48. 17-Nov-1986 TELTONE.COM
49. 11-Dec-1986 3COM.COM
50. 11-Dec-1986 AMDAHL.COM
51. 11-Dec-1986 CCUR.COM
52. 11-Dec-1986 CI.COM
53. 11-Dec-1986 CONVERGENT.COM
54. 11-Dec-1986 DG.COM
55. 11-Dec-1986 PEREGRINE.COM
56. 11-Dec-1986 QUAD.COM
57. 11-Dec-1986 SQ.COM
58. 11-Dec-1986 TANDY.COM
59. 11-Dec-1986 TTI.COM
60. 11-Dec-1986 UNISYS.COM
61. 19-Jan-1987 CGI.COM
62. 19-Jan-1987 CTS.COM
63. 19-Jan-1987 SPDCC.COM
64. 19-Feb-1987 APPLE.COM
65. 04-Mar-1987 NMA.COM
66. 04-Mar-1987 PRIME.COM
67. 04-Apr-1987 PHILIPS.COM
68. 23-Apr-1987 DATACUBE.COM
69. 23-Apr-1987 KAI.COM
70. 23-Apr-1987 TIC.COM
71. 23-Apr-1987 VINE.COM
72. 30-Apr-1987 NCR.COM
73. 14-May-1987 CISCO.COM
74. 14-May-1987 RDL.COM
75. 20-May-1987 SLB.COM
76. 27-May-1987 PARCPLACE.COM
77. 27-May-1987 UTC.COM
78. 26-Jun-1987 IDE.COM
79. 09-Jul-1987 TRW.COM
80. 13-Jul-1987 UNIPRESS.COM
81. 27-Jul-1987 DUPONT.COM
82. 27-Jul-1987 LOCKHEED.COM
83. 28-Jul-1987 ROSETTA.COM
84. 18-Aug-1987 TOAD.COM
85. 31-Aug-1987 QUICK.COM
86. 03-Sep-1987 ALLIED.COM
87. 03-Sep-1987 DSC.COM
88. 03-Sep-1987 SCO.COM
89. 22-Sep-1987 GENE.COM
90. 22-Sep-1987 KCCS.COM
91. 22-Sep-1987 SPECTRA.COM
92. 22-Sep-1987 WLK.COM
93. 30-Sep-1987 MENTAT.COM
94. 14-Oct-1987 WYSE.COM
95. 02-Nov-1987 CFG.COM
96. 09-Nov-1987 MARBLE.COM
97. 16-Nov-1987 CAYMAN.COM
97. 16-Nov-1987 ENTITY.COM
99. 24-Nov-1987 KSR.COM
100. 30-Nov-1987 NYNEXST.COM