Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Net? I own it!

Here is an anecdote I heard years ago about a senior French physicist. He came from an extremely wealthy family that had endowed academic institutions and owned many businesses including a bank. He was also the head of a lab in Paris.

Now his lab hired a young Russian physicist - around the time the Soviet Union started to collapse and many Russians left for Western Europe and the US. However, at that time West European institutions were rather wary of Russians and so this young physicist was given a merry run-around by the French bank where he was trying to open an account. In desperation he went to the head of his lab and said "could you do something, this bank is refusing to open an account for me". The HOD responded: "This bank? I OWN this bank!". And so the account was opened.

Something vaguely similar happened to me when I got to Gex recently. I was worried whether my landlord (whom I had contacted in response to an ad on the CERN housing service website) would know enough about the internet so that my connection would be up and running right away. I certainly didn't fancy long weekends in the French countryside disconnected from the "real" world.

Well, it turns out my landlord not only knows something about the internet, he's actually one of the inventors of the World Wide Web! You can find more information about him here.

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