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Rupert Goodwins’ Diary

February 13, 2004

By Rupert Goodwins

Tuesday 10/02/2004

The inescapable ability of technology to pick the very most embarrassing time to go wrong is no respecter of status. Take John Patrick, an old IBM hand of the very highest calibre: he is the person who got IBM to first notice and then take seriously a rather arcane invention called the Internet. He was also involved in the invention of things like the ThinkPad, was a founder member of the World Wide Web Consortium, all that sort of thing. And after 35 years at IBM, he sort of retired… but people like that don’t really retire. In Patrick’s case, retirement involves such low-stress activities as joining the board of Opera, the browser company that’s about to float

The man is clearly an IT God. So when newshound Munir Kotadia got hold of him to talk about security, nobody was surprised when Patrick called back on an IP phone from his home broadband connection. These are the coming thing, as you know: worldwide phoning with nobody counting the minutes. You can do it on your computer, or you can get what looks like an ordinary phone, plug it into your home network and off you go. This is the posh way, and that was Patrick’s way. He was quite excited about it.

“Very good,” said Mun. “It’s got great voice quality, hasn’t it. Hello? Hello?”

A minute later, John Patrick phoned back “Dunno what happened there,” he said. “Must have had some packet loss somewhere. Anyway, where were we?”

The conversation continued for a moment, and then “Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?”

When Patrick phoned back again, it was on an ordinary phone. We agreed it was for the best.

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early ’90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK – and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.