Views of Lester Earnest

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If you peruse this web site you will see a number of lines saying Soon see “Title”, which represents a story I plan to write. If you would like to see one or more of them sooner, let me know. Also, this web site is being continually reorganized, so pieces may get broken, so if you see something that doesn’t look right please tell me at the email address above.

Lester Earnest with 3D drawing of 6D hyper-cube


Computer networks are a result of four main developments so far, with more to come.

·      1950s: Creation of the SAGE air defense system, the first interactive computer system and the first computer network. Initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with funding from the US Air Defense Command.

·      1960s: ARPAnet, the first general purpose network, was also initiated by people from MIT.

·      1970s: Internet Protocols developed at Stanford University by a group headed by Vint Cerf which enabled networks of different types to be interconnected in the 1980s.

·      1990s: The World Wide Web, developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland, provided a standardized interactive user interface, enabling cooperative research, commercial development, and improved search engines.


By chance Lester Earnest is the only person in the world who contributed to each of those developments.



Cyclops USA is an irregular journal of bicycle racing and proposed reforms as well as helmet standards, edited by Lester Earnest, that was initially published in pamphlet form beginning in the 1970s and switched to the web in the new millennium.

·      Earnest was successful in improving racing rules, adding medical controls, adopting strong helmet standards and exposing corruption in American bicycle racing arranged by crooked businessmen, though the latter task is not yet complete.

·      Some of these reforms have spread around the world such as the strong helmet rule, which has saved thousands of lives, and blood doping prohibitions, which helped nail Lance Armstrong and his crooked colleagues.



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John McCarthy (1927-2011) was a world-class innovator who introduced the term “artificial intelligence” and did a lot of pioneering work in that field. He was raised as a Communist and later learned to speak Russian and made friends with a number of Russian scientists. However after being trapped by a Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in November 1968 he began moving in a different direction and ended up as a conservative Republican.

·      Graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in mathematics in 1948 and after a year of graduate studies there he went to Princeton University and received a PhD in 1951. He taught there until 1953, when he became an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Stanford until 1955.

·      Became an Assistant Professor of mathematics at Dartmouth College until 1958, co-edited a book with Claude Shannon titled Automata Studies (1956), and also introduced the term “artificial intelligence”, which became a great marketing success.

·      In 1958 went to MIT as an Assistant Professor of Communications and with Marvin Minsky cofounded an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Project there.

·      Created the list programming language called LISP, which has been widely used in AI work, and one of the earliest chess-playing programs.

·      Returned to Stanford in 1962 as a Professor of Mathematics, started a new AI Project there, sponsored by ARPA, and when a Computer Science Department was formed in early 1965 he joined it, as did Edward Feigenbaum. They put together a proposal for an expanded AI research facility that was funded by ARPA.

·      They then recruited Lester Earnest to be Executive Officer of the expanded facility. Earnest put it in an abandoned building in the foothills above the Stanford campus next to a lake and named it SAIL (see below).


Lester Earnest (1930- ) is an obscure innovator who was born and raised in San Diego, California and grew up there as a bicycling beach boy.

·      After rising through the ranks of the Cub Scouts he was dishonorably discharged for artistic misconduct, so he never got to be a Boy Scout.

·      Got an FBI record at age 11 as a result of dabbling in cryptography, then got into more trouble.

·      Barely graduated from Caltech in 1953 as an electrical engineer.

·      Became an Aviation Electronics Officer in the Navy for three years, where he did digital flight simulations of missiles and manned aircraft using a crude electromechanical computer that he rewired to make it more efficient.

·      Contributed to each of the four main advances in computer networking (see Computer Networks above).

·      Designed, set up, named and managed SAIL (see below), which became a hotbed of innovation that produced dozens of commercial spinoffs, some very successful.

·      Personally invented many things, generally with help from his colleagues, including the first spelling checker, search engine, personal online calendar, hand-eye-ear robot, self-driving vehicle, document compiler with spreadsheets, network news service, computer controlled vending machine, social network and blogging service and desktop publishing system using laser printers.

·      Operated in “open source” mode and had no problem with other people taking his inventions and turning them into money-making commercial products.

·      Beginning in 1973, led a fight for reform of U.S. bicycle racing against crooked businessmen and dopers, a task that is not yet complete (see Cyclops USA above).

·      Became became partially disabled in 1985 as a result of the stress of doing a bootstrap Silicon Valley startup, then correctly diagnosed the problem but foolishly accepted his doctor’s misdiagnosis and muddled ahead in a fog for 14 years until he got it fixed.

·      However, having enough assets so that he did not need to work any more, in 1988 he retired and has since been travelling the world, cycling everywhere, writing and making trouble.



SAIL, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, came out of the Artificial Intelligence Project initiated in 1963 by Prof. John McCarthy with funding from the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). That funding was substantially increased in 1965 and Lester Earnest joined as Executive Officer. He designed a new computer research facility in the foothills above the Stanford Campus, got it built and later named it SAIL. It ran there for13 years with a population of 100+ doing research on a number of projects, including computer music and sound synthesis but was shut down in 1980 after a move to the newly renovated Margaret Jacks Hall in the Outer Quad of the main campus.

SAIL become a hotbed of innovation that directly or indirectly produced dozens of commercial spinoffs, some very successful such as Amazon, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), Cisco Systems, D.E. Shaw & Associates, Google, and Rambus. Sixteen winners of ACM Turing Awards (the computer science equivalent of a Nobel Prize) had previous SAIL affiliations.




Description: Description: Yosemite:Users:learnest:Desktop:image002 copy.pngSilicon Valley.  When Lester Earnest came to Stanford at the end of 1965 and bought a house in the Town of Los Altos Hills, that area was part of the “South Bay” and was a quiet and friendly rural community dominated by apricot orchards with a few horse ranches and cattle. There were few fences or gates so people could walk or ride cross-country in almost any direction. Some people now pretend that it was called the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” but  that was a myth.


After big technology companies began flourishing in the area, many of them being Stanford University spin-offs, the name “Silicon Valley” was introduced in 1971 and became a great marketing success as the name “Silicon” was added to a number of other places around the world. However in Les’s opinion that was a really poor name choice, as he will show and will propose a replacement.





Description: mage result for spinning topStanford Spinners. During 1963-89, five related research groups at Stanford trained many hundreds of computer scientists, engineers, musicians and others who have settled around the world but have especially influenced the development of what came to be called Silicon Valley. We call them spinners because they produced a lot of spinoff organizations, products and services. Most started as part of SAIL (see above) then blossomed separately.

·      SAIL                Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory,

·      HPP                Heuristic Programming Project,

·      CCRMA          Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics,

·      NPDP             Network Protocol Development Project,

·      TeX+MF         TeX/METAFONT Project


This section is still under development but will eventually list awards earned, the many spinoff organizations and major inventions, books produced and individual accomplishments.