Brags and Blunders of Lester Donald Earnest
Les in 2004 with his 3D drawing of a 6D hyper-cube, also known as a super-hyper-tesseract
An Eye for Lies and a Tooth for Truth. I aim to make this web site as accurate as possible and to put down some of the many lies about computer history that appear in books, museums, television and periodicals. You may occasionally find a broken link or other problem. If so, please send a note to les at cs.stanford.edu or call me any day from 9am to 11pm Pacific Time on landline 650-941-3984.
Updates. This web site is a work in progress. If you would like to receive notifications of significant new postings and resulting arguments, which will be infrequent, go to mailman.stanford.edu and subscribe to sailaway3. To see recent sailawy3 postings, go to sailaway3 Archives and click on “[Date]” in the bottom line to see them in chronological order.
My wife Marian and her daughter Carrie made friends with a prominent Irishman
Marian is a retired PhD psychologist. Carrie worked as a model in Paris and elsewhere during college and is now a photographer and mom. O’Bama and I each have substantial Irish heritage and we both now enjoy the freedom of retirement while still stirring the pot.
Impeach and Dump Trump now!
Top Psychiatrists at Yale Conference Warn That Trump Has a 'Dangerous Mental Illness'. See also Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections. Trump’s decision to fire the person in charge of the FBI investigation into interactions between his staff members and Russian manipulators should have resulted in his prompt impeachment but it is clear that his Republican colleagues who control the Senate do not have the intelligence and guts to do that. Nevertheless, new information looks like that may happen soon.
For longer term reform, let’s create a new nation composed of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and make it a true democracy opposed to war, unlike USA -- see Form Pacifica Now!. There is also an online interview of me on this topic.
Lester Earnest (1930-2043) was born in San Diego, California, and enjoyed bicycling, body surfing and being a bad boy but eventually matured into a happy badass troublemaker.
After a medical scare in early 2016, I decided to write a Bucket List of things I want to accomplish and, in order to complete it, I plan to live to age 112, then in May 2043 I aim to be shot in the back while running away from a jealous husband and have my body turned over to the Stanford Medical Group for use in training future surgeons.
I invented a lot of things that are now in use around the world and, having accomplished quite a bit while doing a poor job of publicizing it, I am now trying to remedy that. Here are some inventions that are now in use around the world, or soon will be, that I initiated, often with help from colleagues.
· Spelling checker (1961), which I created as part of the first cursive handwriting recognizer. It was added to text editors in the 1970s,
· Search engine (ROUT, 1961), an idea that was reinvented by others about 35 years later and blossomed in the new millennium in Google and others.
· Self-driving vehicle (Stanford Cart, 1966) which, over 50 years later is about to blossom,
· Digital photography (1967), which continues to blossom,
· Document compiler with spreadsheets, automatic indexing and other advances (PUB, 1971), done in collaboration with Larry Tesler, which gave rise to a number of more advanced documentation systems,
· Social networking and blogging service (FINGER, 1972), which got ripped off by the corrupt Facebook, which I aim to destroy.
· Online restaurant reviews (California YumYum, 1973), one of the many modern versions of which is on yelp.com,
· Computer controlled vending machine (Prancing Pony, 1974), a scheme now widely used,
· Network news service (NS, 1974), done in collaboration with Martin Frost, with many modern versions now,
· Lots more – see my personal web page.
I believe that those inventions generally improved the quality of life, which was my goal. For some reason, public media measure the success of inventions by the amount of profits they bring in, which I view as nonsense, but on that basis it appears that the value of my inventions exceed those of anyone else alive, having brought in many hundreds of billions of dollars, though I haven’t done the math because I don’t care.
I did all that inventing in open-source mode, taking no patents, and freely provided documentation to anyone who wanted it. I considered it an honor when someone turned one of my inventions into a multi-billion-dollar product even though they never gave me a nickel.
If I did all that, you may wonder, why have you never heard of me? It is mainly because, unlike others, I did it quietly without hiring publicists to call attention to my accomplishments or to distort the facts so as to expand the scope of my brags, as was done for my old friend Doug Engelbart and an arrogant twit named Steve Jobs, who I had introduced to interactive computing along with Steve Wozniak, when they visited our Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) in 1975, a year before they ate the Apple.
Computer networks (1953-) are a result of five main developments so far, with more to come. The photo at left is a geographic display terminal, one of thousands used in the SAGE air defense system, which was the first computer network. For more details on this topic, click on the photo at left.
The Internet is a result of the following five main developments, with more to come.
· First Computer Network: SAGE air defense system, initiated by MIT in the early 1950s, built by many corrupt contractors and operational 1958-1982 even though it never worked.
· General Purpose Interactive Computing: timesharing systems, developed at MIT. Began operating in 1962 and went commercial in 1965.
· General Purpose Computer Networking, initiated by people from MIT and funded by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), resulting in the ARPANET, which largely interconnected academic institutions.
· Network Interconnections: Internet Protocols developed at Stanford University, released in 1974 and eventually adopted widely, forming the Internet. Also called TCP/IP.
· Standardized Graphical Terminal Interface: World-Wide-Web, started at CERN in Switzerland in 1990, came into widespread use by 2000 and its standards are now maintained at MIT.
Thus, MIT played a major part in creating the Internet. By chance, Lester Earnest contributed to each of the above developments and is evidently the only person in the world who did that.
Cyclops USA (1979-2043) is an irregular journal of bicycle racing, proposed reforms and helmet standards. It was initially published in pamphlet form and switched to the web in the new millennium.
I began cycling in 1933 and my wife and I were drawn into bike racing in 1972 by our two sons. I was initially successful in improving many racing rules while liberalizing clothing regulations and in 1979 I completely rewrote the American rules to make them less ambiguous, adding penalty standardization, and got them adopted.
In 1984, I wrote the first medical control rules for cycling and got them adopted. After investigating the unethical but legal use of blood doping by the American cycling team in the 1984 Olympics, I introduced a rule prohibiting that practice, which then spread around the world in many sports and eventually nailed Lance Armstrong and his fellow crooks.
After a lengthy battle, I also got a rule adopted in 1986 requiring that strong helmets be worn. It too spread around the world and has since saved thousands of lives.
In 1993, I initiated the creation of a new national bike racing association called USA Cycling. However corrupt commercial interests bribed their way into control of the legislative process and succeeded in amending it to give a majority of the seats on the Board of Directors to commercial interests who made up less than 1% of the participants in the sport. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts at reform, the crooks still control this sport as well as most of the US Olympic Committee and its subordinate athletic organizations.
Meanwhile, I have organized an underground group of former and current participants in bike racing aimed at reorganizing an overthrowing the crooks. Our name reflects the way we plan to do it: ROSA (Reform the Olympic Sports Act).
John McCarthy (1927-2011) was a world-class innovator who introduced the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) and did a lot of pioneering work in that field. He was raised as a Communist, then later toured Russia, learning to speak the language and made friends with a number of Russian scientists.
1943-49 Graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in mathematics then spent another year there in graduate studies.
1950-53 went to Princeton University and received a PhD in 1951, then taught there.
1953-55 Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Stanford.
1955-58 Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College and co-editor of a book with Claude Shannon titled Automata Studies (1956). Also introduced the term “artificial intelligence” at a summer conference there.
1958-62 Assistant Professor of Communications at MIT and with Marvin Minsky cofounded the AI Project there. Created the list programming language called LISP, which has been widely used in AI work, and oversaw creation of one of the earliest chess-playing programs. He also wrote a paper on how to do general purpose timesharing that inspired several groups in the MIT community to develop such systems. That technology soon dominated the world of computing and enabled computer networking.
1962-1965 Returned to Stanford as a Professor of Mathematics and started a new AI Project funded by ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), a part of the U.S. Defense Department. When a Computer Science Department was formed in early 1965, McCarthy joined it, as did Edward Feigenbaum. They then put together a proposal to ARPA for an expanded AI research facility that was funded by ARPA.
1965-2000 Lester Earnest joined McCarthy and Feigenbaum in late 1965 and set up the new SAIL research lab (see below). In 1980, after SAIL moved back to the main campus, McCarthy shut it down and fired Earnest, but asked him to come back four years later, which he did. McCarthy retired in 2000 and passed away in 2011. Meanwhile Sebastian Thrun revived SAIL in 2003 and it has continued.
Planet Earth. Life first appeared on Earth about 4 billion years ago and has evolved a lot while surviving five mass extinctions caused by environmental disasters, the most recent being the result of a large asteroid striking the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula about 66 million years ago, which wiped out all life above ground including the large dinosaurs. A few small dinosaurs survived, which we call birds, but mammals then began dominating and eventually hominids (proto-humans) appeared about 6 million years ago, evolving as hunter-gatherers for millions of years. Adaptations to that lifestyle put a lot of genetic knowledge and fantasies in their minds that have been passed down to us, but many of those fantasies do not work well in the modern world of rapidly advancing technology. Consequently, mankind is now causing the sixth mass extinction of life, which may turn the planet over to a new species unless we can find a way to change our ways quickly.
SAIL, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (1966-80, 2003-) came out of the Artificial Intelligence Project initiated by Prof. John McCarthy, with funding from the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
In 1965 ARPA funding was substantially increased and Lester Earnest was recruited to create and manage the new research lab. Earnest started by designing a new computer research facility to fit in an incomplete building in the foothills above the Stanford Campus, then got it built, named it SAIL, and managed it for many years. It ran with a population of 100+ doing graduate research on various projects in AI, mechanical engineering, electronic system design, music composition and synthesis, and some other fields. SAIL enabled many graduate students to earn PhDs and other degrees.
There are many successful spinoffs from SAIL, including the four richest corporations in the World at the end of 2018: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon. The ACM Turing Awards, which are widely viewed as the Nobel prizes of Computer Science, provide another measure: of the 65 worldwide awards given so far, 18 have gone to people from SAIL, which evidently is more than any other research group in the world, even those with much larger populations.
Road Safety. The image at left shows the interchange between Interstate Freeway 280 and the Page Mill Expressway/Road which runs along the boundary between the cities of Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills, California, and is arguably the most dangerous interchange in the World for non-vehicular traffic such as pedestrians, cyclists, and people pushing baby buggies or riding in wheelchairs. In fact, most of these potential users do no even try to get through during rush hours because it is clear that they would die if they tried to do that.
Given that this interchange was on the main route from the Stanford Campus to the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), Lester Earnest spent years trying to get it made safer, but the incompetence of the engineers who design it and the disinterest of the various governmental agencies that are involved has resulted in a series of injuries and a death, likely with more to come unless there is an uprising.
SillyCon Valley (1972-), which some people like to call “Silicon” is the promotional name given to the southern part of San Francisco Bay in 1971 and became a great marketing success as the name “Silicon” was added to other places around the world. This place had earlier developed an innovative culture but it needs a better name. Soon see Renaming Silly Con Valley, which will reflect the geographic expansion of technological organizations that has taken place here.
When I came to Stanford at the end of 1965 and bought a house in the Town of Los Altos Hills, it was a quiet and friendly rural community dominated by apricot orchards, with a few horse ranches and cattle fields. 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,” which is a myth. Now, after real estate values have shot skyward, my home value is about 1,000 times what I paid for it and the construction of many mansions has caused this place to become very snooty.
Stanford Spinners. During 1963-89, five related research groups at Stanford trained hundreds of computer scientists, engineers, musicians and others who have settled around the world but have especially influenced the development of SillyCon Valley. I call them spinners because they produced a lot of spinoff organizations, products and services:
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)
Most started as parts of SAIL, then blossomed separately.
Rush to Microbial Judgement
The Canadian rock band called Rush was popular around the world for decades but have now retired. Above, left to right, are Geddy Lee (bass, vocals, keyboards), Neil Peart (drums, percussion, lyrics), and Alex Lifeson (guitars). This band created eccentric hits like “Natural Science” and “Tom Sawyer” and three new species of microbe were recently named after them due to their former long hair and what scientists describe as “rhythmic wiggling.” Neal Peart also wrote several popular books and happens to be Les’s stepson-in-law.
Visions of How the World Works and How to Fix It
Views of Planet Earth. Life first appeared on Earth about 4 billion years ago and has evolved a lot while surviving five mass extinctions caused by environmental disasters, the most recent being the result of a large asteroid striking the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula about 66 million years ago, which wiped out all life above ground, including the large dinosaurs. A few small dinosaurs survived, which we call birds, but mammals then began dominating and eventually hominids (proto-humans) appeared about 6 million years ago, evolving as hunter-gatherers for millions of years. Adaptations to that lifestyle put a lot of genetic knowledge and fantasies in their minds that have been passed down to us, but many of those fantasies do not work well in the modern world of rapidly advancing technology. Consequently, mankind is now causing the sixth mass extinction of life, which may turn the planet over to a new species unless we can find a way to change our ways quickly.
Travel. Over the years I have travelled all over the Earth by foot, bicycle, tricycle, motorcycle, car, bus, train, boat, ship, aircraft and look forward to rocket travel to get around faster but do not plan to join the dimwits planning trips to the Moon, Mars, etc. I do hope they will be accompanied by robot diggers to bury them, since most will arrive dead due to solar and spacial radiation.
I have cycled in nearly all USA states as well as on all continents except Antarctica and have ridden around many islands. Happily, while doing that I have never been touched by a motor vehicle.
A chronology of my travels is shown on the Travel page as well as some summaries of my observations from various trips, which have helped me understand how the world works.
Racism: As you can see, the picture at left shows a “white” and a “black” guy, who get treated differently by our society. Since their classification is supposedly based on skin color (i.e. reflectance), in order to make that distinction accurately it is essential to define the reflectance level that separates whites from blacks, but that has never been done. In other words, racial classification is a fantasy. It was invented about 600 years ago by some arrogant jerks living in northwest Eurasia who then became the top-level killers on Earth and successfully took control almost everywhere while killing off a number of superior cultures around the world.
They then wrote world histories that are fantasies but are generally accepted today. Meanwhile, modern historians continue to write fantasies, which are widely accepted as real even though they are full of lies, in many cases because the writers were hired by corporations or rich guys to do that. Thus, fantasized histories cause erroneous thinking not only about racial classifications but about all human life.
I entered this fight in 1963 when my family and I moved from semi-racist Massachusetts to deeply racist Virginia, where everyone was supposed to be either “White” or “Colored”. I started listing my race as “Mongrel” based on my observation that no existing racial classification system had a scientific basis. That got me into trouble with both state and local authorities as well as the Defense Department, but it ended well.
Fantasia. Each of us makes hundreds of decisions each day about such things as what to do next and how to do it and our decisions are generally instantaneous rather than based on a careful analysis of alternatives. That is because our brains are prewired from birth with a lot of knowledge about how the world works, how to perceive it, and how to take actions – all recorded in our DNA from birth, courtesy of our parents.
That knowledge was put there by evolution, which automatically selects for things that enhance one’s ability to survive and reproduce. However, some of the things that worked were actually fantasies rather than accurate representations of reality and, given that the world has since changed, some of those fantasies no longer work in the modern world and are leading us in directions that may kill us or our descendants.
I happened to get involved in digital electronics development in 1949 and have followed it ever since, so I know much of that history first-hand, but after reading hundreds of articles and books on that subject I have found almost none that give accurate accounts of what actually happened. Furthermore, I made donations both equipment donations and cash to the first Digital Computer Museum, in Boston, then was a founding member of its successor, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, and have continually donated big money to them, hoping I could get them to tell the truth, but I have failed so far. As things stand, the Computer History Museum should be renamed as the Computer Fantasy Museum.
Beginning in 1985 I found myself in an odd mental fog, which I was able to self-diagnose as caused by sleep apnea, but when I went to my Stanford doctor and asked to be tested for it she refused, saying “You are much too lively to have sleep apnea.” I foolishly believed her and went on for 14 years in a depressed, semi-comatose state and, during that time, my mind started revealing more about a number of fantasies that were embedded in my brain, so I started looking into why, how, and when those fantasies got into the DNA of my ancestors. Because of my malfunctioning brain, I ended up retiring from Stanford in 1988, then wrote a computer journal article (CACM) about how racism got into our brains, a topic discussed in more detail.
I now claim to have figured out when and how a bunch of other fantasies got into our DNA and will shortly post an article on this web site that will explain how that happened, why it is causing modern humans to make billions of bad decisions each day, and how we and our descendants are likely to be wiped out soon unless we begin dealing with this problem in a rational way.
Bucket List. At left is Les’s predicted appearance in 2043, when he plans to croak at age 112.
This Bucket List was started in early 2016 after Les was told by a doctor that he had pancreatic cancer, which meant that he had only a few months to live. Happily, a short time later that diagnosis was changed to having a pancreatic tumor, the same thing that killed Steve Jobs, but much less lethal. Les knew Jobs casually, having introduced him and his friend Steve Wozniak to interactive computing when they visited the SAIL computer facility in 1975 as members of the Homebrew Computer Club. A year later they started Apple.
As Les learned, Jobs did nothing to track his tumor, probably based on his egotistical assumption that he was a god, and before long it turned into a cancer that killed him. Being not quite as stupid as Jobs, Les is having annual MRI scans to see whether the tumor has started growing. If it does, he will get it whacked surgically, which is a somewhat dangerous operation but a better strategy than doing nothing, like Jobs.
Les initially compiled a list of about 25 bucket projects aimed at improving the world, but that list has since grown. Any successes or failures will be moved to the Brag & Blunder list above and there may be some more histories to write. The current version of the Bucket List can be seen by clicking on the photo just above.