Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Two things, each of minor interest, that together send a shiver up the spine. Thing One: My father (the country vicar) is getting very close to getting his private pilot's licence.

Two things, each of minor interest, that together send a shiver up the spine. Thing One: My father (the country vicar) is getting very close to getting his private pilot's licence. He makes his first airfield-to-airfield flight, ending up in Bristol in the middle of a cloud of big jets - the first time he's flown to a big field and it's obviously made quite an impression on him.

The second thing is the report that in New England, the air traffic control computers failed for more than half an hour and the controllers had to resort to pushing hand-written notes at each other in an attempt to keep track of the hundreds of aircraft.

If this was Hollywood, it would be at this point that the director picks up the pace and starts to draw the themes together, culminating with the Vicar taking off in Concorde as the missile defence systems of the world crash and burn. Hmm. Now there's an idea...


Suddenly, the world wakes up to Year 2000. It takes the News at Ten to do a piece, and suddenly the phone won't stop ringing with news editors, journo friends and others trying to get a story together.

Someone asks me ‘What are the rest of Europe doing?", which is a damn good question. Another friend has some of the answers. The Scandiwegians are well ahead, apparently, but the French have only just noticed that there's a problem. Until now, it was filed away as just another Anglo-Saxon plot and worth ignoring altogether... "And don't forget," says my francophile informant, "this is the nation which uses Macs because Macs don't crash." "But Macs do crash!" I say. "I know, I know", replies mon pal, "but they're not counted as crashes. They're minor interruptions, to be expected. Only Windows machines crash in France."

Are we really ready for union?


World domination ahoy! Work begins on Project Nixon, my secret software which I'll use to become very rich. Then I'll retire to a little pied-a-terre in a seaside town and write my novels... (actually the novels are World Domination Plan 2, and if they work first I'll retire and write my software. That's if the screenplay (WDP 3 - vicars and aircraft) doesn't kick off).

Anyway. Project Nixon is a brilliant idea, only slightly sullied by my recent discovery that someone's done it before. The idea is that you plug your phone into your soundcard, and whenever a call is made or received the computer automatically records it to disk. If you find you need something from a recent phone call (which only ever happens after you've made the call, of course), then it's just a matter of diving in, grabbing the sound file and playing it back. For reporters and spies, that's very useful - many times a call turns into an interview and one doesn't have time to plug in the tape recorder, check tape, levels, batteries and so on. Fortunately, the people who've done it before have gone out of their way to make their software difficult to use and I soon convince myself that I can do it much, much better.

The small problem is programming it. I finally get Visual Studio 97, find out how ActiveX deals with audio and start sketching out flow charts, state machines and user interfaces. Ah, just like the old days!

Watch this space. Venture capitalists who wish to subscribe to this most thrusting of concepts should email me at my usual address, or just send Jiffy bags stuffed with dosh. Actually, if I was at all serious about this I'd just find a way to do it over the net, call myself At-Dot-Slash VoiceComm Inc, and wait for the money to arrive without even asking for it...


If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a big surprise... Actually, that's more true of Regent's Park, where the cuddly teddy-bears of ZDNet UK are having their annual picnic. And Guy Kewney and I are invited!

Of course, it coincides with the first hurricane of Autumn. Guy, freshly back from holiday where he sailed boats in the sun, looks distinctly cryogenic in his shorts and Marigold-yellow T shirt. While the younger members of the team zoom off and play football, fly kites and creatively terrify tourists, the grown-ups huddle around a large pool of ice (brought to make the beer better) and pretend it's a crackling campfire with old-fashioned paper media merrily blazing away.

The saddest moment occurs when Jo Bawa (freelance) whips out her Palm III and laments the fact that she's never, ever used the infra-red transfer mode to beam a business card. "Aha!" exclaims Guy, and whips his out, too. "Aha aha!" shouts Wayne, who is also so equipped, and amidst what can only be described as rude banter (Guy was particularly taken with the possibilities that the word ‘beam' offered - and you must remember that Monica Lewinsky was fresh in all our minds) the requisite magic is spun.

To passers-by, the scene must have appeared on the edge of credulity. Because the Palm III has a flip-up lid, the three pals communing closely looked for all the world like crew members of the Enterprise requesting a lift from Scotty. And besides, Wayne comes from Canada which is probably much closer to Vulcan than we are in London.


BT finally announces Home Highway, the system whereby ISDN is repackaged and flogged to a wondering populace. Thanks, BT. Twenty years of pretending ISDN doesn't exist, selling it at a premium price to discourage use, and sending out badly undertrained engineers without the right equipment to make the lines work anyway - and you finally wake up just at the time that ADSL is going to make ISDN obsolete.

Ach. Can't wait for the Year 2000 bugs to send us all back to the Neolithic. Perhaps this time we can get it right...