Monday, 1 October 2012

A Google-less Day

A Google-less Day

 Honestly, where would we be with out Google today. Whether we looking for a job, a restaurant to have dinner , or even directions on how to get somewhere. Google is one of  "those" entities that we just can't live with out, like food and water basically. Ok that may be taking it to the extreme but for most of us it is a tool we use everyday multiple times. But how many of us know how Google started ? Or even when it was started ?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Google was started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin who meet at Stanford. Larry was considering the school and Sergey was assigned to show him around. This was back in 1995, in 1996 the two started working on a search engine called backrub. When backrub started taking up too much bandwidth on the university servers they decided it was time for a change. In 1997 Larry and Sergey decided to rename the search engine Google, which was a play on the word “googol" , which is a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. This they decided was an apt name as they were essentially creating a search engine that could organize the almost infinite amount of information on the internet.

1998, this was the "Big Bang", the big start of Google as it can be called. In August of 2008 Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim writes a check for $100,000 to a company called Google Inc.In September Google officially sets up in Susan Wojcicki’s garage. By Decmeber 1998 “PC Magazine” reports that Google returns extremely relevant results, and recognise Google as the search engine of choice in the Top 100 Web Sites for 1998.

In 1999 the company just improves further, where in February they moved out of the garage into a proper office space. In May the first non engineer is hired to manage and handle sales, and shortly after in June the term googler arises , as those individuals who use Google. Google then moved again due to need of office space and they moved to Mountain View. The company was doing so well that in November Charlie Ayers joins as Google’s first chef. This then rounds off a rather successful 1999.

From this point on there is just constant development and expanding in every direction possible. Early in 2000 the team moved to various language versions of the search engines where they provided for French, German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian and Danish. In June 2000 they announced the first billion-URL index and therefore Google becomes the world’s largest search engine. To end off 2000 Google Adwords was launched in October and Google toolbar is released in December.

So as we can see Google inc never stopped growing. It shot up fast and just kept growing. I could keep on listing more and more achievements but you get the idea. Basically Google didn't exist and then it did. Just to close off this post I would like to give a few more interesting out of the blue highlights for Google that I really enjoyed discovering:

1. In February 2002 Klingon became 1 of the 72 language interfaces available for Google.
2. In April 2002 For April Fools’ Day, it announce that pigeons power Google's search results. 
3. In September 2005 Overlays in Google Earth illuminate the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina around New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Some rescue teams use these tools to locate stranded victims. 
4. In October 2006 Google announced its acquisition of YouTube. 
5. In December 2007 The Queen of England launches The Royal Channel on YouTube. She is the first monarch to establish a video presence this way.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Star of Africa - Brilliantly Cut

The Star of Africa

The 3,106-carat Cullinan, was the largest diamond crystal ever found.It was discovered on January 26th 1905. The finding of the largest diamond crystal was purely accidental, it was found by Frederick Wells while he was walking through one of the mine corridors. Initially he thought it was a piece of glass, following examinations showed it was a diamond of 3,106.75 carats.

Rough Cullinan diamond stone

The Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before determining how to divide it. It eventually yeilded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant cut stones. The 9 major stones are as follows (view Source):

The Cullinan I was the largest polished diamond in the world until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond. Despite this, it still remains the largest, D-color, faceted diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee having a yellow-brownish color. King Edward VII ordered the Cullinan I –Star of Africa to be mounted on the head of the Royal Scepter. Star of Africa was purchased for King Edward on his 66th anniversary, at the price of $800,000.00.

The Cullinan 1 was not the only one from the nine major stones that appears on some major Jewelry. Cullinan II is set in the front of the circlet of the Imperial State Crown. Cullinan III and IV have been included in a Brooch and a number have been included in forming part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar Parure.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The lone parliamentary opposition to the Apartheid government

The Opposition - Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman was born on 7 November 1917 in Germiston, South Africa. She studied as an economist and statistician at the university of Witwatersrand, during which time she also left South Africa to travel Europe before returning. On her return she fell in love with Dr Moses Suzman, got married and then went back to finish her degree. She then worked as a statistician for the South Africa's War Supplies Board, after which she returned to the University of Witwatersrand to lecture. It was at this point her political career started when she became a member of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

So in 1953 she made a move from teaching to parliament. She was elected to the House of Assembly as a member of the Unity Party. At a later stage, in 1959, she switched to the liberal Progressive Party, where she was the sole member of Parliament for the Houghton constituency. She is then best known from this time on as the sole parliamentarian that was unequivocally opposed to apartheid. She ran this race alone from 1961 to 1974. For this period she was harassed by political party members and police, one of the techniques she developed for handling the police tapping her phone line was to blow a whistle into the mouth piece of the phone. One of her famous responses was to a minister that accused her of embarrassing South Africa by the questions she asked and her response to this was, "It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa; it is your answers". Later as the opposition against apartheid grew the Progressive party joined the Reformed party and become the Progressive Federal Party. It was at this stage then that Helen Suzman was joined by others such as Colin Eglin in the fight against apartheid.

So in total Helen Suzman was in parliament for 36 years, from 1953 to 1989. She was also known for her frequent visits to Nelson Mandela while he was in prison. She was also present with him when he signed the constitution in 1996. Helen Suzman made a remarkable contribution to South Africa and the people under oppression at the time. She has been recognized for this in many different ways. She was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize , she was awarded 27 honorary doctorates from Universities around the world. She was even made an Honorary Dame Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire in 1989.Helen Suzman died peacefully on the morning of 1 January 2009 at the age of 91.

While Helen Suzman was one of the main activists of the time, she was not the only one. There are many named and unnamed activists. All of us in South Africa I feel need to know her story and understand her drive within parliament at a time that it was not safe for her to speak out. We should all be grateful to Helen Suzman for her efforts in parliament. If you know some other from the time that opposed the parliament of the time and fought against apartheid why not give them a brief overview in the comment below so everyone reading the post can become aware of them !

There are a number of books about and by Helen Suzman. The one higher in the blog "In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir " was written by Helen Suzman. If you are interested you should also check out the following books: