Thursday, 1 April 2021

THERE WAS AN OLD KING WITH A DEAD TOOTH........

 I am not about to narrate anything out of  Aesop's fables but on the contrary about some thing of a recent invention which has conquered our life style thereafter!

We all know what is Bluetooth technology at least for the last decade or so. It unifies devices. The technology has become so popular in our lives that the services of Bluetooth technology cannot be ignored all the time-phones, earphones, speakers, stereos, TVs, cameras, cars, tablets, game consoles...the list can be pretty long since I am limiting to devices I mostly use.

How come the non techy name 'Bluetooth' of all names, I have wondered often? I have read somewhere that late great Steve Jobs created the brand name 'apple' over a number of technical names after spending few months in an apple orchard! Steve Jobs thought that the name 'apple' ushers fun, spirit and not intimidating. And he went for  McIntosh , his favorite type of apple! In case of Bluetooth also there could be something drab like that I thought  but left the topic as such until I came to know about the real story recently. And it is worth knowing about if you don't know  yet!

'The teeth often bite the tongue, still it stays together' is a famous Scandinavian proverb. And the name Bluetooth  and technology which unifies devices also comes comes from Scanadavania but shrouded with its rich history. The name and logo comes from a 10th century Danish King-Harald Bluetooth Gormsson. Why the inventers- a technology company- went for an old and dead king with an unusual name is more than intriguing! 

The race for innovation..

By early 1990s major international companies specialized in electronics were silently working on finding a technology to replace wired communications which totally eliminates the need for cables and wires. The companies in such a race were mainly Intel, Ericson, Nokia, IBM and Toshiba. It was Jaap Haartsen of Ericson, the Danish company who found out a revolutionary way to connect devices without cables by mid 1990s.But it needed further development .In 1997 the companies thought that it would be to their technical and commercial advantage that they pool their talents and resources and jointly decided to form a special interest group(SIG) to fine tune the technology. All these companies have been working individually on their own short range radio technologies till then.

The name 'Bluetooth' surfaces...

The special interest group (SIG) thus formed had to decide on a  coded name of their secret mission temporarily. Jim Kardach of Intel pioneered in naming the group as 'Bluetooth'. That was the nick name of a Viking King named Harold Gormsson who lived and ruled Scanadavania around 1000 years ago. The king was the force behind in unifying Denmark, Norway and other parts to a great country. The king had a dead tooth which eventually became blue in colour and the history records that the people fondly called him 'Blue tooth' which eventually became more popular than his real name! All member organizations whole heartedly welcomed the suggestion of the temporary name since the mission of the SIG was also unifying various devices like the great king did for Scandinavia while a a tech savvy name -more market friendly- could be found out when the mission is successful.

The 'Bluetooth' technology is born...

The new technology which unites communication protocols is innovated by SIG in 1999. As decided by the group, they also considered many tech savvy names to replace the Blue tooth. Finally the proposed names which were short listed to just two- either Radio Wire or PAN (Personal Area Networking).But before SIG could take a final choice of name, the existing name of Bluetooth caught on fast with the public and customers to the surprise of SIG.

Comdex is the abbreviation of Computer Dealers Association and technical convention. It was a trade show related to computers and peripherals held in Las Vegas, US from 1973 to 2003.It was one of such greatest exhibitions on the subject in the world. In this context I also remember my official days in late 1990s and later where I had attended a number of famous trade shows world wide. Surely such an action and close interaction with live wire executives contributed a lot in understanding international business which in turn helped me in my contribution in transforming  a medium construction company to a well known successful corporate in Qatar, where I was a CEO for 21 years.

In 1999 show at Las Vegas SIG showcased their Bluetooth technology to the world. It was an instant hit!



The magic behind the iconic logo...

The SIG while selecting the logo also showed complete honour to their great king Harald Bluetooth completely. Their logo is straight combination of the initials H and B of his names in Nordic runes shown as above! Obviously they chose the blue colour. Today this branded logo is recorded to have a 92% global recognition rate!

 After all blue colour stands for serenity, stability, inspiration and wisdom. This I had learnt long back in 1994, while I got a chance to decide on the sky blue colour of the company logo from black and white ,while with Al Balagh group in Qatar.

Illustrations: courtesy Bluetooth technology.

Monday, 1 March 2021

HOW THE UNLUCKY SNEEZE BECAME LUCKY FOR JAMES BOND !

 Ian Fleming remains a known literary name for his creation of British secret agent named James Bond to this day. But popularity of his creation outgrew that of the creator itself over the years like in case of Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter or few others! By now more than half of the population of the world is estimated to have watched at least one Bond movie!

23 official movies of the Bond have grossed over $ 6 billion world wide at the box office- a figure I have not adjusted for inflation or TV rights etc. Though Ian Fleming introduced his character Bond to the world in 1953,the first movie 'Dr.No' was released in 1962 which is still popular in TV as it was only the other day that I had watched it last! And along with the Bond movies, surprisingly the title theme song also started getting popular to the extent that the theme song alone can identify with James Bond! It was tuned by  Monty Norman, a British composer whose popularity also rose with the song!

Now I will come to the catch of this all famous theme song of James Bond! It has very strong Indian connections. In fact only few know that this theme song is actually based-more than inspired- on the song sung by an Indian composed by the same music director Monty Norman. It was an abandoned song created for the story written by VS Naipal  titled 'A house for Mr.Biswas'!

Mohan Biswas, the main character of the novel is Naipal's father himself!
VS Naipal is a Nobel Prize laureate for literature. He is  from Trinidad and Tobago and his grand parents were from India. He won the Booker prize in 1971,Nobel prize in 2001 and has received a Knighthood in Britain in 1990.He has written a number of books while 'A House for Mr.Biswas' was published in 1961.This book had received world recognition and was included notably in the 'All time 100 novels by Time magazine' and '100 Most inspiring works by BBC Arts'.

Mohan Biswas, the main character of the novel is a creation based on Naipal's father himself. His birth was considered inauspicious as he was born with an extra finger. The novel revolves around superstitions prevalent in the Hindu and other  societies of Trinidad.

By late 1950s Monty Norman was contracted for his role to compose to  make a musical based on the novel 'A House for Mr.Biswas'. He composed the tune 'Good sign Bad sign', a song sung by an Indian with lyrics done by    .But later the whole idea of the musical was abandoned but Monty kept the tune with him. "I liked a number in it very much which I put in my bottom drawer" to quote his words.

                    "I was born with this unlucky sneeze,
               And what is worse I came into this world,
               the wrong way round...
               Pandits all agree that I am the reason why 
               father fell into the village pond and drowned."

it was basically an Indian tune with Indian musical instruments like tabla and sitar  in the back ground!
               
Enter Albert Broccoli and Dr.No with the theme song.....
Albert R Broccoli, an American along with a Canadian Harry Saltzman were the producers of the first James Bond movie titled Dr.No. By the time Broccoli was interested in production of the movie Saltzman had acquired the required rights who was not ready to sell off the rights to Broccoli. But he was ready to co produce the movie. As they decided to produce the first Bond movie under Eon productions, Sean Connery was selected to be first James Bond.

By that time Monty Norman had already celebrated five successful stage musicals in a row. In 1961 while he was working on a musical named 'Belle', Monty had close interactions with Broccoli. Finally composing the theme song and other music of the movie was offered to Monty Norman along with a visit to Jamaica with his wife, the location of the shoot of the movie, all expenses paid.

From sitar and tabla to guitar...
As Monty settled at Jamaica, the tune he had put in his bottom drawer for 'A House for Mr.Biswas' came out again to his mind. The song which was tuned in a typically Indian background had to be be totally westernized. He split the notes and switched initial riff from sitar to guitar! John Barry was his orchestrator who also did his job very well. Finally when the product was ready Monty played to the producers who liked it very much! So also Sean Connery !! I am loading up another video of Monty explaining what had happened....courtesy BBC.


Dr.No was an instant hit as released in 1962. Sean Connery with his style and grace no doubt gave life to the secret agent in action. So also the theme song was a hit including UK charts.  The rest is history!!!The signature theme remains catchy to this day.

Later there was a dispute over the tune between Monty and Barry over the ownership of the tune. But Monty won the case all the times. He was completely vindicated and awarded the damages....

Courtesy: BBC/utube/google

Monday, 1 February 2021

TOKYO TRIALS.....THE DISSENTING JUDGEMENT

Yasukuni Shrine at  central Tokyo is the memorial to Japan's war dead. It is a Shinto shrine founded in 1869 dedicated to souls of millions of Japanese who died for the country since then. But interestingly there stands a monument to an Indian as well which I could visit two years back.I could see myself many Japanese men, women and children come to the spot and bow in front of this man, about whom I did not know being an Indian!Later I could find that another Shinto shrine at Kyoto also is exhibiting a similar monument.

Ex Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on his visit to India in 2007 had paid a special tribute to same Indian in the Indian parliament.He also traveled all the way to Calcutta to  meet aging son of this particular Indian to convey warmth of Japan in person!! In spite of these news which were flashed few years back in the media, I dont think that most of the Indians remember name of such a person- an Indian revered in Japan to this day!

He is Radhabinod Pal.He was one among eleven Allied justices hand picked from eleven countries for the Tokyo Trials conducted post WWII to make trial of 25 Japan's top most war criminals. But why he is revered in to the extent that he was awarded later with highest civilian honour of Japan ?



Background of Tokyo Trials....
Destruction of Japan was complete in 1945 as the world war II ended. On 15 August 1945 Japan surrendered unconditionally. The Allied nations decided few months later  to hold trial of Japan's war criminals which came to known as Tokyo Trials later like Nuremberg trials which was held specific  for the Germans.For this purpose the International Military Tribunal for the Far East(IMTFE) comprising of judges from 11 different countries-US,Britain,Canada,France,The Netherlands,Austria,New Zealand,USSR,China,Philippines and India.India was colony of Britain then.So also Philippines was occupied by US.

The western countries had primarily an intention of limiting to only to those western countries and China who had signed in the agreement of surrender of Japan.But India and Philippines were included either for more popularity of such a decision among colonized nations also or because a lot of Indians and Filipinos had fought and lost lives for their masters in the same war!While 2.5 million Indian soldiers fought for their masters around the world ,87000 had died! It is not an coincidence that exactly two years later in 1947 on the same day Japan surrendered - 15 August, that the British Govt chose to give freedom for India officially!!

Radhabinod Pal was a senior judge in the High court of Calcutta and Vice Chancellor of University of Calcutta, India when the British and American authorities picked him to join the panel of justices to make trial of 25 Japanese war criminals.

The Trials....the dissenting note...the final verdict
The Tokyo trials commenced on May 3, 1946 and lasted for two and half years. Originally it was aimed to conclude within six months. On the fateful day 14 December 1948 one judge after the other announced the verdict -guilty! And a lone firm voice thundered then-not guilty!!The court room stood silent for few seconds!!The lone dissenting voice came from Radhabinod Pal.

He was very hard on Japan and fully acknowledged the atrocities committed by the devilish Japanese army in China and elsewhere. At the same time noted that the trials was an exercise to Victor's justice and the Allies were equally culpable in similar acts during the war or even outside it. He was highly critical of US using atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He questioned the right and eligibility of Britain and other western countries questioning Japanese imperialism when they themselves were colonists and imperialists!!He specifically was critical of Britain colonizing India and stealing the resources for centuries! His judgement concluded in 1235 pages. During the trial period could be due to his deliberations with judges from The Netherlands and France that they also made similar observations to the annoyance and discomfort especially of US and Britain.

Anyway due to the rules of the trial majority prevailed. All the 25 defendants were found guilty.7 were sentenced to death.16 to life imprisonment.1 each for 20 and 7 years in prison respectively!!

                                        Panel of judges-Tokyo Trials
And.....
Pal returned to India to rejoin his services.He was elected to be in UN International Law Commission where he worked till 1966.Pal was awarded in 1966 Japan's greatest Civilian honour-First class Order of the Sacred Treasures.He passed away in 1967 at the age of 80.A number of Japanese books are written and documentaries were made on him and the subject.

Obviously Pal's dissenting judgement was a huge controversial historical document. While his detractors criticized him for being an agent of Japan war criminals, his admirers applaud his courage and fairness in giving out his anti colonial judgement.


Friday, 1 January 2021

CRACKING OF 'ENIGMA' CODE...AND THE WAR WAS OVER !

Good day! Happy new year to all my readers world wide!!

Second world war remains the biggest global war ever fought in this world so far which involved virtually any part of the world in 1939-45.Finally  as we all know the axis powers-Germany, Italy and Japan were defeated by the Allies-France, Great Britain, United States and the Soviet Union. Did any single event during the course of the war can we pin point as the reason  for the defeat of the Axis forces? Probably not ,but many historians believe to the extent that cracking of 'Enigma' secret code of the Germans by the British was the single most important victory of the Allied forces- a secret the British kept  as top secret not only from the Germans and Axis powers but even from The Allies, own partner countries!

The word Enigma in English means puzzle, mystery or riddle. The Germans invented an encryption machine in 1930s to send coded secret messages and suitably named it as 'Enigma'. The Germans thought it as 'undecodable' under all circumstances, the way the British once thought 'unsinkable' when the Titanic was built and launched! The Americans, Russians and the French all considered such a machine invented by the Germans was invincible!

Bletchley Park with a huge mansion in the country estate of 550 acres located at Birmingham shire, north of London is a museum now. But it was once the secret home of code breakers during WWII. Again we hardly know about Alan Turing, a very bright mathematician who played a major role in decoding of 'Enigma' at Bletchley Park...The mystery which was kept as top secret by the British for 50 years even after the war!


The origin...
The Enigma machine was invented by the end of the First World War by a German engineer named Arthur Scherbius but perfected by 1923.In 1933 German Army had acquired the manufacturing rights of the Enigma machine and started in use of sending thousands of coded messages in the various wings of armed forces. During the course of second world war, the German forces used to sent more and more secret commands as they were convinced of the invincibility of their machine!

How the Enigma machine worked?
This machine looks more like a typewriter to the lay man. For each letter that was tapped in, another letter would come out so that the message sent would be received in a code. The receiving party had an identical machine with the same settings. So when the coded messages was fed in, the German text would come out! And the machine had 158 million million million different settings so that it was impossible to crack the code! Or at least the Germans thought so!!To make it invincible the Germans changed the code setting each day!!

Enter Alan Turing in Bletchley Park...
The British knew that decoding the Enigma machine to access the secret directives and motives of the German command is the best solution to be the winner of the war but at the same time knew that it was an impossible task or close to it. The fact that three Polish mathematicians, Henry, Marian and Jerzy-I am cutting down their surnames as it is a bit complicated to pronounce being typically Polish- had almost solved the riddle in 1939 but the fact that Germans changed the cipher system code each day made their dream fade away gave a lead to the authorities at the Park but nothing further.



                                             Enigma machine

It was at this time that Alan Turing, a very bright mathematician  enrolled at Bletchley Park. He was considered to be super genius with an IQ rating of 185-gets into the top 0.1 % of the population of the world. At the same time his behavior was very odd, did not cooperate with any colleagues-mostly crossword enthusiasts- and hardly spoke to anyone or eat - always at work! His movements were so suspicious that his bosses at Hut Eight of the Park thought that he is a Soviet spy!!Interestingly as Alan did not know German language, it was a puzzle for his bosses that how could he decode the message sent by Enigma machine which was sent in German language! Contention of Alan was that knowledge of German is not at all essential, instead was working for a machine of his own for decoding!

Finally to the total surprise of his bosses in , Alan Turing came out successfully with a machine of his own creation which he named as 'Bombe'. He was assisted by a fellow code breaker Gorden Welchman. They all cried with joy and disbelief when the messages in German sent by the machine as war intelligence were recorded in English at their lab! Sadly but firmly Alan resisted immediate revelation of his secret invention to authorities or call for counter rescue actions to avoid any doubt of such a finding by the Germans. Eventually without invoking any doubts for the Germans, other Axis forces and even other members of Allies, Alan and his team at Bletchley Park started saving millions of lives by timely counter actions. Stalingrad, The Ardennes, The invasion of Normandy, the Battle of Atlantic...all would not have been possible but for the intelligence they supplied from Park!

British kept it as top secret...even after the war !
Strangely, finding of such a machine, cracking the 'indomitable' enigma code was kept away from even the other partners of Allied forces by the British throughout the war. Even after the war such an information was not made even to the public for nearly 50 years after the war!!That is incredible. Once the war was over the group of decoders at the Park were asked disperse in secrecy to go back to their respective jobs with keeping their mouths shut for the rest of life.


Anti climax...of a person who saved 14 million lives during the war!

Military historians estimate that due to decoding of Enigma, war could be ended two years earlier, saving not less than 14 million lives of people of different nationalities!

Not only Alan Turing was never recognized for the meritorious service he did for the British, the Allies and the mankind, surprisingly he was arrested for homosexuality- a crime then- in 1953. After  an year he was awarded with hormonal therapy-castration by the Government, Alan committed suicide at the young age of 41 in 1954!! 

Posthumously in 2017,Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon considering his unprecedented achievement  for the mankind. In 2019 Alan Turing was chosen as the new face of British 50 pounds currency notes in recognition of his services!!