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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Tim Berners-Lee (main picture), with Frank Bruno, Hillary Clinton, Prince Harry and Spike Milligan (clockwise from top left). Compiled by the BBC News profiles unit's Chris Jones.

TIM BERNERS-LEE

The man who invented the world wide web could have rested on his laurels. But fame was never the spur for Tim Berners-Lee. Now his formidable brain is working on a more "intelligent" web.

Before Tim Berners-Lee came up with the web, how long would it have taken to settle the argument about who directed The Apartment, the year King Canute attempted to turn the tide or the lowest price for Norah Jones CDs?

Now the man with a passion for enabling access to information is looking for phase two, which he calls "interoperability for data".

If you had your holiday photographs stored on your computer, for instance, his idea of a digital organism would make it possible for the pictures to display when they were taken.

Berners-Lee's explanation of how he came up with the web, one of the most significant ideas since the printing press, is a simple one: "I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I happened to have the right combination of background."

His parents were programmers who worked for Ferranti on one of the first commercial British computers. As a child, young Tim would play mathematics games and make pretend computers out of cardboard boxes.

A few years later, studying physics at Oxford, he built the real thing out of spare parts and a TV set.

Tim Berners-Lee
Berners-Lee studied physics at Oxford
In 1980, he was working at Cern, the European physics laboratory in Geneva, when he created a piece of software, a personal memory substitute called Enquire, which allowed him to link words in a document to other files on his computer.

And during a second spell at Cern, nearly a decade later, and with the internet by now established as a powerful academic source, Berners-Lee came up with the ground-breaking idea of running hypertext globally.

By January, 1992, Berners-Lee had found the answers to problems involving browsers and protocols, enabling the world wide web to be released on to the net.

And Tim Berners-Lee went on to become fabulously wealthy. Except that he didn't, because that was never his motivation. While others made millions, like Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, Berners-Lee chose a different road.

As the director of the World Wide Web Consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is dedicated to keeping the web open and free from the clutches of computing conglomerates.

Berners-Lee's conversation shifts into overdrive whenever he talks about computer concepts, and, by contrast, is reticent about his private life.

He is no absent-minded professor living in a world of his own, though. Married to an American he met at an acting workshop, the father of two children, he plays the piano and uses the net for such ordinary purposes as buying CDs.

Rejecting the Anglican teachings of his parents, he has adopted the beliefs of the Unitarian church, which don't include "characters with beards", but stress "the inherent dignity of people and the need to work together to achieve harmony and understanding".

Which is pretty much Berners-Lee's lofty ideal for his invention. Unless technology respects human needs, he says, it is worthless.


Frank Bruno
Frank Bruno

Britain's former world heavyweight champion, Frank Bruno, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, saddening everyone, it seems, but the Sun sub-editor who penned the headline, "Bonkers Bruno locked up". The boxing world had always known that the happy-go-lucky, uncomplicated image was just an act. Bruno's breakdown has been attributed to divorce, money problems and the suicide of his trainer and father figure, George Francis. But being an ex-boxer was perhaps the toughest fight of all.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Senator Hillary Clinton was "amazed and outraged" when she learned that the official Chinese version of her memoirs had been extensively censored. The state-run publishers entrusted with translating Living History into Mandarin said the cuts were merely "minor, technical" changes. But Hillary's US publisher has felt it necessary to set up a website to allow Chinese readers to see missing passages about Tiananmen Square and human rights.

Prince Harry
Prince Harry

Prince Harry's arrival in Australia for a four-month trip sparked off Republican protests over the bill for ensuring his safety. Special forces will help the Royal Protection Squad team from Britain to guard the 19-year-old Prince, at a cost to the Australian taxpayer of at least 300,000. The Aussie cops might have their work cut out. Royal bodyguards at Highgrove were often engaged in late-night searches for the rebellious Harry.

Spike Milligan
Spike Milligan

A plan by the inhabitants of Woy Woy, the Australian home town of the late comedian, Spike Milligan, to walk backwards in his honour at a festival, has been spiked by the local council for fear of possible injuries. The stunt is in tribute to the former Goon's 1956 song, I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas. Now festival-goers will walk forwards but wear their clothes back to front with face masks on the back of their heads. Even more ridiculous? Mission accomplished.




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