Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A wave to an old friend

You know that hour long Wave video that everyone's seen? Maybe you know someone who has? It's a video of a conference presentation by one of Google's brightest stars - Lars Rasmussen, the co-inventor of Google Maps - showcasing a fascinating new technology called "Wave" which just might usurp the leviathan that is email and take over the world. It's big. It's also made for lots of cheap "wave" puns in posts everywhere recently.

Well those who have watched the video can't fail to observe that Lars is almost as big as the revolution he's just unfurled, in every sense. His shoulders are as broad as his smile, and his kindred spirit with his team, his audience, and for the wave project at large shows he has a big heart. He's a man in his element, excited to show off years of effort, who still manages to be both natural and composed, with a result that the talk is entertaining and inspiring, leaving aside the overabundant "woo hoos" which grated on some of my British pals.

Why should I care? Guess what. Back in the day, before he was famous, before his shoulders got so big, I knew Lars. I met him off the train as a do-gooding meet-and-greet volunteer when he first set foot in Edinburgh to start a PhD on "algorithms", which I think he had to explain the meaning of to me. I remember clear as day his delight at seeing the castle in all its splendour as we hauled his baggage up out of the station. Lars was great to be with and we became friends for a while. He persuaded me to run up Arthur Seat with him a few times, and I'm sure he mentioned big plans one day. Ultimately I didn't share his ambitions for work or exercise and didn't keep up contact.

Imagine my surprise this summer, over 15 years later, when I saw my old pal take centre stage without a glimmer of forewarning. I had no idea he and his brother invented Google Maps! It made an already arresting presentation a special pleasure. And I can't tell you how refreshing it is to know that one of these tech gods that you and hear about is nothing more than a real person I could, and once did, speak to as a friend.

Congratulations Lars. Here's wishing you all the best for you and yours, and all your projects, big or small.

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