WORLD WIDE WOBBLE; Computer Verdict Delayed by Power Failure

By Dowdney, Mark | The Mirror (London, England), November 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

WORLD WIDE WOBBLE; Computer Verdict Delayed by Power Failure


Dowdney, Mark, The Mirror (London, England)


The most eagerly awaited announcement of Judge Hiller Zobel's career got caught in the Net yesterday - just as his critics had forecast.

As the world held its breath for news of Louise Woodward's fate, a simple power cut scuppered the US judge's controversial plan to transmit his ruling on the Internet global computer network.

Millions awaiting his verdict on nanny Louise's murder conviction frantically pounded keyboards as their screens remained blank.

The frustration was shared by Louise's supporters in her home village of Elton, Cheshire, where computers had been installed in their pub campaign- HQ.

It was over an hour before Judge Zobel's 16-page declaration started to run on World Wide Web sites. By then old-fashioned methods of communication had beaten the high-tech Internet - and Mr Zobel - hands down.

Reporters grabbed paper copies of the judgement at the courthouse in Boston and relayed the news without a moment's delay.

An embarrassed official said later: "The judge hit the button to send out his ruling, but nothing happened."

An investigation uncovered a failure in a power cable serving the local computer firm charged with sending out the information.

Court spokesman Dana Leavitt said: "I spoke to Judge Zobel this morning and he told me that he had pressed the button at 9:59 am (2.59pm British time) to send the mail.

"Because of an electrical malfunction somewhere between the court and the Internet service provider, they never received it."

The server is a company that sets up Internet accounts for individuals or businesses on a subscription basis.

One theory being probed last night was whether a tidal wave of Internet users calling up the judgement "sites" caused the cable to fail.

Judge Zobel decided on his controversial Internet announcement after talking to his son David, a graduate of the California Institute of Technology. Extensive plans were laid to make sure nothing went wrong.

The judge's first idea was to issue the ruling on the website of an obscure Massachusetts legal magazine.

But it was feared the access point would crash within seconds when swamped by worldwide callers. …

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