Revelations: The Back To Basics day

September 20, 2017

The Back to Basics day hosted on Tuesday (19/09/17) at the Bristows HQ in London was revelatory in so many ways. 

The purpose behind the event, and obviously one recognised by a packed house, was to give tech lawyers a better understanding of the current and future technology that shapes both their legal advice and the way they work. Along the way the extraordinarily knowledgeable pair of SCL Trustees Neil Brown and Chris James, together with the help of some expert tech guests, peeled away the layers of obfuscation shrouding the technological world.

The first revelation was in many ways an old fashioned one. Neil, and his co-presenter, niche ISP provider Alex Bloor, engaged in some creative destruction. They proceeded to disembowel a PC, iPhone and a rack server to show delegates the guts of these fantastical machines. Standard fare for the geeks of the world, the pair of them probably spent their teenage years knee deep in chipsets, but I suspect that not many of the audience had ever dared to remove the processor in the smartphone in their pockets. We even managed to zoom in to the motherboard of a PC to see just how many transistors you can cram in (you’ll find fewer angels).

That was just the first of a series of such revelations. After Neil and Alex’s post-mortem of a hard drive, Chris James, with the help of Simon Forrester and Mark James, expertly led us through the intricacies of developing software, before later talking about how internet traffic is managed and how, when we type a url, it manages to find the site we want. Neil and Alex then again joined forces to crack the logical challenges of cryptography and the technical challenges of mobile broadband. 

I will not attempt to synthesise the knowledge proffered by the team in more detail as we are planning to publish a series of highlight videos on over the coming month so any digest would pale in comparison. Watch them as they are published.

However, over post event drinks it became clear just how revelatory the talks had been. One delegate said they had recently spent many hours arguing with a client over the definition of a WAN (Wide Area Network). Now that advice would be much more confident and informed. Another said “so that’s how PGP encryption works! There are pairs of keys!”. Chris also treated the audience to a demo of live IP address route tracing providing, in the words Elizabeth Fitzgerald, our wonderfully relaxed chair for the day a “real insight into the architecture of the internet and where data is going”.  

She added later “If you’re a tech lawyer and you didn’t attend you missed out!”.

I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks of course to our cast for the day who were, in order of appearance: