As a private investigator, Victoria resident Leanne Jones specializes in making discoveries.
But when she tracked down the 66-year-old retired computer research scientist who invented the early design of the Internet, an idea for a book was born.
It was only natural given her penchant for writing books and previous teaching experience.
If Jones hadn’t pursued Edson Hendricks’ story, which took her three years to write, she has been told his technological contribution might never have been publicly told.
“I could see that, over the years, it was such a complex, big story that it just didn’t seem to be coming out, and (Hendricks) was just quite content to be quiet about it,” said Jones, owner of Secrets Investigations. “So when I put it in the context of a children’s book, he thought that was benign.”
Bruce Batchelor, owner of Victoria-based Agio Publishing House, believed in Jones’ story about Hendricks and subsequently turned it into the book, It’s Cool To Be Clever, last summer.
While working at the former IBM Cambridge Scientific Centre in the 1970s, Hendricks invented the early networking design of the Internet, known then as VNET – this despite a childhood spent covering up his genius to avoid being bullied.
It was only in high school that Hendricks stopped masking his intelligence and excelled academically. He was later accepted into the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jones tracked the computer expert down through a mutual contact. Thrilled at uncovering his little-known contribution to technology, Jones asked him to star in a children’s book.
Though not one to “strut out on stage and take bows,” the San Diego, Calif. retiree said he loved Jones’ idea.
“I would almost certainly have said no to any suggestion besides a children’s book because just about my favourite things are children’s books written for adults,” Hendricks said.
Taking the literary project one step further, Batchelor and his team launched the It’s Cool To Be Clever iPad application in December, said to be the first enhanced e-book app of this magnitude produced in Canada. Only two other publishers in the United Kingdom and the U.S. have produced a similar electronic literary application, the publisher said.
“This project was just crying out for an app because of all the back story,” said Batchelor.
The app, available online for $6.99, includes the story, illustrations by Victoria resident Anna Mah, videos of Hendricks and audio interviews and original music by Jones, among several other features.
The app gives fans of the story the chance to “dig a little deeper” into bullying, the Internet and genius, said Batchelor. “I think these things are as important as the story.”
“It all has fit together just amazingly,” Jones said.
It’s Cool To Be Clever is available at Bolen Books, and online at amazon.com. The iPad app is available at the iTunes Apple Store at bit.ly/CoolToBeClever. For details please visit agiopublishing.com.