Tag Archives: Computer Science

Jew of the Week: Danny Lewin

The ‘Fighting Genius’ of 9/11

Danny Lewin

Danny Lewin

Daniel Mark Lewin (1970-2001) was born in Denver, Colorado. He spent his early childhood there, playing sports and the violin, and programming his first Apple II computer when he was just nine years old. His family made aliyah to Israel when he was 14. Living near Jerusalem, Lewin found school of little challenge and often skipped class to work out at a gym. It wasn’t long before he won the Mr. Teenage Israel bodybuilding competition. Not surprisingly, he joined the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. After four years as an officer – attaining the rank of captain – Lewin went to study at Technion, while also working for IBM. From there, he got a full scholarship to MIT and studied towards a PhD in computer science. During this time, he came up with a new algorithm that had the potential to revolutionize the nascent internet. Others didn’t see it that way, and felt his concept wouldn’t go very far. Despite the opposition, he teamed up with one of his professors and started a new company, Akamai Technologies. In March of 1999, a series of events caused a surge in internet activity that crashed many websites. It appeared that only the sites served by Akamai had survived. Akamai Technologies became an overnight sensation. A successful IPO shortly after made Lewin a billionaire. On September 11, 2001, Lewin boarded American Airlines flight 11. According to air traffic control recordings, Lewin attacked two of the terrorists on board, but was surprised by a third knife-wielding terrorist from behind. He was killed about 30 minutes before the plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Lewin therefore carries the tragic distinction of being the first victim of 9/11. He left behind a wife and two small children. At just 31 years of age, he was expected to make big waves, with some predicting he could have become an Israeli prime minister (like fellow Sayeret Matkal graduates Barak and Netanyahu), or one of the world’s true tech titans. His Akamai Technologies is still a multi-billion dollar internet giant today. In his honour, Cambridge, Massachusetts has a Danny Lewin Square and Park, and the annual award for best student paper on computing is named after him, too.

Words of the Week

Long after we have forgiven you for killing our sons, we will be working to forgive you for turning our sons into killers.
– Golda Meir

Jews of the Week: Dov Moran, Dan Harkabi, and the USB Key

Dov Moran

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) key was invented in Israel by a tech company called M-Systems. The company was founded in 1989 by Dov MoranĀ (b. 1955), a graduate of Haifa’s Technion Institute. Their first major project was creating an easy to use digital storage device that could hold a great deal of information in a small space. In 1995, M-Systems released DiskOnChip, the first ever flash drive. Building on this success, M-Systems patented the DiskOnKey in April 1999. The technology was quickly licensed by IBM and debuted in the US in late 2000, known as the USB Key. With 8 Mb of storage, it held over 5 times more data, wrote 10 times faster, and was far more durable (and smaller) than the standard floppy disk. The USB rapidly rose to popularity, and is now the most ubiquitous personal digital storage device.

Dan Harkabi

The project to develop the USB was led by Dan Harkabi, along with Amir Ban, Oron Ogdan, and company founder Dov Moran. In 2006, M-Systems was acquired by competitor SanDisk for $1.6 billion. Moran went on to start a company called Modu, which was acquired by Google in 2011. He now chairs two more Israeli tech companies, and recently launched a new start-up called Comigo, which is building systems to intertwine handheld devices with televisions. Meanwhile, Dan Harkabi – who served in the Israeli Air Force for over 20 years – is CEO of Picosmos, where he continues to work on flash drive technology.

Words of the Week

The tongue is secured behind the teeth and behind the lips, yet there is no end to the damage it causes. Imagine if it were outside!
Yalkut Shimoni