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Charles Nesson

William F. Weld Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Founder and Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

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Following the practice of my colleagues David Weinberger, Larry Lessig, Terry Fisher, and John Palfrey, and Jonathan Zittrain, I am in compliance with my employer Harvard Law School's disclosure and conflict of interest policies, and will remain so.

I am currently pro bono counsel to and advocate for Joel Tenenbaum in his effort to question the constitutionality of the riaa's statutory damage campaign against individuals sharing music peer to peer.

I am a public advocate for poker, a member of the boards of the United States Poker Federation and the United States Mind Sport Association, and founder of the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society, which received initial funding in 2007 from Russ Deleon, hls'91, the founder of Party Gaming.

Charles Nesson
September 2011

As an undergraduate I took a course on the Univac One, 1958. The final assignment was to program the machine to sort a list or words alphabetically. This was before silicon chips and computer language. The Univac was built with stacks of vacuum tubes that occupied a large room and looked just like the stacks in a library, except the shelves were filled with vacuum tubes instead of books. We controlled the machine from a separate control room that looked like the deck of the Starship Enterprise. We wrote our instructions to the machine in strings of one's and zero's. For our exam, we had twenty minutes at the controls to debug our program and run it on a test list. Our grade depended, first, on whether our program worked, and then, second, on our program's elegance, measured by the time our program took to sort the list.

My next real engagement with computers came in 1981, when, on my first sabbatical, I moved my family to the seashore of Long Island, accompanied by one of the first edition IBM PC's. In my spare time there I wrote a computer program in BASIC that played an excellent game of five-card draw jacks-or-better poker, the rights to which I sold for a pile of money to a company which, I am sad to say, was subsequently indicted for manufacturing illegal gambling equipment. The BASIC language, circa 1981, included the word "SORT" among its verbs. Coming upon it was like meeting an old friend, now part of a whole useful language built of ones and zeros. If I could make a word from digits, and a generation later use such words to program a computer that could bluff me out, then, perhaps in a future generation, I would be able to use the power of the new language to liven up my classes.

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Last updated May 10, 2012