Category Archives: Odds & Sods


During 1999, Romke Jan Bernhard Sloot, an ordinary and unassuming Dutch electronics technician and television repair man, claimed to have worked out (and developed) a revolutionary computer coding system that compressed data, and would render computer hard disks, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other media storage devices – Obsolete.

An example of what his system was capable of, was that in theory, every movie that had ever been made, would fit easily onto one 700mb CD-ROM.

Sloot had attempted to sell his invention to Philips, but he soon discovered that Philips’ engineers were not interested.

Roel Pieper, who was at that time a board member of Philips, however, believed the invention had great potential and undoubtedly valuable, and decided to join Sloots in his venture.

The pair then began to look for investors all around the world.

Pieper himself had invested millions of dollars of his own money into the project.

In the Dutch language Publication ‘De Broncode’, Sloots talked about another way of thinking about something that worked at hardware level, by using a unique code he called ‘seven’. He did not use binary 1’s and 0’s because he believed that they were limited as they worked in two dimensions only, and greater efficiency could be obtained using three dimensional code.

On May 10th 1999, he wrote: ‘Since I don’t believe there are compression methods possible which for example can store a video film to less than 100kb, I have searched for another method. After many years of experimentation, I have succeeded with a completely new technique, without using other compression methods, all types of data can be stored on any media with a maximum capacity of 128kb, and can be played back without loss of quality or speed.’

Jan Sloots, however, died suddenly on September 11, 1999, the day before the details of his unique project were going to be laid out in a working contract and production of his system began.

And all his notes, his prototype engine, and his carefully guarded source code were apparently ‘lost’ …

‘The Sloot Digital Coding System (SDCS) would shake the world: a new alphabet for digital storage that didn’t use binary code, but a much more efficient method. The principle behind SDCS seems simple. As a text consists of a limited number of characters, a movie consists of a limited amount of colours and sounds. All those basic data were stored in five algorithms in five memory stores. For movies, each algorithm would have a maximum length of 74 Mb. That’s 370 Mb in total: the invention’s engine. To start the engine, only a proper key was needed. For every page of a book, for every image in a movie, Sloot calculated a unique code. The concatenation of these codes would again result in a unique code. The final code, the key, would be one kilobyte in length, regardless of the length of the movie or the size of the book.’

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Growing up among people who worked with their hands, all of them craftsmen in their chosen disciplines, I learned very early on the importance of precise measuring and accuracy.

Without a doubt, the most enduring adage I learned through those interactions, and have subsequently adhered to throughout all of my working and personal life – is to always:


As a working carpenter, I also learned through experience that in order to avoid making mistakes and ruining costly materials, that little saying, long since committed to memory has proved to be invaluable, inasmuch as it’s a constant reminder that very often you only have one shot at getting it right.

Measuring twice, or even three times before positioning your saw and starting that cut will not only save you time and money, but also ensures your reputation remains intact.

Making sure that you have thought of all the things that could go wrong beforehand, applies to many other aspects of life too, but unfortunately, even the most careful preparation is not always a guarantee that you will get it right every time.

A case in point is a recent post I published on this site recently, which examined the possibility of hundreds, perhaps thousands of babies being ‘swapped’ by a midwife at a Hospital in the North-West of England over a twenty-eight year period.

It appears that a great deal of interest has been generated by that article, which in turn has led to an unprecedented number of people not only contacting me personally, but also radio stations and news outlets in and around Wigan and St Helens, as well as the Wigan and Leigh Health Services NHS Trust that was responsible for the running of the hospital in Billinge that was the focus of the article.

A number of those people have been genuinely concerned about the possible implications for themselves and for people they know, healthcare workers, radio presenters, journalists and those who were just interested in the story have also been in touch, and I have spent the greater part of a week going through everything, and responding where required.

A number of those who contacted me shared personal experiences of the time they spent there, some voiced some very real suspicions and shared their own theories, and one in particular, contacted me and claimed he was in possession of ‘evidence’ that proved the whole thing is/was a hoax.

He claimed that a document, a screengrab of which was attached to the article published on this site, was created on his kitchen table, and himself and another, un-named person made up the whole thing to post on the @blackchapter  Facebook page they run – a post which they somewhat strangely, deleted  a few hours later.

imageI have made a request that the alleged hoax author(s) send me a written statement (with evidence) to reinforce that claim, which I offered to publish on this site in the interests of balance, but have not received a response at the time of writing.

Hopefully that may change.

So is there any truth in this story, or is it simply a hoax?

From what I have been able to ascertain, ‘The Billinge Cuckoo’s’ , could appear on the surface to be a case of ‘where there is smoke, there is also fire’, but there is no visible evidence I have been able to find which supports that.

On the other hand, the only ‘evidence’ to allegedly support it as being a simple hoax, has been removed from the internet by the people who have also claimed to be the architects of said hoax.

All I know is that I have spent way too much time waltzing around this one, and although it is an interesting premise, I really cannot see ‘The Billinge Cuckoos’  as being anything other than one of ‘those stories’ that will never be brought to a satisfactory conclusion while people still have breath enough to argue over it.

And most people’s lives are way too short to worry unduly about it anyway.



POST UPDATE: I have a feeling that I will not be hearing from the alleged hoaxer again.

“A full confession has been posted by the perpetrator, declaring the content a joke. “It is most regrettable that the hoaxer decided to use Billinge Hospital as the focus. “There is no doubt that the publication of the prank video has caused a lot of upset and concern for many people. “We hope that now it has been confirmed as an act of complete fabrication that the matter will now rest.” – WIGAN TODAY