A close relative of India Se Media’s co-founder Dev Inder Bhalla appeared on the very first photo posted on the World Wide Web. That’s right. Michele de Gennaro (second from left), a first cousin of Bhalla (she is his Masi’s daughter), was the founder of Les Horribles Cernettes (The Horrible Cern Girls), an all-female parody pop group formed by the employees of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, based in Switzerland.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web while working at CERN, was a fan of the band.
Michelle, who was a graphic designer at CERN and a talented musician, appears in the picture with her fellow Cernettes Colette Marx-Nielsen, Angela Higney, both originally from Glasgow, and Candian Lynn Veronneau.
The epoch-making picture was taken by her then boyfriend (and later husband) Silvano de Gennaro, an IT engineer at CERN and a musician himself, on July 18, 1992. He took the photo at the Hardronic Music Festival, a “rock festival at CERN. Wanting a picture for a CD cover, he asked the four women to “lean in and smile” and took the picture on his Canon EOS 650. He later super-imposed the name of the band, Les Horribles Cernettes, in pink letters on the photo, using the very first version of Photoshop.
At that time, Berners Lee was developing software for the web to handle GIF images. He was working on the project in his office when he asked Silvano, sitting nearby, for some scanned photos to upload on the web. Silvano handed him the album cover. And Berners-Lee, a Cernettes fan, uploaded it. That’s how Michelle and the Cernettes had the honour of being on the very first photo to appear on the web.
The photo was posted on a web page about the musical acts at CERN.
Michelle and Silvano de Gennaro, who got married a few years after the Cernettes photo, have been regular performers at the fringe Montreaux Jazz Festival with their son Alex performing as their band’s drummer since he was 12. The 26-year old lad now works in London where he maintains close ties with his cousin Maya Tsering Bhalla, India Se Media’s former reporter and digital marketing executive and currently its London correspondent.
Michelle later said about the photo: “It is nice to get the recognition for that but, of course we were just having a giggle for a split second and it has been captured in time.”
“The band gave us a chance to dress up in costume and have some fun because we were all so busy and in serious jobs.”
“Tired of waiting day and night for her permanently-on-shift physicist boyfriend”, she sang about her “lonely nights” at CERN. One of the songs she sang was Collider. It goes:
I gave you a golden ring to show you my love
You went to stick it in a printed circuit
To fix a voltage leak in your collector
You plug my feelings into your detector
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You only love your collider
Incidentally, her band, Les Horribles Cernettes, had the same initials,