Will the Real Internet Inventor Please Stand Up?
Web Informant #148, 22 March 1999
These days, everyone is trying to take credit for the Internet. Our First Technocrat Al Gore during an interview last week on CNN mentioned that "during my service in the US Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Intel is running ads says that it is "powering the Internet." And Sun in various TV and print commercials claims to be behind the "dot in the dot com." Have these people no shame?
Gore is dead wrong, of course. He was barely a college grad back in 1969, when you could argue that the Internet began.
Intel's claim is also curious. While at face value it may be the predominant platform for browsing the Web, most of the computers truly "powering" the Internet that is, running web sites and at ISPs are Sun workstations. More to the point, it's not the processor that "powers" your connection to the Internet, but the size of the pipe you're using. Put another way, a 550 MHz processor doesn't do squat to improve a 28.8 kbps connection.
Sun's claim is strange too. Although Sun Solaris is powering many Internet sites, it is by no means the only operating system in use, and even not the only Unix operating system at that. Many people have passed over Sun's own web server software in favor of Apache and Netscape, not to mention others.
(And, if you really want to get technical about it, the dot in any Internet address merely separates host names from top level domains or other hosts. One could argue that the dot really refers a router (which is supplied by such vendors as Cisco) or a hub or switch (courtesy of 3Com et al) not any equipment currently manufactured by Sun.)
So I am sorry to say these folks are all lying. In truth, I was the one to create the Internet.
It's true that my name is nowhere to be found on the long list of Request for Comments that created the vast set of standards, protocols, and procedures that form the Internet's backbone. And in the early 60s, I was too young to be invent- ing new computing methods (though I had a working knowledge of Basic). And my name doesn't appear in any of the Computer Museum's documentation. So what gives?
Well, I had lots of help and friends along the way. And being fairly modest, I didn't want to call attention to myself. But with so many people taking credit where it isn't due, the time is ripe for me to come clean.
Going back to the early days of my computing career, I was working on NBI word processors, trying to hook them together with Xerox laser printers. For those of you that weren't around then, these printers were the size of a large refrig- erator lain on its side, and weren't that easy to network.
Well, I was one of the first people to connect these two things together. It wasn't using anything we'd recognize now, and I of course the documentation of my achievements has long since disappeared, but you'll just have to take my word that this happened. After I did this, others caught on and soon we had networked computers all over the place.
I made other contributions too. I helped design some of the communication protocols for the first primitive web sites, which were really nothing more than text-based bulletin boards run by a couple of computer hobbyists. This is well before graphics and browsers were invented, of course.
Now, I am not saying that I was the sole inventor of the Internet. I had a little help along the way. But that is as it should be, given that the Internet is an organic creature, evolving and changing over time. This evolution is precisely what makes the Internet a wonderful place to live and work. People and many people I should add are making incremental improvements all the time to the Internet. It is one huge computing commune.
So take these claims with lots of grains of salt, and happy trails to you.
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Web Informant copyright 1999 by David Strom, Inc., reprinted by permission
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