My alma mater played a key role in building the road that brought this post to your digital device today. The Los Angeles Times explains.
Today’s anniversary gives us a chance to remember a salient fact about the Internet’s origins. It was a government project, built with your tax money, because private companies (namely AT&T andIBM) didn’t see enough profit in the idea. That’s what government is supposed to do–take on important jobs shunned by the private sector.
The network was the brainchild of Robert W. Taylor, then chief of the information technology office at the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), who demanded that the computer research projects he was funding around the country learn to talk to one another. In 1966 he secured a $1-million appropriation for the design and construction of a network that would interconnect MIT, Berkeley, UCLA and other university research computers nationwide. The network would be known at first as the ARPAnet, but its role as the Internet’s parent is undisputed.
Taylor, who later moved to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, where he oversaw the invention of the personal computer, knew that the network he ordered up would be more than an administrative convenience. In a 1968 paper he co-authored entitled “The Computer as a Communication Device,” he looked ahead to its future as a public utility.
“In a few years,” the paper began, “men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face.” Taylor forecast that the network would provide some services for which you’d “subscribe on a regular basis,” like investment advice, and others that you would “call for when you need them,” like dictionaries and encyclopedias. Communicating online, he concluded, “will be as natural an extension of individual work as face-to-face communication is now.” How’s that for vision?
Today Bob Taylor is living in Northern California; back in 2009 he was feted by his alma mater, the University of Texas. Kleinrock is emeritus distinguished professor of computer science at UCLA. On this day let’s hoist a glass to them, and to all the others who helped create the system on which you may very well be reading this piece, in gratitude.
So where the heck was Al Gore when the internet was born? He was a soldier writing stories for the base newspaper at Fort Rucker, Alabama at the time, blissfully ignorant of the whole thing.