Who’s Your Daddy? Debate Fires Up Again Over Father Of The Internet
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
One presidential quip and a Wall Street Journal column later, the Internet has once more become aware of its bastardization, left to wander this world fatherless and alone.
Gordon Crovitz reopened the wound this weekend, calling into question President Obama’s quote, “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet.”
As the story goes, the Pentagon created the Internet as a way to maintain communications, should a nuclear attack take down any “formal” channels of connection.
According to Crovitz, the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANet) was created to create one global network — or World Wide Web — though the federal government was only “modestly” involved.
Crovitz then goes on to say Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, even sent an email to fellow technologists in 2004 rejecting any claim that the ARPAnet had created the Internet, saying, “The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.”
Crovitz gives credit to Vinton Cerf for creating the TCP/IP protocol and Tim Berners-Lee for inventing hyperlinks, but places full paternal rights to the 1970s Xerox PARC. Xerox does, of course, take credit for inventing the Ethernet — something their New York offices thought would only be used to connect computers in a business office to a printer — but said on Monday that their innovation does not an Internet make.
“Robert Metcalfe, researcher at PARC, invented Ethernet as a way to connect Xerox printers and the Alto computer,” said Xerox spokesman Bill McKee, “but inventing Ethernet is not the same as inventing the internet.”
Clearly Xerox doesn’t want to be held responsible for child support payments.
Michael Hilzik has the final word on the matter. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Hilzik thanks Crovitz for the recognition (Crovitz quotes his book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning,”) but says that Crovitz got it all wrong.
It turns out that Hilzik is good friends with Robert Taylor, once with the ARPANet, later with Xerox PARC, and says Crovitz simply confused the definitions between “AN” Internet and “THE” Internet. Placing the custody right in his buddy’s hands, Hilzik settles the matter thusly:
“I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he (Taylor) fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today. Nor was ARPA’s support “modest,” as Crovitz contends. It was full-throated and total. Bob Taylor was the single most important figure in the history of the Internet, and he holds that stature because of his government role.”
In the end, it seems Obama (and maybe even Al Gore) were correct about the origins of the Internet as we know it. What started out as a way to ensure communications in a dark time became a way to ensure communications at any time, day or night, and across the globe. And, whenever the Internet had finally gotten too big for its britches in 1995, the government privatized the whole thing, hoping to all that is holy that no one would remember it had a hand in the whole, messy ordeal. After all, anyone who remembers seeing the Internet for the first time in the 90s knows just how ugly the thing was. It’s no wonder the Government wanted it out of the house.