Archive for July 26, 2012

Who funded the Internet? I care that you don’t know what it is!

I’m not really that upset or surprised over the argument that the government did (or did not) fund the Internet.  I do realize that it really matters, but it’s a complex issue. The Internet was most successful because of a government and business partnership, which means that there’s always going to be  a question of who did what.

As a computing educator, I am more concerned that the article in the Wall Street Journal was so full of conceptual errors!  Hyperlinks have nothing to do with the Internet. Ethernet is not the Internet.  As my colleague Christine Alvarado said to me on Facebook, the WSJ piece is a symptom of a problem that even educated Americans do not understand the computing in our daily lives.

Crovitz then points out that TCP/IP, the fundamental communications protocol of the Internet, was invented by Vinton Cerf (though he fails to mention Cerf’s partner, Robert Kahn). He points out that Tim Berners-Lee “gets credit for hyperlinks.”

Lots of problems here. Cerf and Kahn did develop TCP/IP–on a government contract! And Berners-Lee doesn’t get credit for hyperlinks–that belongs to Doug Engelbart of Stanford Research Institute, who showed them off in a legendary 1968 demo you can see here. Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web–and he did so at CERN, a European government consortium.

Cerf, by the way, wrote in 2009 that the ARPANet, on which he worked, “led, ultimately, to the Internet.”

As for Ethernet, which Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs invented at PARC (under Taylor’s watchful eye), that’s by no means a precursor of the Internet, as Crovitz contends. It was, and is, a protocol for interconnecting computers and linking them to outside networks–such as the Internet. And Metcalfe drew his inspiration for the technology from ALOHANet, an ARPA-funded project at the University of Hawaii.

via So, who really did invent the Internet? – Los Angeles Times.

July 26, 2012 at 2:29 am 14 comments


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