invented the Net?
4 'forefathers' differ on who deserves credit
By Bruce Haring, USA TODAY
The date was Oct. 29, 1969. The laboratory of professor Leonard
Kleinrock at the University of California at Los Angeles was about to give
birth to the Internet.
Kleinrock's research assistant, Charley
Kline, was wearing a communications headset as he sat at a terminal hooked
to an interface message processor, the first computer network switch. On
Kleinrock's command, Kline spoke with a colleague at Stanford University
in the Bay Area, the other end of the long-distance, high-speed line.
"All we wanted to do was (type the words) 'log in,' " recalls
Kleinrock, whose groundbreaking research in network data-packet switching
led to the historic moment.
Kline typed the "L." Stanford
acknowledged that the letter had been received.
Kline typed the
"O." Also received.
Kline typed the "G."
The first message sent across the Net turned out to be
quite appropriate -- either the biblical word "lo" or, phonetically, a
version of "hello," Kleinrock says.
An hour later, they got the
system up and running and completed the experiment as planned. The Net was
born -- at least, some contend it was.
In the 30 years since,
millions of messages and files have traveled across the worldwide computer
network that sprang from that humble beginning. Kleinrock, with Robert
Kahn, Vinton Cerf and Lawrence G. Roberts -- the three other men
considered key to what today is known as the Internet -- will speak
Thursday at a UCLA symposium devoted to the medium's birth, its current
state and its future.
Kleinrock is still at UCLA and also is head
of a company called Nomadix, devoted to computer use beyond the desktop.
Kahn is president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, a
not-for-profit organization devoted to research for the nation's
information infrastructure. Cerf is MCI's senior vice president for
Internet architecture and technology, and Roberts is president and CEO of
communications-switching research firm.
Though they share a
crucial role in shaping electronic communications, the four will not be on
the same screen regarding certain Net issues, including who can properly
lay claim to "fathering" the Internet.
Kleinrock's experiment made
his computer the first node of the Advanced Research Projects Agency's
ARPANET, the world's first major packet-data transmission network.
Conceived in the United States' scientific scramble after the Soviet
Union's launch of the Sputnik satellite, ARPANET was a single network
linking some of the nation's research computers.
As time went on,
other networks were built. Many contend that the ability to link from any
computer into any network (research that began in the 1970s and was fully
implemented in 1983) is what forms the Net we know today.
For those who subscribe to that Internet creation theory, Cerf and
Roberts, who co-designed the architecture for the collective network
system and its basic communications protocols, TCP/IP, are the true
fathers of the Internet.
Because the issue is clearly a matter of
perspective, the founding fathers have reached something of an uneasy
standoff on the issue.
"I think that the old arguments that will
come up at the (UCLA) conference and have come up over and over is
everybody is claiming responsibility for everything at this point," says
Roberts, who was the designer and developer of ARPANET.
thing all agree on is that the Internet was not conceived as a fail-safe
communications tool in case of nuclear war, a much-promulgated myth over
the years. The Rand Research Institute was developing a study shortly
after ARPANET's birth that has been confused with the research-oriented
ARPANET and subsequent developments.
Nuclear war "wasn't the
reason we did anything," Roberts says. "That story is just wrong."
Despite such myths and disputes, the four "forefathers" share a
pride in the commerce, entertainment and other opportunities that have
sprung from their research.
And one regret.
"I didn't get
to play with this stuff until I was 28," laments Cerf, echoing his
"I often envy the kids who are 8 years old and hacking
the Net. They got to do it 20 years before I did. I had to go off and