Web Essay 5 – Father of the Internet?

It could be claimed that J.C.R. Licklider was a forefather of the Internet, as his ideas of a “Galactic Network” do have a resemblance to the current Internet. He promoted the theories of networking to his successors at ARPA, without whose funding the development of ARPANET and hence Internet could be called into question.

Robert Kahn was responsible for the system design of the ARPANET whilst at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). After joining ARPA, he conceived the idea of open-architecture networking, the underlying principle of the Internet, which led him to co-develop the protocols required to make the Internet a reality, namely TCP/IP.

Through working for Leonard Kleinrock, Vint Cerf helped to develop the host level protocols of the ARPANET and then on software for the Network Measurement Centre, which measured the performance of the ARPANET. His work led him to work with Robert Kahn in co-developing the protocols, TCP/IP.

Jon Postel is often touted as a father of the Internet. Indeed, he had a significant part to play in the development of the Internet, through his control of the Requests for Comments and founder of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

For the Internet to exist there had to be a method of embracing open-architecture networking, this was only possible through the introduction of TCP/IP. I therefore believe that Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf have the strongest claims to be called father(s) of the Internet, In fact Vint Cerf maybe more so, he has continued to nurture and promote the Internet (as any father would do) through his roles as President of the Internet Society (the closest thing the Internet has to a governing body), Chairman of the Internet Societal Task Force and his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design an interplanetary Internet. Kahn and Cerf received the U.S. National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in December 1997, for founding and developing the Internet.

However, if we the use concept of Systems Thinking, i.e. looking at the whole, then the development of the Internet has relied on more than just the development of TCP/IP, developments such as packet-switching were vital, the freedom of information provided by Jon Postel enabled rapid growth, and support of Government in providing an envirnoment & funding for it to have been developed. In fact, Vice President of USA, Al Gore, has even claimed his role:

"During my service in the Unites States Congress,
I took the initiative in creating the Internet"

The Internet may have two father figures in Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn but there are many more who have a valid claim to its birth. The media will always look for an inventor or creator, but in this instance there is a whole family who are responsible for the fatherhood of the Internet.


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Copyright © James Higginson 2000

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