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Wednesday, December 17, 1997 Published at 08:43 GMT


Clinton honours Net pioneers
image: [ Cerf (right) has received numerous awards in the past ]
Cerf (right) has received numerous awards in the past

President Bill Clinton has honoured two men credited with giving birth to the Internet by awarding them the national medal of technology.

The efforts of the two inventors to link military computers by radio, satellite and telephone wires 25 years ago evolved into the Internet.

Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, inventors of the TCP/IP protocol, said they never dreamt their research to solve a military command and control problem would result in a vast new medium spanning the globe.

[ image: Kahn:  It was a very small scientific problem]
Kahn: It was a very small scientific problem
"We weren't thinking in megalomaniac terms," said Mr Kahn, president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, after the awards ceremony.

"It was a very small-scale scientific problem - how do we get machines on different nets to work together."

"We were thinking about getting these three damn networks to work together," added Mr Cerf, the man widely considered to be the father of the Internet.

[ image: Cerf: Considered the father of the Net]
Cerf: Considered the father of the Net
In 1973, Mr Cerf and his graduate students at Stanford University created the communications protocols that would later to be known as TCP/IP, for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The protocols became the foundation of the modern Internet as they allowed different types of computers running different software to exchange information without any central, top-down control.

Contrary to popular myth, the goal was not to help the network survive a nuclear attack, but rather to allow computers to be connected quickly in a war situation over radio and satellite links without a predesigned plan.

Once in place, as part of the US military's ARPANet, the network needed strong support from its inventors to avoid losing funding.

"For 25 years, Vint and I were nurturing and guiding, proselytizing and cajoling and sort of helping making this thing not die a thousand deaths along the way," said Mr Kahn.

In the 1980s, the National Science Foundation took responsibility for running the Internet.

The network now adds thousands of new connections every month. "We clearly do not know what all is on the Internet," Mr Cerf said.

"It's changing so fast that every time you look you're wrong."

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Internet Links

The Internet Society

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Brief history of the Net by Vinton Cerf

Brief history of the Internet

Cerf's Up - Vinton Cerf cybercolumn

Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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