Who is the Father of the Internet?

For most of us born in the Internet age, it is hard to imagine life without it – almost everything that we used to do personally, we can do now with just one click on our PC. For most of us, Internet has always been there, serving as a portal to the vast world of information we can’t even wholly absorb in our lifetime. The Internet had allowed us to connect as a species – to share information, and to further our research and development as we find ways to improve our quality of life and increase our chances of survival.

But, have you ever wondered who the master behind this vast and clever space of information is? How did the Internet come into being in the first place? How did it become crucial to our future as humanity? In this post, we will know more about the man who has made the Internet the ingenious network we know today.

THE FATHER OF THE INTERNET

Although some sources may cite multiple persons to be ‘fathers of the Internet, there is undoubtedly one man who did most of the job in the birth of one of humanity’s greatest achievements – the Internet. The Father of the Internet himself, Vinton Cerf, insists that many people were instrumental to its invention. Nevertheless, his contributions and works in shaping the Internet’s architecture earn him his title.

Born on June 23, 1943, Vinton (Vint) Cerf gradually lost most of his hearing abilities as a child, paving the way to advocating accessibility and ‘leveling the field’ for persons like him. His time in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) brought valuable advancements on the agency’s Internet and related data packet and security technologies. He also worked with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the 1970s and laid the stepping stones for his much more significant innovations in information technology. 

The internet pioneer met Robert Kahn in ARPA, while the latter works with the ARPANet system architecture. ARPANet is a network of computers capable of intercommunicating. But, the system still lacks a packet-switching protocol that would let that intercommunication between computers independent of hardware configuration. Together, the two co-designed the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) which addressed this problem – allowing computers to communicate regardless of distance and hardware conditions. The invention of TCP/IP laid the foundation of Internet architecture that we use today.

THE INVENTORS OF THE INTERNET

(left to right) Cerf and Kahn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush

While Cerf is considered the Father of the Internet, occasionally sharing the title with Kahn, he was right in claiming he was not alone in inventing the Internet. Several people have made contributions in shaping it. Some notable personalities include

Robert Khan – co-designed the TCP/IP with Cerf, which laid the architectural foundations of the Internet that we use today.

Larry Roberts – Roberts designed the ARPANET network using Kleinrock’s theory.

Leonard Kleinrock – in the early 1960s, Kleinrock developed the packet-switching theory, involving the transferring of data between two nodes on a given network.

Paul Mockapetris and John Postel – these two developed domain names so that we don’t have to remember the actual TC/IP address of the websites we visit.

Raymond Tomlinson – in 1971, Tomlinson was the first email via ARPANET. He then improved standards for emails, including organizing emails on a user’s computer and developing tools for writing and reading said emails.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee – in 1990, Berners-Lee developed the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) used in creating web pages. He then set the first-ever website the following year, giving birth to the World Wide Web (WWW).

The genius of these people opened the possibility for information sharing, transactions, and distant communication to be readily accessible in just a few taps and clicks. 

THE ADVANCEMENT CONTINUES

Vint Cerf

Cerf received several awards acknowledging his life works. In 2004, the internet pioneer received the Turing Award, also known as the ‘Nobel Prize for Computer Science,’ sharing the spotlight with his longtime collaborator, Bob Khan. The following year, they both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the state’s highest civilian honor for leading the digital revolution, which transformed global commerce, communication, and entertainment. Moreover, he earned the National Medal of Technology (1997), the Marconi Prize, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering. In May 2006, the duo made it into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

With the many unmentioned recognitions and honorary degrees from various universities, Cerf continues to inspire leadership in computer science. He established the Internet Society (ISOC) and served as its president from 1992-1995, and as Chairman of the Board in 1999. 

He also co-founded the People-Centered Internet (PCI), which aimed at improving people’s use of the Internet, such that it will help users find jobs and improve their economic status, health, and safety. In 2000 -2007, he was chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

THE ADVANCEMENT CONTINUES

Being the vice president and Chief Evangelist for Google, Cerf dedicates his life to spreading the Internet and identifying new technologies to back the development of advanced, Internet-based products and services. In addition, the internet pioneer focuses on how to establish internet infrastructures, especially in places where there is none. Thanks to his ideals, information has become more accessible to people as it is now available in many different languages.

Cerf’s most recent involvement was with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where his work explores the potential of Interplanetary Internet – a conceived network of computers in space capable of intercommunication. The idea is to bring the Internet into other parts of the universe and establish communication from planet to planet, using radio and laser technologies.