The genesis and explosion of the Net

Alec Scott has written a great expose of Vint Cerf – the father of the Internet – in the recent ROB magazine. Here are some facts that you should know about the man and about the modern phenomenon known as the Internet.

What is most striking about reading this magazine piece is the realization that the genesis of the Net is but 40 years old – and the rise of this technology began only 30 years ago. (So, that means anyone under the age of 30 has no idea how man existed without the Internet!)

 

  • In 1975 Vint Cerf led a working group at Stanford University that developed a language to enable inter-network communication – the birth of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP/IP).
  • Earliest development of the TCP/IP language occurred with primitive wired network developed by scientists with U.S. military funds. Cerf once said of TCP/IP’s early success, “To borrow a phrase, now the Internet could go where no network had gone before.”
  • Not until ten years after the fact did a Boston tech company become the first to register a domain name on this new network of networks. Only five other organizations sought a home there in 1985. In other words, in 1985, there were a total of 6 domain names in the world.
  • Here are the numbers of domain names worldwide over the course of the last 30 years: 1985 there were 6; 1990 there were 1,402; 2000 there were 21 million; 2005 there were 46 million; 2010 there were 91 million and in 2012 there were 106 million domain names.
  • Cerf’s wonderment in the Internet persists: “Imagine, the phone can take an image of a menu written in another language and translate it into yours”—he also grasps common worries. “I’m interested in the Internet of Things, and we have lots of smart-home technology—a Nest Thermostat, a sensor that gathers information about heating, humidity and lighting in each room of our house. That said, the data collected about who’s at home, where they are…could be abused by bad guys.”
  • Cerf comments on current think about artificial intelligence: “Some fairly notable people have worried that artificial intelligence is becoming a hazard to humanity. But most AI is being used as a co-operative measure, not a coercive one. Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics haven’t been codified, it is true, but they are generally being observed.”
  • One example of human-machine co-operation Cerf cites is the Google Glass: “The Glass brings computers into ordinary human discourse, with machines hearing and seeing what you are hearing and seeing, and becoming more of a party…participating in the conversation.”
  • Alec Scott asked Cerf “Did he ever think it would go this big, this quickly—this, well, boldly?” He replied: “No. So much about it has been surprising. The explosive adoption of the World Wide Web protocols. The growth of hacking, phishing and other hazards. The hypergolic confluence of the smartphone and the Internet. Some of it, we imagined, yes, but much of it—no.”
  • Cerf is now 71 years old and is Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist as well as consulting with politicians and policymakers around the world on laws affecting the Net.

 

Alec Scott’s full ROB article can be read here:
“Internet pioneer Vint Cerf on the future of technology”

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