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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Connecting with an Internet Pioneer, 40 Years Later


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Forty years ago—on December 5, 1969—the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) connected four computer network nodes at the University of California, Los Angeles, (U.C.L.A.), the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., U.C. Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah for the first time. This doubled the size of the embryonic ARPANET, the network that would grow over the years into the global nexus of interconnected computers we know today as the Internet.

Vint Cerf has been there from the beginning, from with his work co-developing TCP/IP (the communications protocols that the Internet uses to route information across different networks and hubs) to his present position as Google's chief Internet evangelist.

We sat down with Cerf, who is often called "the father of the Internet," to talk about why the ARPANET was built and how it grew to become the Internet, not to mention the pros and cons of social networks.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

While we're honoring the 40th anniversary of the first time the four-node ARPANET was connected, what in your opinion was the single most important "event" in the development of the Internet?
Choosing a single most important development is incredibly hard to do because a lot of different things had to happen before the Internet could be deployed in the fashion it is today. ARPANET validated packet switching, which was important, because without that we wouldn't have gone down the path of toward the Internet. The idea was that you could grow a system like the Internet one network at a time and then interconnect them. In some sense the most important thing was the invention of the architecture protocols that enabled the Internet.

From Scientific American
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