From: email@example.com (George William Herbert)
Subject: Re: Poll: How Many Of You Would Vote For Browne (Lp) (OT)
Date: 8 Oct 2000 15:38:12 -0700
Bruce Sterling Woodcock <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>"Christopher M. Jones" <email@example.com> wrote:
>> "Henry Spencer" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> > [...]
>> > Sure, and Al Gore invented the Internet. (Similarity: they're both
>> > trying to take credit for something that had little or nothing to do
>> > with them.)
>> That's not really accurate, Al Gore never claimed he invented
>> the internet.
>> It just so happens that there's a recent Salon article about
>> just this topic
>What he said was "During my service in the United States Congress
>I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
>The Salon article attempts to defend this, saying how geeky Gore
>was in early days of the net and how he supported it when it was
>not widely known. That may be true, but that's *no* initiative and
>that is *no* creation... it was already created.
Salon is roughly following Vint Cerf's logic in how to interpret
Al's comment. I was tangentally involved in the internet backbone
engineering community in that timeperiod, (as was Bruce) and saw most
of the discussions related to it in that community (on the NANOG
mailing list, though not in person at the technical conferneces).
My impression was that Vint stood more or less alone in lending any
credence to Al's statement; everyone else thought that Al was way out
of line and Vint (who, at the time, had active pending legislative
action pending re: MCI, his employer, which he was working on
bending in a favorable manner with the Vice President's help)
was basically becoming a political animal and committing puffery.
It is true that Al Gore was among the if not the singular first
elected official at the federal level to understand the benefits
of the Internet and was a major driving force at the policy and
funding level throughout its later development. But there have
been three major steps in the evolution of the Internet; the first
was its initial creation, which dates back to the late 1960s
and early 1970s in its initial research forms. The second was
its commercialization, which is more or less singularly the
result of Rick Adams stubbornness (the local regional backbones
such as CERFNet and BARRNet and the like were pseudocommercial,
but Rick led the charge with UUNet in creating the alternate
commercial backbone Alternet, almost immediately copied by
PSINet and then followed by several other major telecom players).
The third was the development of the World Wide Web, which was
a CERN research project built to improve on earlier hyperlink
info services such as Archie and Gopher; the earlier two were
not as far as I remember at all government funded, and the
development of WWW by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN was funded by
CERN as an incidental project (they had no idea or intention
that it become so popular, though you won't hear anybody
complaining about it).
Of those three steps, the first one happened while Al was in
Vietnam and Law School, the second happened while Al was in
congress and boosting the government NSFNet but was really
an attempt to break away from the government control rather
than something done with government assistance at either the
technical or policy levels, and the last was completely
orthogonal to government activity. Al's help and patronage
was sincere and much to his credit, but his actual words
that time were not accurate. To his credit, other than
that one occation, Gore has not tried to claim an unreasonable
level of credit for what he did, but to his discredit has never
simply stated that he misspoke that one time and formally
retracted the claim.
-george william herbert