In 1988, when Xing Li discovered that he could send text-based messages instantly from Philadelphia in the United States to his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was understandably excited.
A graduate student in electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University, Li was studying signal processing. “Electrical and computer engineering was not the first department connected to the Internet,” he says. “Rather, math and computer science was connected. I heard about email from some of those students and approached a professor to give me an account. I paid AT&T lots of money for phone calls until we started sending this new thing called email that was much better than telephone and letters. It was instant and free.”
That Li was interested in the ability to send information across the world was no surprise. As a quiet child growing up in Beijing, Li had built electronics with his hands, fabricating amateur radios and constructed other devices during his free time. His family and friends snapped up the converters he assembled to translate channel frequency from the color television band into black and white. Now they could watch both television channels available at the time.
To formally study electronic engineering was a dream for Li, but one that the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 70s almost quashed. “I was in middle school during that time. You did what the...
Frode Greisen’s understated manner belies the vast influence he has had on the expansion of the Internet in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Iran, especially in areas where at times cooperation was unlikely and unwelcome.
“I feel lucky to have met with people who had vision and who understood,” says the Denmark native who, in the 1980s and 1990s, led the European Research and Education Network (EARN) and the European Internet backbone, EBONE. The development and deployment of both of these systems were fundamental to the modern European Internet.
How did someone with such impact get his start? “I had an affection for logic and mathematics,” says Greisen of his early academic career. Those pursuits led him to study the movement of electrons in metal. But his hoped-for physics career didn’t take off: “I knew about electrons in metal but not much else.” So he launched into business, selling IBM computers to the Danish healthcare system. That experience gave him a view into how other countries, notably the United States, were innovating with computers. It also pointed out important differences: in the U.S., the healthcare system relied on computers primarily for financial transactions; in Denmark, computers within the healthcare system were poised to do more and held the potential to create vital communications networks.
Those networking possibilities...
It’s no mean feat to be considered the progenitor of anything, much less the person to bring revolutionary technology to an entire country. Jan Gruntorád, proud papa and grandfather, has also been called the “father of the Czech Internet.”
He takes as much pride in this moniker as he does his actual progeny. “In the past I was working so hard I did not have much time with them. We now have six grandchildren and I would like to spend time with them.”
The demanding work to which Gruntorád refers is the more than 30 years he has advocated for and promoted electronic connectivity in the scientific and education communities in what was once Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, and the former Iron Curtain countries of Eastern Europe. In 2021, he officially retired from his position as Managing Director of CESNET, the association of universities of the Czech Republic and the Czech Academy of Sciences that he helped found three decades earlier. CESNET developed and continues to operate the Czech national computer network, data storage and collaborative environment that comprises the country’s e-infrastructure for science, research and education.
If this one area of focus were not enough to bring national and international prestige, Gruntorád was also one of the founders of CEENET, the Central and Eastern European Networking Association in 1998....
Kenneth J. Klingenstein’s lengthy career and his influence on the development of the Internet have been marked by two characteristics: a desire to make the world a better place by expanding the Internet and a drive to protect the privacy and identity of its users.
“I wound up having two great rides,” Klingenstein says of his career. His initial work involved leading the growth of the Internet in the Western United States. As he undertook that work and evangelized its significance to others, the importance of Internet privacy and security became a compelling point that refocused the second half of his work’s trajectory. In both areas, Klingenstein concentrated on what he saw as the projects most likely to make a beneficial impact. “If you want to connect the dots,” he says, “the theme was making a difference.”
In the late 1970s, the young man who’d grown up in New Jersey from a background he declares unremarkable (“Jersey was a very uninspiring place at that time.”), completed his PhD in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1985, Klingenstein took an academic position at the University of Colorado. But his teaching career didn’t exactly blossom. “I didn’t do particularly well as a researcher or a faculty member,” he says. “I was treading water until I switched over to the management side.”
At first, Klingenstein managed the computer center at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. This was in the early days of TCP/IP, the...
By Dan Rosenheim
Ask Liane Tarouco what she likes to do besides work, and she doesn’t miss a beat.
“Work is what I like,” she says with a smile. “It is not really work for me. It is a pleasure to study, to discover new things.”
Studying, discovering and teaching new things are what Tarouco has consistently done during a long and distinguished career that has brought her admission to the Internet Hall of Fame.
From her initial book – the first text on computer networks to be published in her native Brazil and still regarded as a kind of Bible there – to her research, teaching and consulting throughout South and Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia, Tarouco has been among the very top contributors to Internet development.
“Since the beginning, when I started to see what could be done with networking, I dreamt of having a network that involves us all and could help us make better decisions in every aspect of our lives,” she said. “And that is becoming a reality more and more.”
While Tarouco’s stellar career has been international in scope, her origins are more provincial.
She spent her early childhood in the south Brazilian town of Cerro Largo, “a really, really small place at the time,” Tarouco said, and the family then...