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January 7, 2013 | 0 comments

The Internet was built on TCP/IP, networking protocols originally created by American computer scientists Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. But Cerf and Kahn were building on the work of Louis Pouzin.

In the early 1970s, working as a researcher for the French government, Pouzin created a computer network known as CYCLADES, and Vint Cerf himself has cited Pouzin’s design as one of the key influences behind the development of TCP/IP.

It isn’t hard to see why. With CYCLADES, Pouzin built a network where the delivery of information between machines was overseen by the machines themselves — not by some piece of central network hardware. In other words, he realized one the fundamental ideas that makes the Internet the Internet.

“We designed CYCLADES to be connected to other networks — in the future,” Pouzin remembers.

This past April, in recognition of his role in the creation of TCP/IP and his contribution to various other networking standards, Pouzin was inducted into the Internet Society’s (ISOC) Internet Hall of Fame. Part of the Hall’s inaugural class, he was enshrined alongside such as names as Sir Tim Berners-Lee,...

January 3, 2013 | 0 comments

The global ubiquity of cell phones has given us the false sense that information technology is universally accessible, but Internet Hall of Fame inductee Nancy Hafkin and research partner Sophia Huyer have found that nothing could be further from the truth. In the first of a three-part blog series, guest contributor Hafkin explores a growing gender knowledge divide.


by Guest Contributor Nancy Hafkin

When the term digital divide first appeared in the mid nineties, it was used to describe divides in access to information technology on ethnic, racial, and geographic lines in the U.S.[1]  From the US the concept of the digital divide spread to the divide between developed and developing countries.

The awareness of a global digital gender divide didn’t come until several years after the concept first emerged. Even after it was raised as an area of concern, it was very hard to find any reliable evidence of its existence, outside of the national statistics offices of highly developed countries.  The United Nations International Telecommunication Union, the global go-to source for information technology and telecommunications statistics, didn’t publish any sex-disaggregated statistics...

December 31, 2012 | 0 comments

Peter Kirstein is the man who put the Queen of England on the Internet in 1976.

That’s Her Majesty in the photo, and if the year isn’t immediately obvious from the computer terminal she’s typing on — or from her attire — you can find it on the wall, just to her left, printed on one of the signs trumpeting the arrival of the ARPAnet.

The date was March 26, 1976, and the ARPAnet — the computer network that eventually morphed into the internet — had just come to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, a telecommunications research center in Malvern, England. The Queen was on hand to christen the connection, and in the process, she became one of the first heads of state to send an e-mail.

It was Peter Kirstein who set up her mail account, choosing the username “HME2.” That’s Her Majesty, Elizabeth II. “All she had to do was press a couple of buttons,” he...

December 17, 2012 | 0 comments

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Phil Zimmermann was a Colorado peacenik with a half-written program that he swore would one day let people exchange messages without Big Brother peering inside. The problem was, with a freelance job and two kids, Zimmermann could never quite find the time to finish the damn code — until Joe Biden came along.

Then-Senator Biden inserted a few words into an anti-terrorism bill that might make it easier for Big Brother — or, at least, Uncle Sam — to do exactly the kind of snooping Zimmermann wanted to stop. Zimmermann had a reason to finish the program. He worked day and night for months on the thing. All his half-formed plans to build a business around the software, he put aside. “When the Biden bill hit,” Zimmermann recalls, “we knew we had to change the facts on the ground.” He felt he had to get people communicating secretly, before Congress did something to make secret communications exceedingly difficult.

Finally, in June of the 1991, Zimmermann introduced a program called Pretty Good Privacy, which really did allow ordinary folks to make their e-mail all-but-unreadable to outsiders. Zimmermann made PGP available for free, and it spread like a bad weed, eventually enabling millions to communicate in private.

 For bringing cryptology to the masses, Zimmermann was inducted earlier this year into the Internet Society’s Internet Hall...

December 4, 2012 | 0 comments

The internet wasn’t built by money-hungry American corporations and Silicon Valley startups. It was built by a worldwide community of government researchers and academics who were primarily interested in spreading the benefits of computer networking to as many people as possible. It was built by men and women like Tan Tin Wee.

Tan Tin Wee is a molecular biologist in the medical school at the National University of Singapore, and that’s been the case for more than 20 years. But when he first arrived at the University in the early ’90s, he tapped the internet as a way of facilitating his biochemistry research, and he quickly developed a shadow career working to bring the net to the rest of Singapore — and so many other parts of Asia.

He had studied in the West, and he hoped to raise Asian computing technology to the levels he had witnessed aboard. “Coming back to Singapore, it was a computational wilderness. If the place where you worked didn’t have the infrastructure you needed, you had no choice but to roll up your sleeves and really get down to building that infrastructure yourself,” he says. “So I made a little excursion into the internet community — and the rest is history.”

Over the next 20 years, even as he was building an academic career in biochemistry, Tan oversaw Singapore’s first internet service provider. He helped launch the first...