When Florencio Utreras set about trying to connect his native Chile – and ultimately the rest of Latin America – to the Internet in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had a lot more than the usual political, policy and funding problems. He also had some major geographical issues to overcome.
There are challenges that continue to dog him in retirement. But the man known as Chile’s “father of the Internet” credits his relentless determination for achieving as much as he has.
“This is what happens when you start bugging people about doing things,” he said. “They say, ‘just do it.’”
His introduction to the Internet began in what he refers to as his previous life, when he was a visiting math professor at Texas A&M University in College Station in the early ‘80s and he got a letter from a colleague and statistician in Wisconsin who told him that her university was deploying this thing called email.
“This was the first time I saw this email address with @ in it. So I went to the computing service in the math department, and they said, ‘we don’t have that, maybe you should go to data processing center,’” he said.
They set him up with an email address, but he had to take his bike across campus in the Texas heat just to get his email. So he finally convinced the University of Wisconsin to let him connect to their system with his own modem.
A year later, he says, he was back in Santiago, where he says he once again resumed bugging people about...
An Antarctic selfie is giving NASA hope for establishing a reliable interplanetary Internet connection in the near future.
On Nov. 27, NASA officials announced that a group of engineers took and successfully sent a selfie from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to the International Space Station via the Tracking and Data Relay System.
Unlike familiar computer-to-computer IP connections, disruption-tolerant networking accommodates temporary disruptions as well as long delays, thus making it an ideal candidate for interstellar messages.
"The Antarctic is an excellent analog for space operations," Patrick Smith, technology-development manager with the U.S. Antarctic Program, said in a statement to Space.com. "Researchers are conducting important scientific investigations, operating in extreme conditions, with minimal infrastructure, so it's not surprising that we are using NASA space technology to advance science in the Antarctic."
Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s optimism about the future of the web is fading.
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee has said that he views the Internet as an open platform of ideas that reflects society as a whole – the good, the bad and the ugly.
However, between his creation being used more frequently to spread misinformation and the recent efforts by the United States’ Federal Communications Commission to rollback net neutrality, Berners-Lee recently told The Guardian that his hopes for the Internet to be used as a force for good have taken a hit lately.
"I’m still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence," said the British computer scientist.
"We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things."
Earlier this year, Berners-Lee wrote a column in the same publication, lamenting the web’s widespread collection of personal data, the ease with which incorrect information is rapidly disseminated and the lack of transparency and oversight when it comes to political ads.
Radia Perlman is one the few female Internet pioneers in a field still largely dominated by men.
But, whatever you do, do not call her the ‘mother of the Internet.’ And she wants to make it perfectly clear that she is not a token woman in her field.
“People are very fascinated with this topic,” she says, sounding somewhat perplexed, when asked what it was like to be a woman in technology in the 70s, an era when many women still couldn’t even get credit cards without a husband’s signature.
The daughter of two engineers, “I was always sort of at the top of my school in the science and math thing,” she said. “I always sort of fantasized that some boy would do better than me, and my plan was to fall in love with him.”
When a boy finally did do better than her, she said, she was too shy to even talk to him. But her long list of successes and important contributions make it clear that shy or not, she held her own against boys and men from a very young age.
And, she says, she was not alone.
“When I was in graduate school the second time, my daughter, who was seven, was really proud of me,” Perlman said. “We were at the playground in Cambridge, Massachusetts – the only place this could have happened – and she said to the girl she was playing with, ‘My mommy is going to get a PhD from MIT.’ The other little girl said, ‘My mommy already has one.’
She had a PhD in chemistry and we got to be friends.”
Radia Perlman doesn’t like computers. But she’s always been a problem-solver. And computers and software proved to have plenty of problems to hold her interest.
It was only through a series of unexpected and unsolicited opportunities, however, that she even got into the field of computer programming, where she went on to earn renown for solving some of the most vexing problems of early networking and develop a groundbreaking thesis that is still the staple of college curriculum today.
Perlman’s initial aversion to computer programming came in high school, when a teacher signed a few students up for a class at Stevens Institute of Technology.
“After having never had any problem with any class in school (with the possible exception of phys ed), I walked into that class and people were talking about how they built ham radios when they were seven,” she said. “I had no idea what a ham radio was. I certainly couldn’t build one.”
“Then, when they asked questions, they were using fancy words like ‘input.’ I had no idea what that was. I just decided I was so far behind, I would never catch up. And I got nothing out of that class.”
So, Perlman said, she decided to stick with studies involving books, papers and pencils. That is, until she was an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when a teaching assistant in her physics class asked her to be his programmer.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how to program,’” Perlman recalled. “He...