Earlier this year, Internet Hall of Famer Dr. Doug Van Houweling explained in a video how, back in the 1980s, he created the network that ran the NSFNet – the foundation on which the Internet was built. He followed up recently in a question-and-answer session that focused on the future of the Internet, key moments in its development and his take on its current challenges. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. In your Internet Hall of Fame acceptance speech in Hong Kong, you spoke about how the Internet can free us to do “things that really matter.” What are some of those things?
A. There’s been a lot of conversation about how the Internet has negatively affected personal interactions -- how kids spend their time online instead of going outside to play with other kids. Well, any new technology affects the way you allocate your time, but I’m hoping that the Internet of Things will automate the more uninteresting parts of our lives so that, for example, your car will change so that you don’t have to hold the steering wheel. In other words, the Internet of Things can free us to do creative, enjoyable things instead of repetitive...
In commenting on the Queen’s first Tweet, sent on October 24, the ABC News show, "This Week with George Stephanopolus," asks if we know when she sent her first email. Hint: Internet Hall Pioneer Peter Kirstein, who took the picture featured in the piece, helped her do it after establishing the first European ARPAnet node to provide transatlantic connectivity.
Gear heads often turn their noses up at DSL. After all, DSL data speeds are often a fraction of those offered by cable broadband suppliers. Plus, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is delivered not over coax, but over old-fashioned copper phone lines. How quaint!
But a seemingly low-bandwidth DSL connection could actually deliver data faster than a higher-rated broadband cable connection, according to the father of DSL, Dr. John Cioffi.
"DSL brings its entire data load to a SINGLE home," Dr. Cioffi explains. "Cable systems share their Internet bandwidth – typically 50 Mbps to 300 Mbps – across 500 to 2000 homes. Thus, 50 Mbps divided by 2000 homes simultaneously is indeed a very low speed kbps. Each DSL user has a much higher dedicated bandwidth."
Advancing and proselytizing DSL has been a passion and a mission for Dr. Cioffi, but there was no early inkling of what would become his life's work.
The young Cioffi, a math whiz, got a taste of his future on a family trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964 when he watched a demonstration of AT&T's videophone. "They thought it was impossible to send video over phone lines," Dr. Cioffi recalls. "It planted a seed."
What turned Dr. Cioffi's career toward DSL was a physics course he took as a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign....
Here’s a clip from a TV news program in 1981, about the possibility that news might someday come to our homes via this new development called the Internet. In that year, of course, the anchorperson could have had no idea how profound the impact of the Internet would actually be, affecting her own profession almost as much as that of the newspaper seller seen in the final shot.
Send high-speed data, including video signals, over telephone wires? Impossible! That’s what everyone thought for decades, until Internet Hall of Famer Dr. John Cioffi actually did it, by designing the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) system. His big challenges were two-fold. The technological one was to come up with a design that could adapt to the more than one billion phone lines around the world; and the other, just as significant, was to come up with partners, including his students at Stanford who provided the workforce, and an early telecom that provided the project’s funding.
DSL, the No. 1 fixed-line technique for Internet communication, is used by more than half a billion people each day – and the number is growing. Here’s what Dr. Cioffi had to say about his achievement, after the Internet Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Hong Kong earlier this year.