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October 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Olympic divers get extra points for taking on a tougher degree of difficulty. If that standard were applied to computer networking, Dr. Kanchana Kanchanasut, the modest professor whose efforts in the mid-1980s led to the connection of Thailand to the Internet, would be a gold medalist.

Over the past 81 years, the Thais have seen some 40 prime ministers or acting prime ministers serving with 60 different cabinets under 17 different constitutions. This frequent upheaval unavoidably had a negative effect on technological progress, as engineers and computer scientists could only watch and hope that their efforts would be given high priority and funded at appropriate levels. Through it all, Kanchana has never given up, pushing steadily to create and expand connectivity in her nation.

In 1991, Kanchana’s leadership resulted in Thailand’s first leased line with TCP/IP connection to the global network. “Back then,” she said recently, “there was no Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.  There was a project under the Ministry of Science to connect six universities using X.25.”   That meant that Kanchana’s team had to divert money from the same pool of funds that aided all scientific endeavors in the country towards the Internet development.

In those days, X.25 was a family of protocols used to access library catalogues in the US.  When she sent her first...

October 17, 2013 | 0 comments

Dr. Hessa Sultan Al Jaber, a 2013-14 Internet Hall of Fame Advisory Board member, is Qatar’s first-ever minister of Information and Communication Technology, and the third Qatari woman to assume a ministerial position in the state.  Under her leadership, Qatar has become the most-networked Arab nation, putting it on par with the UK and South Korea.  In 2012, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering included Dr. Al Jaber as one of the most influential women in technology and in 2013 she was named one of the most powerful Arabs in the world. Learn more about Dr. Al Jaber and her role on the Advisory Board of the Internet Hall of Fame.

September 25, 2013 | 0 comments

In July 1983 in Oslo, a dozen computer scientists sat discussing how to interconnect the isolated academic and research networks then operating in the U.S. and Europe. Francois Flückiger was there representing CERN, the European Nuclear Research Agency. Larry Landweber of America’s CSNet (who had organized the meeting), Peter Kirstein of University College London, and representatives of the American university-centered BITNet and of several small European networks, were pondering a novel idea: Could there possibly be a way for all their networks to interconnect?

Flückiger, recalling that meeting at its scenic location, later wrote: “Talking and looking out from the idyllic Hotel Holmenkollen over the Fiord of Oslo, we carried on our discussions long into the evening, late, very late, in the Norwegian summer, waiting for a night that did not come.”

The reason those discussions went on so long was: Yes, the attendees were tremendously excited about the idea of creating a universal network, and they believed they could make it happen. But they also were deeply divided over the choice of technologies such a network would use. That divide, one of the thorniest issues the researchers...

September 25, 2013 | 0 comments

Humor can be a powerful force, sometimes capable even of swaying high-stakes debates. No one can provide better proof of that than Francois Flückiger.

Flückiger, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in August 2013 for his leadership in establishing the Internet in Europe, faced major opposition from government agencies, telecoms and other powerful European interests who wanted to maintain the profitable status quo of the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that involved continuing to use Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) protocols rather than TCP/IP for networking. Unlike the free and open TCP/IP model, the OSI protocols were complicated, inefficient and designed to perpetuate the telephone model of per-call charging.

Luckily, Flückiger had a secret weapon at his disposal: cartoons.

He had begun drawing cartoons as a teenager. Now, at gatherings of engineers and computer scientists throughout the continent and beyond, he put his talent to good use. His humorous drawings pointedly showed the errors -- and the ultimate futility -- of trying to hold back adoption of IP. The cartoons were eagerly collected by attendees, who passed them on to their peers and demanded more.

In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Here, then, are reproductions of five of Flückiger’s influential cartoons, with captions...

September 10, 2013 | 0 comments

2012 Internet Hall of Fame inductee Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, recently commissioned California sculptor Nuala Creed to create a terra cotta sculpture of Aaron Swartz, who was posthumously inducted into the 2013 Internet Hall of Fame in August.

Kahle had the sculpture created to honor Swartz, who helped Kahle establish the archive’s Open Library project, which digitizes books from all over the world and makes them available for free. Swartz, who shared Kahle’s passion for providing universal access to knowledge using the Internet, wrote the backbone of the Open Library and launched its first website.

The sculpture was installed in July among about 80 other “terra cotta archivists” at the archive’s headquarters inSan Francisco. Internet Archive employees of three years or more have their likeness sculpted in terra cotta and displayed there, as a permanent record of their devotion to the ideals of openness of information on the Internet. The mission of the Internet Archive is to digitize and offer universal access to all knowledge ever produced by human cultures. (As of October 2012, its digital collection topped 10 petabytes.)

The sculpture of Aaron has him holding an open...