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The Internet Celebrates its 35th Birthday

The Internet just had its 35th birthday party Oct. 29, 2004, at UCLA, where it all started. On Sept. 2, 1969, Leonard Kleinrock led a team of engineers to establish the first network connection between two computers, ushering in a new method of global communications. A month later, the second node was added at Stanford, and, on October 29, the first host-to-host Internet-type message was sent from UCLA. The message was LO, which sounds prophetic until Kleinrock explains it. We wanted to send the message LOG IN, he says, but the computer crashed after the first two letters.

Three other fathers of the Internet joined Kleinrock at the all-day bash: Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, who co-invented TCP/IP, the basic communications protocol (still in use), and Lawrence Roberts, who was the driving (and funding) force at ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency the Internet was first called the ARPANET. Kleinrock showed how packet switching could work to chop data up into a common language between computers.

The world did not share the vision of these four pioneers right away. I urged organizations to join the network, says Roberts, but several of them refused until I told them a would not fund them a new computer otherwise. And so, with vision, perseverance, brilliant hard work and a little bit of blackmail the Internet was born and grew.

There are no Nobel prizes for engineering or computer science, and that is a great pity. These four unassuming men have changed all of the sciences fundamentally, not just IT. From those of us who can remember a time before the Internet was publicly available, a profound thanks! to these four and their fellow pioneers.