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Vint Cerf Helped Create the Internet on the Back of an Envelope


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Cerf is also a past president of ACM.

Said Vint Cerf, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the ACM A.M. Turing Award, among many other honors, “I discovered early on that creating bugs is easy and finding them was hard.”

Credit: Stephen Voss?The Wall Street Journal

Much has changed in the world of cyberspace since Jan. 1, 1983, the date often called "the birthday of the internet." Yet the internet's fundamental architecture—the communications protocol that allows computer networks all over the world to talk to each other—remains essentially the same. This is largely thanks to a design that Vint Cerf sketched on the back of an envelope while holed up with fellow computer scientist Robert Kahn in a Palo Alto cabana nearly 50 years ago.

"Bob and I were like two hands on one pencil," Dr. Cerf, 79, says over video from his home in McLean, Va., dressed in his usual three-piece suit. "We had a Stanford secretary type it up, and what did we do with the handwritten original? We threw it away! Historians have never forgiven me," he adds with a laugh.

The invention has earned Dr. Cerf a mantel's worth of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received with Dr. Kahn in 2005 for creating software code that has "transformed global commerce, communication and entertainment." As vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, a position he's held since 2005, Dr. Cerf is still looking for ways to get more people online and to improve safety and security. "The internet can be abused," he allows, nodding to the way it helps spread misinformation and disinformation. To solve this "propagation problem," he says, companies like Google need to better "understand how these mechanisms influence the way people behave."\

From The Wall Street Journal
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