just one of many networks in an evolving “internetwork of networks” where
every network would have a network
number. The need for a more advanced
internetworking protocol became
clear and this was Cerf and Kahn’s
great achievement of TCP/IP for which
they justly were given the ACM A.M.
The rest of the story, the commissioning of the NSF backbone, the decision to transition to multiple commercial backbones who had to
cooperate, and so forth, are all well
known. We had no clear idea of how
the Internet would be used, but we
caught our first glimpse when Ray
Tomlinson introduced email in 1972
and it very quickly took over a major
portion of the traffic; that was when
it became clear that a major use
would be to support people-to-people
communication. Put another way, we
completely missed social networking
as a major use of the Internet. Indeed, it has been the case over and
over again that the Internet community has been surprised each time major new applications have exploded in
use (for example, the World Wide
Web, peer-to-peer file sharing, blogs,
user-generated content, search engines, shopping engines, social networks). What we are good at predicting is the underlying infrastructure of
the Internet (networking technology,
Io T, wireless access, mobility, and so
forth). One other aspect of today’s Internet we did not foresee was the
emergence of the dark side (in all its
manifestations) that plagues us today.
While the Internet was gaining steam,
you trained several generations of remarkable students whose Ph.D. theses and papers with you greatly influenced the Internet and analyses of
time-shared systems. Tell us more ...
There is so much to tell, so let me
provide a small sample only. My first
student was Ed Coffman, who worked
on some extensions to priority
queueing and time sharing. Most of
my students who followed concen-
trated on various performance anal-
yses of aspects of the Internet as it
emerged. For example, the early AR-
PANET did synchronous (periodic)
routing updates but Gary Fultz’s
thesis analyzed the benefits of
the country. Lincoln Labs was ex-
tremely gracious and even said that I
could come back if I did not like it at
UCLA—but it has been 56 years and I
am still here!
Fast-forward to the birth of the Internet in a UCLA office. On October 29,
1969, you and Charley Kline, one of the
Ph.D. students on your software team,
transmitted the first message between
computers hundreds of miles apart.
What was the backstory?
In my software team, besides Charley there was Steve Crocker who headed the software group, Vint Cerf, and
Jon Postel, all UCLA graduate students at that time and subsequently
Internet luminaries. The backstory
starts with Ivan Sutherland who became head of IPTO for ARPA in 1964.
Ivan visited UCLA in 1965 and suggested we network the three nearly
identical IBM 7090s on campus. But
the three administrators didn’t want
to share their computers, so that network was never implemented.
How did it finally happen?
Bob Taylor (who later led Xerox
PARC) took over IPTO after Ivan. Bob
was convinced that IPTO needed a
computer network to link the sites he
was supporting so that they could
share each other’s computers and
applications. Bob convinced Larry
Roberts to come to Washington in
1966 and head up this idea of deploying a computer network. While we
think of the Internet today to send
email and support social networks,
the motivation then was to share the
expensive computers that ARPA was
funding at sites like Utah (for graphics), Stanford Research Institute (
databases, Doug Engelbart was there).
Larry was familiar with my networking research and publicly credits my
thesis for giving him confidence to
spend millions of dollars of ARPA
money on this crazy idea. Larry was
also well aware of Baran’s work and
that of Davies (who had even built a
single-node packet switch) and incorporated their ideas in the ARPANET design.
How did Larry get everyone together to
create the ARPANET, the precursor to
In 1967, Larry brought a bunch of us
together to help him specify what this
network would look like and what performance characteristics it would have.
We specified the network and created
the spec and then Larry put it out for
bid. In December 1968, BBN was granted the contract.
In September 1969, BBN delivered the
first IMP to you at UCLA. Why UCLA
and not SRI or Utah?
My role in this ARPANET project
was performance evaluation, design,
experimentation, and measurement.
At UCLA we had specified the measurement software BBN later implemented in each switch. It was natural
that we would be the first node so that
we could begin to conduct experimentation and make measurements of
what was going on.
The first message on the Internet was
“Lo” which seems to have Biblical con-
notations that go along with the Cre-
ation Story. Was this deliberate?
Not at all. We were trying to send the
text “Login” to login to the SRI host but
there was a bug and the software
crashed after sending “Lo.” Of course,
the bug was in SRI’s software, not ours
nor in the network itself!
How did we get from the first ARPANET
to the Internet we know today?
The first host-to-host protocol was
called NCP but soon it became clear
that the ARPANET would shortly be
One other aspect
of today’s Internet
we did not foresee
was the emergence
of the dark side
(in all its
plagues us today.