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A Year Ago: Net emerging from its Stone Age

First published: Fri, 03 Sep 1999 09:04:14 GMT
Written by Lisa M. Bowman, Contributor

'Fathers' of the Net foresee a coming era of ubiquitous wireless access and bumper bandwidth.

The founding fathers of the Internet gazed into their crystal balls on what is arguably the 30th anniversary of the first Internet connected computer. And they said we have only just begun. "We're just emerging from the Stone Age of the Internet," Leonard Kleinrock, a University of California at Los Angeles computer scientist, told the packed room of more than 300 people in Los Angeles Thursday.

The crowd had gathered to hear Kleinrock and the other "fathers" of the Internet -- Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn and Lawrence Roberts -- recall the events of September 2, 1969; the day at UCLA that Kleinrock oversaw the first node connected to ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. "It was the year of a raging war in Vietnam, Woodstock ... we put a man on the moon, and the Internet was born," Kleinrock said.

But at the time it was kind of like having the first telephone -- there was no one to talk to. Some historians contend the actual birth of the Internet should be celebrated on Oct. 2, when the UCLA computer sent a message to a computer at Stanford University.

The UCLA group lamented that no one had a camera to record the historic event on Sept. 2, 1969, but, as compensation, they did bring one of the Internet's original computers, which stood in the hall, big enough for a grown man to climb inside. During a panel discussion Kleinrock and his fellow Internet pioneers mapped out their predictions for the future of computing.

They predicted a coming era of ubiquitous wireless access, bumper bandwidth and Net access as prevalent as electrical outlets. "Virtually everything that's connected to the Net is going to be connected in an untethered fashion," Kahn said.

Kleinrock said to look for smart spaces -- places that react to a user when he or she comes into a room. "The walls will be alive with technology," he said. "We will be able to move into an environment and the environment will know we have just arrived." They all predicted that the pipes would be able to meet demand in the future, even if it includes high-end graphics and video.

Roberts lamented that human-computer interaction hasn't evolved in the past 15 years. "I am sure that can be improved dramatically," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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