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Al Gore and the Internet

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Randy on July 19, 2005:

Well, at least Dubya had no intentions of running Social Security like it was some sort of federal program!

David Katelansky on July 25, 2005:

Shortly after the smear campaign against Al Gore for taking credit for his contributions to the Intenet, an actual lie started surfacing about Tim Berners-Lee being the inventor of the Internet. The first book I ever read on tcp/ip programming was by Chris Jamsa, and this book didn't have a single mention in it about Tim Berners-Lee. In fact none of the books back then on network and Internet programming mentioned Tim Berners-Lee except for one thing; he submitted an RFC suggesting that an easier protocol be developed for the Internet (his colleagues at the CERN laboratory were having problems using ftp). If you visit the World Wide Web consortium you can find his 1991 RFC for the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee specifies that he wants an interface for the Internet that uses hypertext in a way like the Next computer. In 1993 the NCSA released Mosaic, a browser that fit the specs of the 1991 RFC. At that point, Tim Berners-Lee setup the first node of the World Wide Web in the CERN lab. I'm glad that this Green Room article points out that the lab that created the Mosaic browser, existed because of the legislative efforts of Al Gore. It also points out that the Internet existed before the World Wide Web and I'm pointng out that Tim Berners-Lee didn't even "invent" that. I've even read that Tim Berners-Lee invented hypertext! Hypertext was first used in 1968 in the oN Line System, by Frank Engelbart. Even though Frank Engelbert was the first person to write a program that used hypertext, the term had already been coined by Ted Nolan in 1965. Both Ted Nolan and Frank Engelbart had read Vannaver Bush's 1945 paper, "As We May Think". Bush had developed (conceptually and architechturally) a hypertext system he called Memex. So what's with all the lies about Tim Berners-Lee? Not to belittle him, but he's not responsible for all the things he's being given credit for. Why are the lies about Tim Berners-Lee being pushed by the media when the same media tried to hush all the accomplishments of Al Gore? In fact, why does the media seem to downplay the accomplishments of many Americans and try to give credit to non-Americans? More to the point, why does the media (the US media) put down Americans and praise non-Americans?

Jan Wolter on October 17, 2005:

I think this is understandable. I was using the Internet for many years before I ever set eyes on a web browser, but many people today think of the Internet and the World Wide Web as being the same thing. I think Tim Berners-Lee is as good a candidate as any for "father of the World Wide Web".

That doesn't mean that I think that if nobody else had helped there would still be a world wide web. Probably there would. The Internet existed and the idea of hypertext was in the air, and I'm sure they would have come together in some form with our without Mr. Berner-Lee. But if you follow the thread backward, the point where the idea of hypertext crystalized into the idea of the world wide web is in the work of Tim Berner-Lee. If he hadn't done what he did, maybe someone else would have, but he was the one who actually did it.

Incidentally, the NeXT computer does not particularly use hypertext. I know this because I was an avid NeXT user back in those days. I still have a NeXT in my office, though these days I only use it as a print server. Anyway, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a hypertext editor for the NeXT called "WorlDwidEweb" and this program, not any part of the NeXT OS itself, was the starting point of the world wide web.

But there is a reason why "http://www.whitehouse.gov" ends in ".gov" and not ".gov.us" like "http://www.number-10.gov.uk". Nations all over the world invested substantially in building national computer networks, but it was the US government that went by far the furthest both in the money invested and in opening it up and releasing direct control of it, allowing it to be commercialized and internationalized. If the US hadn't done this, it's not clear that any other nation or organization could have. They'd either lack the resources to invest enough to bring it up to critical mass, or they'd be unwilling to set it free once it got there. We'd still have had networks, but it would have taken much longer to get an Internet.

I think Gore played an important part in politically putting the US government on that path. What he was invisioning wasn't what we got, but you can say the same for every single one of the pioneers of the Internet. I'm personally impressed by any politician whose vision extends beyond their next campaign fund-raising dinner. Gore's early support of the Internet is something he, and all of America, can be proud of.


David Katelansky on May 28, 2007:

Haven't checked on this site for a while, but it was on my laptop after my wife had searched for something I had done. The reason I said Next computer was because that's what Tim Berners-Lee was using at CERN, and that's the machine where he first came up with the idea of putting hypertext links on GUI pages for ftping files. As far as as hypertext goes, the first VAX I worked with (1981; they'd already been around for over 3 years) used hypertext for it's help pages (of course that was on VMS); pre-www and pre-Internet. DEC systems were commonly networked and clustered back then (OK, clustering wasn't until 1984 - still before the Internet) so you had networked computers using GUI (text gui on an ascii terminal) interfaces with hyperext. Who came up with this idea? I never heard of Gordon Bell claiming to be the father of the WWW, just the VAX series of computers.

Jan Wolter on June 11, 2007:

Hypertext is much older than VAXen. Hypertext is generally understood to have been invented by Ted Nelson and Douglas Engelbart in the mid 1960's. By the time I heard Engelbart give talks on the subject around 1980 he had been working on it for decades. You can trace the roots of hypertext back to the 1940's, but hypertext is only one of the threads that led to the world-wide-web. If you go back to the point where all the key ideas that became the world-wide-web first came together, then that's the work of Tim Berners-Lee. He put a simplified hypertext system together with an internet protocol and devised a simple user interface (a browser) for viewing it. You might say that those ideas were on a collision course, and were bound go get put together by someone, but Tim Berners-Lee was the one who did it. It may seem obvious in retrospect, but most good ideas do.

The whole idea of picking some one person to be the "father of X" is generally pretty silly, since it is almost always the collaboration of thousands, but if you are going to play that game at all, then I don't see any sense in arguing that Tim Berners-Lee isn't the "father of the World Wide Web."


David Katelansky on December 16, 2007:

I'm back. Jan Wolter, what's with you? Didn't you see that I gave
Engelbart and Nelson their credit for hypertext? In fact, I also gave
Vannaver Bush his credit too. If you re-read my posting, I said, "As far
as as hypertext goes, the first VAX I worked with (1981; they'd already
been around for over 3 years) used hypertext for it's help pages..."; I
never claimed it was the first computer to use hypertext. You are
reminding me of the media types I alluded to in my 2005 posting, who put
down Americans and give credit to undeserving non-Americans. Your
statement, "He put a simplified hypertext system together with an
internet protocol and devised a simple user interface (a browser) for
viewing it." is misleading. Tim Berners-Lee didn't create anything like
the www. The www requires two parts, an http server and a browser. What
Tim Berners-Lee did was create gui pages that had hypertext links on
them. The hypertext on those pages were links to commands for ftping
files across the Internet (from CERN to US universities). Some people
have written that Tim Berners-Lee invented hypertext (like I said, a VAX
I worked on in 1981 had that)! Kudos to Tim Berners-Lee for realizing he
had a great idea, and recommending it in an RFC as a way transfer data
over the Internet. The NSC took his idea and expounded on it with a
server and browser combo that could support such a setup; that's the
"invention" of the www. (BTW, if you want to say somebody invented the
Internet, it should be Vinton Cerf - the guy who wrote the paper that Al
Gore Read).

There were people who had ideas for automobiles during the 1700s (Cugnot
built one, but the world back then was too rural for it to become a
popular item), but nobody gives them credit for inventing the car. On
the other hand, a lot of people still give Henry Ford credit for
inventing the car. The car had already been around for a few decades
when Henry Ford had an idea to use mass production techniques in car
manufacturing. On the other hand, who remembers the De-Dion Bouton?
De-Dion Bouton started producing cars in 1883 (3 years before Gottlieb
Daimler attached an internal combustion engine to a dog cart - Gottlieb
Daimler went on to produce Mercedes cars)! Today, people "in the know"
about car history give Mercedes Benz credit for inventing the car.
Oldsmobile had already been producing cars for 13 years (I just read a
claim that it was only 4 years) when the first Benz went into production
(Karl Benz put together a motorcycle in 1885 as a garage project, but
that's still 3 years after De Dion Bouton went into production - not
just a garage project)! Just another example of lies being spread about
a technology. 

Jan Wolter on September 22, 2008:

I just did a google search on "Gore Internet" and found that things have changed a lot since I researched this article four years ago. In those days, I had to dig hard to find anything except people joking about poor dishonest Al. Now you find nothing but defenses of Al Gore's role in the creation of the Internet, very much along the lines of my own essay. Very cool. Though I'm sure there are still far more people who believe the lie than the actual story, at least the truth is now readily available for anyone who cares to look for it.

Tobias Meier on unknown date:

Your article has still been a valuable resource for my research. I truly believe, that ultimately Al Gore deserves much credit for the invention of the internet. Which has had, an absolutely vast influence in the human kind.

Sincere thanks,
And greetings from Berlin,
Tobias Meier

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