Happy Birthday: TCP/IP pioneer Vint Cerf reflects on the modern Internet quietly turning 30

Happy Birthday: TCP/IP pioneer Vint Cerf reflects on the modern Internet quietly turning 30

Happy Birthday to The Interwebz. That’s right, January 1 (which was yesterday for those of us outside the US), marked the 30th birthday of the modern Internet.

Writing on the Google blogVint Cerf — the company’s VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, and a key figure who helped the Internet get off the ground — recalls the packet network-related work that he and Robert Kahn undertook to develop the initial TCP Internet standard that got things moving. That was then split into two parts, one of which was “Internet Protocol”, aka IP, and the other TCP.

From there, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — which had first tested ARPANET — took Cerf and Kahn’s work into the mainstream on January 1 1983, as he explains.

TCP/IP was tested across the three types of networks developed by DARPA and eventually was anointed as their new standard. In 1981, Jon Postel published a transition plan to migrate the 400 hosts of the ARPANET from the older NCP protocol to TCP/IP, including a deadline of January 1, 1983, after which point all hosts not switched would be cut off.

Cerf explains that there were “no grand celebrations”, and that mainly the switch over was met with relief among those that were working to get it done. He, nor any others, had any idea that what they were pioneering could become so influential in future times.

With hindsight, it’s obvious it was a momentous occasion. On that day, the operational Internet was born. TCP/IP went on to be embraced as an international standard, and now underpins the entire Internet.

It’s been almost 40 years since Bob and I wrote our paper, and I can assure you while we had high hopes, we did not dare to assume that the Internet would turn into the worldwide platform it’s become. I feel immensely privileged to have played a part and, like any proud parent, have delighted in watching it grow.

The only form of celebration from the programmers saw them sport pin badges. These days talk of pinning and badges plus ‘the Internet’ means very different things. Nonetheless, it’s amusing to think about the future pioneers of the Web wearing little badges like the one below, when their actions have shaped the world as we know it today.

Cerf recently took a stand against increasing government attempts to control the Internet when he pushed for a continued commitment to a “free and open” Internet. With continued censorship attempts in Pakistan, Iran and other countries — let alone the controversies of SOPA, PIPA and CIPA in the US — there’s no doubt that the issue of the free Web remains a topic worth fighting for.

Image via Fernando Sanchez Cortes / Shutterstock

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