What was the true origin of the Internet? What was the purpose of its creation? Was the invention responding to the possibility of a nuclear attack? Is it true that the invention was “purely” American? Is the Internet the “child” of ARPAnet? Was it created, as is widely believed, by a small group of people in a government agency? Was it a public or private initiative? What role did Cyclades and CATEnet play? Who invented the first router? Who invented the Ethernet? We can send e-mails thanks to the creator of DNS. Who was it? What do we owe to Jon Postel? What about to Norm Abramson? When was the first server created? We use the Internet daily in our personal and professional lives and yet we know very little about it and its true history.
A book has recently been published which is the result of twenty years of research on the origins of the Internet: Cómo creamos Internet (‘How We Create the Internet’). The author, Andreu Veà, wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject with a prologue by Vint Cerf, considered to be one of the fathers of the web. It was Cerf who later encouraged Veà to move to Stanford, California, where he began a series of interviews with all the engineers and scientists who made what we today call the Internet possible. The paternity of the web is shared. But, who is Andreu Veà?
Andreu Veà giving a conference on the origins of the Internet and its creators.
Andreu Veà, Internet Biographer
Andreu Veà is a doctor of Telecommunications Engineering (specialising in the Internet), senior engineer in Electronics, he has a post-doctorate in History of Science and Technology from Stanford University and a master’s in Information Technologies Management. He is also cofounder and president of the Internet Society (ISOC-ES) and has been selected as the only European member in the Internet Hall of Fame (advisory board).
The author has spent two decades interviewing the creators of the Internet (with over 300 interviews). He has travelled from his place of residence to talk with them in depth about their respective jobs and he has had access to previously unpublished material, such as the archives found in the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
The result is a work which clears up misconceptions, dispels myths and gives evidence that the origins of the Internet reside in the work by several specialists. “When seeking the origins of the web, the majority of books focus on the developments of ARPAnet, but none of them are complete, nor do they provide a clear and definitive theory. There are different versions and visions depending on whom we talk to. Some will say that the packet switching represents the birth of the Internet, others that it is the TCP protocol. Some place an emphasis on the telecommunications operators and the private sector, while others argue that it was only the public sector. In contrast, this book centres on the stories of the pioneers of the Internet. In first person, they explain how they created the Internet, the web we know and use habitually today,” states Andreu Veà.
A Paper Book Which Allows You to Listen to the Interviews by Mobile Phone
The methodology used by Veà to create this monumental and rigorous work corresponds to his training as a scientist. As he explains in his book presentations, he invested between one and six days’ work in each interview. This included managing the contacts, preparing the interviews, conducting them, editing the hours of material and then comparing the information given by each interviewee with the opinion of other colleagues to confirm the veracity of the data and the statements. This scientific rigour, which he has employed in all other issues related to the book’s contents, does not affect the intelligibility of the work. It is entertaining and fun, and our curiosity is piqued and increases as we progress through the book.
Peter Kirstein, one of the key people in the creation of the Internet, talking about his contribution and Veà’s book.
One of the first questions to arise having read the book is why it has been published in paper format in the digital age. The author’s response is clear: it is improbable, for example, that we will continue to use pdf archives in the future. However, we will still be reading books. So, how have you engineered the book so that we can listen to the interviews of the Internet’s pioneers? Veà has used a system of QR codes printed on the pages so that the reader can listen to them on their mobile phone. Ingenious.
Cómo creamos Internet has only been published in Spanish so far. However, the interviews included are recorded in English and the book will soon be available in the same language.
Other Essential Names
Among the wealth of information it contains, Cómo creamos Internet includes the testimonies of the four main fathers of the Internet: Vinton Cerf, Robert Kahn, Larry Roberts and Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It also has interviews with other essential names such as Larry Page, cofounder of Google; John Ciofi, creator of ADSL; Bob Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet; Doug Engelbart, inventor of the mouse; and Ray Tomlinson, inventor of e-mail. Veà convinced Tomlinson to do the interview by sending him a message containing a single word: zucchini. This was the password Tomlinson used on the ARPAnet; one which hardly anybody knows and which Andreu Veà managed to unearth in order to demonstrate his genuine interest in interviewing him.
Our Scientists Who Have Changed the World section includes a profile of the four great fathers of the Internet. The information, anecdotes and knowledge brought by Andreu Veà are obviously much richer, but we wanted to pay our small homage. Thanks to them and the other pioneers of the web, here at Inmesol not only can we communicate with our clients around the world by e-mail and by Skype, have a corporate website and publish this blog, but we can also implement technology in the generator sets we manufacture which allow client companies to use remote controls over the Internet.