Al Gore Really Did Invent The Internet
I lived in Washington near Capital Hill for about a decade. That is no big deal to many, but to a Mississippi farm boy it was the “Big Time”. I worked in media and covered Congress, The White House, and many other types of chaos. I will share a little secret I learned about politics while I was there. It is really not all that glamorous at all (like you didn't know that). In fact, they really are “public servants” and we are the boss. But I digress. Often they don't know that...
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I lived in Washington near Capital Hill for about a decade. That is no big deal to many, but to a Mississippi farm boy it was the “Big Time”. I worked in media and covered Congress, The White House, and many other types of chaos. I will share a little secret I learned about politics while I was there. It is really not all that glamorous at all (like you didn't know that). In fact, they really are “public servants” and we are the boss. But I digress. Often they don't know that.
In fact about 100% of the time they don't know (or seem to care). If I had to write a “job description” for, let's say, The President, (and I am not kidding here), it would be “For hire, the most glamorous policy wonk within the beltway. Highly looked up to for signing a lot of papers that you don't even have to read because they've all been read for you.” Sad but true. But this story is about Al Gore and the Internet. A lot of mystery still revolves around the creation of the Super Highway. You can believe my story or not. But I can assure you it is the real thing and I got it straight from the horse's mouth. And the horse was not Al Gore.
In 1969, a group of computer students at Stanford were working on a communications project. Though it is vague as to which of them invented which piece of hardware, a young student named Vinton Cerf, was credited for inventing TCP/IP, the engine that runs what is now known as The Internet. Vinton, now Dr. Vinton Cerf, is known as The Father Of The Internet.” It did not take Vint long before he also realized he had developed some sort of business that might make it big one day. He took the system to the government who immediately bought it and used it as a communication device between the Pentagon and (I think) the White House, but I can't remember exactly what Vinton told me. Yes, he told me. And he told me the Al Gore connection and yes, there is one. Sorry Republicans who used it as a joke for years. It really is true.
The government decided to call the device Arapnet and it was used for many years for intra-government communications. I think they eventually added some universities to their menu too. Five years went by and Vinton approached a young unknown congressman from Tennessee named Al Gore. Gore was not yet even a senator. He explained his invention and that he felt it could be beneficial if it was to be available to the entire marketplace, not just for government private conversations. A lot of fighting and stonewalling went on. “Too much information for the public,” seemed to be the common argument. But Gore formed a committee and coined the term “Information Superhighway” and pushed the bill through. Suddenly, the public had what was now known as The Internet and even domain parking.
Gore's exact words, by the way, in his speech on the Internet were, “I created the incentive to invent the Internet.” In political terms that means, “I pushed a bill through that changed things dramatically.” And Al Gore did exactly what he said he did according to Dr. Cerf. Ironically, I did not meet Dr. Cerf while living in Washington, but after I had gone back home to Mississippi to take care of an ailing parent. I met him over the net through his fondness of my cartoon website, Londons Times Cartoons, and he eventually asked my cartoon team to create a custom-cartoon featuring him (he was humble and very nice), and we did so. We keep a copy of it on our website as well. Vinton has it framed in his home.
The Internet was still limited for another ten years until an MIT professor named Tim Berners-Lee invented a software called The World Wide Web. That is when it became very accessible to all. My point, though, is, without Al Gore's persistence, and ability to explain how important such a communications device was and is to the public, Dr. Cerf felt like it would have remained The Arapnet and only glamorous policy wonks and Pentagon workers would be using it to communicate. I sort of doubt they would even form a “White House blog”.
So, next time you hear someone joke “Yeah, and Al Gore invented the Internet,” you can answer, “Yes, I know.”