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White House Honors Internet Pioneers

Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn are among the latest Presidential Medal of Freedom winners. President Bush presented the medals, the nation's highest civilian honors, Wednesday afternoon at a White House ceremony.

Cerf and Kahn concentrated on developing the architecture and protocols for interconnecting different kinds of nets and the computers on them.

"Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn are brilliant men who found great success in their chosen field and have played an extraordinary role in the story of our time," Bush said. "By developing a common digital language for computers across networks, these two men prepared the way for a technological revolution."

In the early 1970s Cerf and Kahn developed the transmission control protocol (TCP) while working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The code allowed for the transmission of data over the Internet. The work eventually laid the groundwork for the development of the Internet.

After the medal ceremonies, Cerf and Kahn participated in an online White House forum.

"There could not have been two more surprised people at the White House today than the two of us," the two said. "Most people will immediately recognize most of the names on the list of Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees, but although our names are not household words, our work in creating the Internet now shows up in almost every corner of the world."

They explained that, at first, no one saw the Internet coming out of their work, including themselves.

"Initially it was an experiment, but over time it became clearer that the technology had wide ranging potential," Cerf and Kahn said. "With the development of the personal computer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, together with restructuring of the telecommunications industry in the mid-1980s, the scene was set for widespread commercialization of networking."

They also praised the National Science Foundation for fostering the adoption of networking within the scientific and academic community and singled out Congress for facilitating the commercialization of the Internet.

After his time at DARPA, Cerf worked for a number of years with WorldCom before accepting his current position as chief Internet evangelist at search giant Google .

He also serves as the chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Web's domain name system.

Kahn is the chief executive of the U.S. Corporation for National Research Initiatives, which provides funding for research and development into national communication infrastructures.

Bush honored 12 other recipients, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, actors Carol Burnett and Andy Griffith, singer Aretha Franklin and sports legends Jack Nicklaus and Frank Robinson.