Vint Cerf Waxes Nostalgic on the Early Days of TCP/IP and His Suit
Esquire magazine, not really known as a bastion of IT and Internet news, has a brief, intriguing interview with Vint Cerf, one of the pioneering luminaries in our industry and a hero of mine.
Cerf (full name: Dr. Vinton G. Cerf) is, of course, the co-originator of the TCP/IP protocols and by extension, a great deal of what makes the Internet work.
Along with Robert Kahn, Cerf developed two technologies at the heart of the Internet protocol suite, creating an internetworking (a real word) design so robust that proponents say it be supported between any sorts of network, including the venerable (and oft-cited) tin-cans-and-string model (and the less-often-cited pigeon-based model).
Cerf, who currently holds the position of Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, is also known to history as the man who, at the height of an early IETF technical discussion, stepped to the podium and stripped off his trademark three-piece suit to reveal his famous "IP on Everything" T-shirt -- pacifying for the moment a heated debate over fundamental Internet design.
In retrospect, Cerf's T-shirt also hinted at possibilities we're only beginning to realize today, in the form of VoIP, IP-enabled automobiles, Internet-linked home entertainment systems and the long-discussed IP-enabled refrigerator (and thank heavens for that one, eh?)
When not pictured ripping open his dress shirt, Superman-style, to show off his famous T-shirt (it appears on his private Facebook profile, for the interested), Cerf is almost always seen wearing a three-piece suit; in the Esquire piece, he expounds a bit on its merits (which, if I had my druthers, would be required reading for today's predominantly shorts-and-T-shirt set... although I suppose anyone wearing a three-piece suit would be hard-pressed to look anything but sweat-drenched and disheveled while slaving away in a hot datacenter. Hmm.)
More to the point, the Esquire interview also includes a couple of telling moments of reminiscence and insight from the "Father of the Internet":
There was no one "Ah-ha!" moment. Not in the sense that many people want to hear. They see the Internet now and think, Well, thirty-six years ago someone imagined what it would look like in 2008, and that is what drove the process. It wasn't like that at all.
There was a first "Oh, no!" moment. That was the first time I saw spam pop up. It could have been as early as '79. A digital-equipment corporation sent a note around announcing a job opening, and we all blew up, saying, This is not for advertising! This is for serious work!