Gore Deserves Internet Credit, Some Say
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 21, 1999; Page A4
So -- did he do it?
Did Al Gore create the Internet?
The vice president's recent comment that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" opened Gore up for wide derision, because the global computer network had its beginnings more than 25 years ago.
Former vice president Dan Quayle (R) scoffed to a reporter that "if Gore invented the Internet, I invented spell-check." Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) countered that he had invented the paper clip. Despite the partisan mirth, many of the researchers and venerated propeller-heads who did have a hand in the Internet's creation said Gore deserves substantial credit for passing a number of bills that boosted supercomputing and high-speed communications networks, which in turn helped create the Internet as it exists today.
David J. Farber, a professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the early players in the Internet, said that along with the importance of his legislative initiatives, Gore popularized the emerging medium worldwide. Gore aligned himself with high tech long before every lawmaker boasted of his or her personal Web site. He helped popularize the term "information superhighway," drawing on the symbolism of his father's hand in creating the interstate highway system.
Vinton G. Cerf, a senior vice president at MCI Worldcom and the person most often called "the father of the Internet" for his part in designing the network's common computer language, said in an e-mail interview yesterday, "I think it is very fair to say that the Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the vice president in his current role and in his earlier role as senator."
The co-author of a history of the online world, "Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet," agreed. Katie Hafner said people have been haggling over the true beginnings of the network for decades. "As we all know, there are many paternity claims on the Internet. That's a given, because it's so successful. But there are so many people who did at least one pivotal thing in either creating the network, or encouraging the use of the network, or bringing the network to the public -- and Gore was one of those people."
"The guy used an inappropriate word," Farber said. "If he had said he was instrumental in the development of what it is now, he'd be accurate."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company