Jason (jcreed) wrote,
Jason
jcreed

Just saw Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn talk about this research project they worked on back in the early 70s that is still in use today. People mostly use it to send funny pictures of cats to each other, I'm told.

But seriously: I am not much for hero worship usually, but it kinda hit me that --- and obviously this is a grandiose way of putting it, but I can't escape the fact that it actually feels accurate deep in my guts --- it was not entirely unlike having the privilege of sitting in a room listening to Gutenberg talk about, for instance, where he thought this whole "printed book" thing was going, and how it really took off way more quickly than he expected, and so on and so forth.

And all the same things apply equally well that something like printing (or something like the internet) was inevitably going to get invented eventually, and maybe arguably this person or that person wasn't necessarily the absolute first to invent it, but still! These people were around for some pretty exciting and formative times, and made clever design decisions that very well might have been responsible for the internet being here today the way that it is and not many years later and much crappier, and their opinions were well-informed, and they told good war stories, and were generally very interesting to listen to.

Cerf in particular I remember pointedly had a funny "my bad" story about the fact IP addresses are only 32-bit. He recalled that there was a big discussion, during which by the way variable-length addresses were quickly vetoed by the implementors as being way too cycle-intensive for the machines of the day, and Cerf said "well come on, surely 32 bits is plenty just for an experiment... if the experiment is a success, and people want a real system designed, we can make them bigger then." Trouble is, he said, the experiment never ended...
Tags: internet, talks
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