By Mary Bellis
"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." - Al Gore
In 1969, at the age of 21, Al Gore first built a working prototype for his Internet invention. Gore, then a law student at Vanderbilt University, came up with his idea from the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film, "Dr Strangelove". The movie portrayed a nuclear holocaust in which a new network had to survive. As is the case with many great inventions, the Department of Defense (DOD) saw the same movie. In 1965, the DOD's Advanced Research Project Association (ARPA) began work on ARPANET, intended to promote the sharing of supercomputers amongst researchers in the United States. I have to point out here that the DOD did this a year after the movie came out while Al Gore was first in line at the box office and saw the film three times.
Al Gore would call the ARPA researchers and discuss his progress on the invention of the Internet. "Supercomputers are the steam locomotives of the information age," Gore would tell the researchers, "In the Industrial Age, steam locomotives didn't do much good until the railroad tracks were laid down across the nation. Similarly, we now have supercomputers... but we don't have the interstate highways that we need to connect them."
That was all the technical support the ARPA researchers needed to hear. By 1969, ARPANET was first demonstrated. The researchers at four US campuses brought the first hosts of the ARPANET online, connecting Stanford Research Institute, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah. I think that was very clever of Al Gore to get the government to build a prototype of the Internet for him and have the taxpayers pay for the young inventor's start-up expenses.
Currently Al Gore has taken the lead in "Reinventing Government" to make it cost less and work better. He now heads the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. This time Al don't forget to file a patent, and when can we expect to see a working prototype?
Editors note: Jimmy Carter invented nuclear power and I forget what Ronald Reagan invented. Information Superhighway® is the registered trademark of Al Gore's Internet.
"Yeah, and I invented the spellchecker" - fellow inventor Dan Quayle on hearing that Al Gore invented the Internet.
Further Real Reading
ARPAnet The First Internet
The model-T of the information highway.
The Real History of the Internet
From the Internet's conception in the early '60s and ARPANETn - the contributions of Vinton Cerf, Bob Kahn, Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Andreesen. The World Wide Web's birth in 1991.
Al Gore Creator of the Internet?
Al Gore tells CNN he created the Internet, from your About Guide to U.S. Government Info/Resources.
No Credit Where It's Due - Wired News article written by Declan McCullagh
illustration by mary bellis