Dan Lynch: Sorry I can’t be with you today. I can’t travel much anymore. I had a stroke ten years ago which didn’t affect my brain, I don’t think, but did affect my mobility quite a lot.
So anyway, I got introduced to the ARPANET in April of ’73 at SRI—Stanford Research Institute—where I got a job as the manager of the Artificial Intelligence Computer Center. And the very first day on the job they showed me this thing called the ARPANET. And I looked at that and went wow, this is cool. I mean you know. I come from a missile defense background and doing that kind of work, buried in some secret place. And then came out and into the real world.
And so I played around with this ARPANET stuff for a while. And then about a year or two later, a guy named Bill Plummer at BBN said to me— He was a system programmer there. And he said, “Hey, I’m testing this new thing called TCP, and I want you to— You know, we’re doing in the building here at BBN but we need a cross-country testing site. Will you help me?”
And I said sure. So I started doing that in my spare time. And I did that for about a year with him in a language called BCPL, which was the precursor of C. And that was a lot of fun. And then I did debugging with him—I had to install the code on my computer, a PDP-10, a 10/X machine, which was the machine of choice for most big sites in those days.
And then I met Vint Cerf in those days, too. He was a young professor at Stanford. I say young because he’s two years younger than I am so he’ll always be young. And he was a neat guy. So I did that, and that was my early years as…I guess call it a developer, a debugger. I mean we had no idea what we were doing in those days with—I mean we knew what we were trying to do. But it was a lot of fun.
And then the next phase of my involvement with the Internet… Because in 1978, the protocol was essentially fixed, and sites on the ARPANET were starting to convert over to the Internet protocols and running them side by side because…you know, we had to.
And then I moved on to Los Angeles to the Information Sciences Institute as their manager of their computing facilities. And that was the biggest node on the ARPANET in those days. It had about six machines online and about 3,000 people using them. Around the world, actually, mostly around the country but around the world. And I was working for Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf at ARPA really, even though I [was] theoretically an employee of USC.
And they told me, “Hey, we’re going to convert everything over to Internet. And I want you to manage that process for machines all over the Internet.” And so I did that for a while, a couple years.
And then we had a flag day, the last flag day in history. That is day when they shut the ARPANET down and turned everybody on to the Internet, January 1st, 1983, that was hilarious.
So I did that. And then about a year later I left that job because things were happening. And I wanted to get involved in a startup of some sort. And so I moved back to Silicon Valley, with no job just you know, looking for…because friends of mine had started Cisco and they’d started Sun Microsystems and I’m going wait a minute. I can do this too. And I tried that and failed. Two or three times, actually.
And then I realized in about late ’85, early ’86 that people all over the world were trying to build Internet product stuff, and they were doing a mediocre job. So, I became an educator, I call myself now, of Internet technology. And I started a company called Advanced Computing Environments. I thought “That’s a clever name.” And to teach engineers how the Internet worked, because…I knew, and I knew all the people that built it, you know. They were all friends of mine. You know Jon Postel and Danny Cohen, you know Dave Clark and Dave Mills, and Vint Cerf.
So I started this thing. And even eventually it became called TCP/IP Interoperability Conference and Exhibition. And that grew like Topsy for three or four years, just grew from 300 people to 50,000 people in four years. I think you got something when the growth is that fast, eh?
And then I sold that company because I didn’t really want to run a giant trade show company. And then I started looking around for things to do in the early 90s. And I realized oh, the Internet’s not gonna take off unless there’s a way to send money around. And another pal, guy, found me and we started a company which we called CyberCash to put credit cards and move money on the Internet. And we built that company with Steve Crocker. He was our CTO. And so we built that company and lost it. And after a couple of years, we went bankrupt. Because we didn’t have enough customers. We had great technology and mediocre marketing.
And another company came along with, I’ll just be blunt, great marketing and mediocre technology. And guess who won. And that company’s called PayPal. And they eventually bought all our technology out of bankruptcy. And so it’s a success, a great success. Bravo for them.
So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And I hope you guys have a great time in Costa Rica. I’d love to be there. My children—all of my adult children have been there. But I haven’t, and I would love to be there, but I can’t go. So enjoy your times. Bye bye.
Internet Hall of Fame profile