Thank you very much. I’m very hon­ored by the award. And I want you to know that half of it is being in the right place at the right time.

Let me tell you the sto­ry. The time is 1986. I’m at the University of Maryland, College Park. There is a small but grow­ing num­ber of TCP/IP net­works, most­ly single‐purpose, most­ly uncon­nect­ed. The exam­ple we have of how to con­nect two TCP/IP net­works is a gate­way, a com­put­er, sit­ting between the ARPANET and the MILNET. And the dis­cus­sion is how should these net­works be con­nect­ed to each oth­er and have the right rules? How can we make sure that all the right pack­ets stay on the right net­works and don’t get on the wrong net­works? It’s a very com­plex sit­u­a­tion, and we’re not get­ting very far.

So, [I] began to think about an impor­tant fea­ture of the Internet. Sometimes, it’s bet­ter to ask for­give­ness than per­mis­sion. So a group of us fig­ured this out. I was in a for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion at the University of Maryland, College Park to be near a num­ber of the fed­er­al net­works. And we’d also start­ed the first of the NSF region­al networks—the first oper­at­ing net­work, SURAnet, was con­nect­ed there at College Park and I had the first cam­pus that was TCP/IP. So that might be a great place to invite every­one else to con­nect.

So here’s the plan: the plan is invite every­one to con­nect to College Park. From their point of view, sim­ple. Nice, sim­ple con­nec­tion to College Park. Thanks to TCP/IP, that won­der­ful pro­to­col, they’ll be con­nect­ed to each oth­er. No gate­way. That was a sig­nif­i­cant break­through, and we end­ed up doing that. A num­ber of the fed­er­al agen­cies were among the first to go do that, and that point in College Park became known as the FIX, the Federal Internet Exchange.

But we invit­ed any­one and every­one who want­ed to con­nect to that exchange point to do so. So we also had Rick Adams from UUNET. We also had Bill Schrader from PSInet. We had inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions to South America, to Europe. Lots of oth­er folks also con­nect­ed to College Park and we wel­comed every­one who wished to do so. Milo Medin start­ed a sec­ond FIX on the West Coast so we didn’t have a sin­gle point of fail­ure for the Internet. This is impor­tant: don’t have a sin­gle point of fail­ure. So we estab­lished a sec­ond FIX at NASA Ames.

And from there, the future just was open. It turned out that there was a com­mer­cial Internet exchange that fol­lowed on after that. But the first Internet exchange with­out a gate­way in the mid­dle appears to have been in College Park, begin­ning in about 1986, and I was for­tu­nate enough to be at the right place at the right time.

I’d like to thank a num­ber of the folks who helped make that pos­si­ble. Walt Gilbert, Mike Petry, Louis Mamakos, Jack Hahn, Jack Waters. All of those folks and many more were key to mak­ing that hap­pen, and I want to thank them and thank the Internet Society for this hon­or. Thank you.

Further Reference

Glenn Ricart profile, Internet Hall of Fame 2013


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