So Vint talked about the secrets of what real­ly drove us on the ear­ly net­work. Left out one small detail, we were part of a small group at UCLA in the quite pos­i­tive and open envi­ron­ment under Len Kleinrock in an envi­ron­ment that was spon­sored by Larry Roberts, and it was a very gen­er­ous envi­ron­ment. And we had to choose a name for the oper­at­ing sys­tem for our net­work. We checked var­i­ous things— We had a Sigma 7, we went Sigma 7 Executive, 7 Executive, just SEX. First post on the ARPANET, we put sex on the Internet. It’s doc­u­ment­ed.

Audience Member: We were younger then, that’s what drove us.

Crocker: We were so much younger then, yes indeed. And not con­tent with that, we had a sign on the door that said when SEX was avail­able. We had a SEX users group, we had a SEX user’s man­u­al. We had the whole thing. 

There’s a the­me (besides the sex) that has mar­bled through all of this. Yes there were bits and band­width and of all kinds cal­cu­la­tions and sys­tem designs and so forth. And we were all fair­ly tech­ni­cal and all of this was very excit­ing. But it was instant­ly clear from the very begin­ning, that there was an over­lay on top of all of this, which was the human com­po­nent. And one of our ear­ly slo­gans was net­works bring peo­ple togeth­er.” And so in rooms much much small­er than this, with col­lec­tions of peo­ple that fit in half of one row here, we sat around the table and tried to imag­ine what would hap­pen.

And I’ll inter­rupt for a sec­ond and say—and I get asked, as many of us do, So did you under­stand? Could you see? How much of what’s hap­pen­ing now could you envi­sion?” So my stan­dard answer is, Well, everything’s hap­pen­ing exact­ly on sched­ule.”

But more seri­ous­ly, it’s what we couldn’t see and most impor­tant what we knew we couldn’t see. And in it was that knowl­edge that we could not tell every­thing that was going to hap­pen, and there­fore it was absolute­ly essen­tial to leave room for the next gen­er­a­tion and the next gen­er­a­tion and the next gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple and process­es and every­thing. So we designed both the archi­tec­ture and the process­es sur­round­ing the architecture—the social processes—to be open as opposed to closed. Open archi­tec­ture, thin lay­ers that were there as a help­mate if you need­ed them and you could go around them if you want­ed to build some­thing else. That was the tech­ni­cal side. 

And open pub­li­ca­tion of design notes that we tried not to take too seri­ous­ly. And hence the the lit­tle lin­guis­tic device of call­ing them Request For Comments, and delib­er­ate­ly mak­ing them avail­able absolute­ly for free around the world, any­time, any­body. And the process­es by which peo­ple could con­tribute to that. Anybody could con­tribute, no restric­tions. And that tra­di­tion has pro­gressed essen­tial­ly unbro­ken for the entire forty-plus year peri­od, and we now have the Internet Engineering Task Force. Try to find what the admis­sion cri­te­ria is. Try to find what the enfran­chise­ment cri­te­ria is, and it’s hard to under­stand. There’s no vot­ing, there’s no mem­ber­ship, there’s no fees. You got­ta pay for the cook­ies when you come. 

But it’s com­plete­ly open. In ’94, I made my first trip to India and I gave a talk at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. And I was intro­duced to a grad­u­ate stu­dent who was build­ing some inter­est­ing soft­ware. And he told me all about it, and it was indeed a fair­ly com­plex project. And I was impressed that he was able to put togeth­er so much tech­nol­o­gy, and I said well, How did you do that?” He said, Well, I just read the RFCs. I down­load­ed them, read them, and imple­ment­ed…” And it real­ly choked me up, as it’s doing a lit­tle bit now. It’s that process, which we were just frankly for­tu­nate to be at the right place at the right time. And it’s been one hell of a ride. Thank you. 


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