I learned a lesson. It’s acceptable to give up one dream. Still, there should be something for us to contribute to human society. In my life, that was the Internet.
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Looking at Brazil again thirty years later, we see the very same situation. And the question is what to do. The whole country has been waiting to see when and how recovery will begin, political, economic and so on.
People have asked me, “Why did you create BITNET?” Well, the truthful answer is I was envious of ARPANET users. They had access to the most exciting technology at the time. But ARPANET, as you know, was only available to a relatively small group of developers and researchers. And we didn’t know if it would ever be made available to others.
I had a life-changing moment in 1984 that finally got my students excited about learning. Apple launched a program called Kids Can’t Wait and gave every school in California a computer. Unfortunately the computer did not come with software.
If you talk with people worried about the evolution of technology one of the things they often comment about is that in many cases the future is quite clear. You can see it coming, but you don’t know how far away it is.
It’s an honor for me to be here. It’s an undeserved honor for me. But I am proud to be a tiny bit of this construction, this marvelous construction that the Internet is and keeps being.
When I started in 1991, I was a hired gun. I was brought in to create a network, a pan-European network, and I was going to do it for three years. Twenty-three years later I’m still involved in the same thing.
I came along in the early 1990s to join the Internet development community, at a time when this work was cultivated by a mix of academia, government, and industry. And it was really starting to flourish, and the growth of the Net was starting to explode at that point with two to three new countries joining you know, every every month or two with their full TCP/IP connections.
Imagine a word before the World Wide Web. Imagine a time before you had smartphones. And imagine a life where you had to live at X.25. And this was the time I was dreaming of a research academic network for the Sri Lankan academic community.
In the past you saw international and national standardization of very well-defined technologies. For example, if you were going to build nuts and bolts, what the threads look like, and you know, with the proper spacing and height and grip and so on. And so you know, this is not rocket science. It’s critically important to an engineer’s infrastructure to have standardization of these things, but it’s not as if we are trying to somehow codify the laws of physics.