I’ve been involved with the Internet Society for virtually its entire life. Years ago, I had the good fortune to be involved with the early days of the ARPANET and played a small role in helping build some of the technology, and in building some of the social structures that brought everybody together.
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I think my proudest achievements were to be able to set up and launch the first program at the United Nations to promote information technology in a region. And the region was of course Africa.
I got involved with networking sometime in the late 70s, mainly because I was looking around and discovering that people were getting into networking, email. And at the time I was department chair at University of Wisconsin, the computer science department, and was trying to understand what those capabilities would do for our faculty and students.
I’m Elizabeth Feinler, usually known as “Jake.” That’s my nickname. And I ran the contract for the Network Information Center on both the ARPANET and the Defense Data Network back in the 70s and 80s.
The thing that always amazed me about [the Internet] is that it was just there. It wasn’t a giant announcement. It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t an organization. It was just there.
For a long time I think we really thought of him as sort of the Gandalf in the family. We had really very little idea what he actually did, but he was radiating kind of a quiet, willful integrity which I think really was the foundation of much of what happened in his kind of shepherding of many of these processes.
People are amazed at the growth of the Web, but the growth of the Internet, that was actually what happened from zero. So the things that you guys have done from this have been the way that we have learned.
Bob couldn’t make it today. And if he could teleport here—I mean that’s technology for the future—he would have been here this evening, but he continues to pursue his vision of improving connectivity among people, and communications environments that enable that.
I feel so undeserving, and as they say, them more you reward the undeserving the harder they will work in the future. So I have a lot of work cut out for me going ahead in the future.
When many of the people in this room were beginning to lay the groundwork for the network in the 60s, I was working as a political scientist and worrying about communications patterns and how those worked.