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He knew where it's @

The Boston Business Journal remembers Ray Tomlinson, who gave us both e-mail and the use of the @ symbol in 1971, as an engineer for what was then Bolt, Beranek and Newman in Cambridge.

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I worked there as my first professional job for the advanced programming group. Despite what Al Gore might say, BB&N really did develop the internet. The ARPANET, MILNET, etc.

A lot of smart and interesting people there, I miss the creative, exciting atmosphere.

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"Despite what Al Gore might say...."

Kiteo, his eyes closed.

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Al Gore:
But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I’ve traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth, environmental protection, improvements in our educational system. During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I’ve seen during that experience is an emerging future that’s very exciting about which I’m very optimistic and toward which I want to lead.

As you can see, the critical sentence just fell amid a bunch of boring verbiage, like a diamond in the rough: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

He does not say he “invented” the Internet, but he does say something about “creating” it, in the kind of awkward phrasing Gore was known for. But because the sentence was surrounded by a lot of unrelated political blather, it was largely unnoticed. CNN certainly did not highlight it in its coverage of the interview.

Then a writer for Wired, Declan McCullagh, spotted Gore’s statement and poked fun at it, under headline, “No Credit Where It’s Due.” He noted that the technical basis for the Internet, specifically the Internet working protocols, existed long before Gore entered Congress.

Preliminary discussions of how the ARPANET [Advanced Research Projects Agency Network] would be designed began in 1967, and a request for proposals went out the following year. In 1969, the Defense Department commissioned the ARPANET.

Gore was 21-years-old at the time. He wasn’t even done with law school at Vanderbilt University. It would be eight more years before Gore would be elected to the US House of Representatives as a freshman Democrat with scant experience in passing legislation, let alone ambitious proposals.

By that time, file copying — via the UUCP protocol — was beginning. Email was flourishing. The culture of the Internet was starting to develop through the Jargon File and the SF-Lovers mailing list.

But to be fair to Gore, his statement referenced what he had done in Congress. The Internet was the commercialization of the work done at DOD, and by most accounts, Gore’s efforts had some impact. He was the prime sponsor of the 1991 High-Performance Computing and Communications Act, generally known as the Gore bill, which allocated $600 million for high-performance computing. Gore, who waged a two-year battle to get the bill passed, popularized the term “the Information Superhighway.”

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Vint Cerf, who was, arguably, one of the core inventors of the Internet, has been pretty effusive in his praise of Al Gore and the role Gore played, and doesn't seem to have any issue with any of Gore's statements about his role.

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Thank you.

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