Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Al Gore and the Internet

I was listening to a Podcast today and I heard some right wing jerk mention, sarcastically, how Al Gore invented the internet. This is one of those things that Bush and other right wingers like to say to bring down this man. It occurred to me that I had never seen the speech where this occurred. So I looked it up on YouTube.

When you watch please note that he doesn't use the word "invented" but "created." So if you were watching President Eisenhower claim that he "created" the US Interstate Highway System ... would you assume that he was claiming to be one of the construction workers at the site or would you assume that he meant that he assisted politically or economically? I think the latter, but this didn't stop Bush from claiming otherwise during the general election. Bush wasn't really trying to appeal to the intelligence of voters, was he? Clearly, in this political environment Gore should have used a better choice of words. Maybe he should have said that he "helped" create the internet or assisted in the creation of the internet. Regardless, you still hear people throwing this into conversations when Al Gore is mentioned.

What was Gore talking about? In the early 90's I was at an IBM convention in New Orleans where he spoke. Environmentalism and technology have always been an obsession of his. I am not a techie and I was young at the time so some of what he was talking about was over my head. I'd love to hear that speech today. I was impressed with him. As a Senator, Gore created the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. This created the national research and education network (NREN) which, among other things, helps create standards for the net around the world. The World Wide Web (WWW) was born when this act was enacted. It was signed into law by President George Bush, Senior. So in 1991, the net already existed but the World Wide Web did not because there were no standards. Gore could claim that he contributed to the creation of the WWW, but not the net because it existed for two decades before this. Again, he misspoke ... something that just about anyone does the more a person talks and politicians talk a lot.

This also lead to creation of the Mosaic browser (the first I ever used at the Dedham public library) which is the first browser ever. It was later renamed Netscape. The creation of standards allowed software to be developed in a reasonably static environment. Before Mosaic, we had navigate around the net via the DOS prompt. One of the creators of Mosaic, Marc Andreesen, said that without Al Gore the internet "would not be where it is today."

The ironic thing is that this right wing jerk of a Podcaster, I mentioned earlier, owes homage to Gore. For if not for Gore, the Podcast would not exist.

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