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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
NewsBusters Promotes Discredited Attack on Obama That Gets The Internet Wrong
Topic: NewsBusters

In a July 24 NewsBusters post, Tom Blumer touts a Wall Street Journal column by Gordon Crovitz, who Blumer claimed was serving up "actual history" in asserting that the government didn't invent the Internet. Crovitz asserted that Xerox's PARC research center deserves "full credit" because it developed the Ethernet protocol. Blumer smugly asserted:
Yet another liberal and liberal media legend officially bites the dust."

Well, not so much. Turns out Crovitz didn't get his facts right.

Michael Hiltzik -- from whose book on Xerox PARC Crovitz extraopolated his claim that the lab invented the internet -- writes in the Los Angeles Times that "My book bolsters, not contradicts, the argument that the Internet had its roots in the ARPANet, a government project." Hiltzik continues:

But Crovitz confuses AN internet with THE Internet. [Former Pentagon official and ARPANet funder Robert] Taylor was citing a technical definition of "internet" in his statement. But I know Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor is a friend of mine, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today. Nor was ARPA's support "modest," as Crovitz contends. It was full-throated and total. Bob Taylor was the single most important figure in the history of the Internet, and he holds that stature because of his government role.

Crovitz then points out that TCP/IP, the fundamental communications protocol of the Internet, was invented by Vinton Cerf (though he fails to mention Cerf's partner, Robert Kahn). He points out that Tim Berners-Lee "gets credit for hyperlinks."

Lots of problems here. Cerf and Kahn did develop TCP/IP--on a government contract! And Berners-Lee doesn't get credit for hyperlinks--that belongs to Doug Engelbart of Stanford Research Institute, who showed them off in a legendary 1968 demo you can see here. Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web--and he did so at CERN, a European government consortium.


So the bottom line is that the Internet as we know it was indeed born as a government project. In fact, without ARPA and Bob Taylor, it could not have come into existence. Private enterprise had no interest in something so visionary and complex, with questionable commercial opportunities. Indeed, the private corporation that then owned monopoly control over America's communications network, AT&T, fought tooth and nail against the ARPANet. Luckily for us, a far-sighted government agency prevailed.

Further, Wired points out that Ethernet is not the Internet; it it's a network connection invented by Xerox PARC to connect computers and printers.

Yet another bit of right-wing "media research" at the MRC bites the dust.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:50 AM EDT

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