By Anna Lynn Spitzer
08.02.05 – When the Irvine division hosted the Calit2 Advisory Board meeting last month, an employee noticed a man wearing a three-piece suit in the lobby area and commented to another employee: “That man looks very much like Vinton Cerf, but it couldn’t be.
Actually, it was. Cerf, commonly referred to as the “Father of the Internet,” is a member of the advisory board and was attending the annual meeting.
As a UCLA graduate student in computer sciences from 1967-1972, he began working on packet-switching networks for the ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet. In 1976, he joined the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he played a key role in the development of Internet and Internet-related data packet and security technologies, including the co-design of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol).
His next stop was MCI Digital Information Services, where he served as vice president in the mid-80s. There, he led the team that engineered MCI Mail, the first commercial e-mail service to be connected to the Internet.
Currently, he is senior vice president of technology strategy for MCI, where he helps to guide corporate strategy development from a technical perspective. One of his pet projects is developing the design of the Interplanetary Protocol, a new standard to communicate from planet to planet. Cerf holds an appointment as distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is working on the proposal to create a network of Internets to facilitate communication between planets, satellites, asteroids, robotic spacecraft and crewed vehicles.
“The Internet works pretty well on the surface of our planet Earth...and it should work perfectly well on the surface of other planets or satellites, or even space vehicles that are out there in the solar system,” he told CNET news.com several years ago. “The only issue that really comes up is when you go interplanetary – when you have to carry information from one planet to another. And there you get into significant delays because of the astronomical distances involved. You may run into serious variations in error rates. You may run into differences in data rates when you send or receive data. All of those variations caused us to design a new set of protocols, in addition to the ones that are normally part of the Internet, to work on an interplanetary basis.”
Cerf also serves as chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
In 1997, Pres. Bill Clinton awarded Cerf, and his design partner Robert E. Kahn, the U.S. National Medal of Technology for their role in founding and developing the Internet. The pair was recognized again in 2004 for their work on Internet protocols with the Association for Computing Machinery’s Alan M. Turing Award, considered to be the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science.”
His other awards and accolades are numerous, and include the Pemio Principe de Asturias de Investigacion Cientifica, a prestigious Spanish award; the Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award, the Computer and Communications Industries Association Industry Legend Award, and the Computerworld/Smithsonian Leadership Award. In 1994, People magazine identified Cerf as one of the year’s “25 Most Intriguing People.”
In addition, he presented former Vice President Al Gore in June with The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
Cerf is a graduate of Stanford University , with a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics. He received master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from UCLA.