Co-creator of the Internet Dr. Vinton Cerf lectured at Walk Auditorium Tuesday as part of Temple’s Technology Leaders Series regarding the past and future of the World Wide Web.
“History is often more interesting than fiction; even science fiction,” said Cerf.
While a graduate student at UCLA in 1969, he launched ARPANET – the first example of Internet communication, between UCLA, Stanford, University of California – Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. The project became the core of the Internet model.
He continued his major accomplishments at MCI, where he is currently the Senior Vice President of Technology Strategy.
Cerf used his humorous lecturing style to speak to a full room of interested students and faculty – some savvy to the complicated computer jargon and some not.
“In the beginning, it was really difficult to follow all the terms and concepts that he was talking about,” said senior Maura DiBerardinia. “Toward the end it got a lot easier to comprehend. He talked about a lot more general issues that all the public would be interested in.”
Cerf discussed the evolution of the Internet’s availability. He noted that not all countries have the accessibility that the United States does. For instance, not every household in South America can afford Web access. This is where the benefit of Internet cafés makes a difference in these countries. Many Internet Laundromats exist in countries with similar situations, as owners want to provide their customers with something to do while they wait for their clothes to dry.
A primary aspect of Cerf’s lecture was devoted to Internet technology of the future.
An existing technology that could serve many more purposes in the future is radio frequency identification products, or RFIDs – a stamp similar to a barcode. He described them as “consumer product identifiers.” If the sticker technology is applied to each individual product in a grocery store, inventory can be more efficiently scanned and checkout lines processed significantly faster.
Other developing technologies Cerf mentioned involve household tools, such as refrigerators and scales. High-end refrigerator products already exist that can monitor the items they contain, as well as how much remains of the items. Another ability it possesses is to automatically surf the Web for recipes that include the food products it currently contains.
Japan already employs Web-enabled scales. With this, members of a family can check their weight while the scale identifies them personally and sends their reading to their personal physician for records.
Cerf proposed some humorous but promising ideas for future Internet-efficient household technology. For example, Internet-enabled wine corks that can evaluate quality and origins of the wine.
“I’m hoping my quantum theory of wine will earn me the Nobel Prize,” Cerf joked.
Also proposed by Cerf were Internet socks with the purpose of locating scattered pairs around the household.
On a more serious note, Cerf also discussed the beginnings of computer-aided surgery, where a surgeon would employ a computer to perform certain procedures. He also alluded to the concept that future developments could enable a surgeon to initiate a surgery from his home or office while a computer performs the entire procedure.
“These are all examples of multiple computers with differing services coming together to serve one common function,” said Cerf. “That is a powerful ability.”
Some students had concerns about the negative effects that these advanced technologies could have on society. One student observed that with technology making human tasks increasingly easier, it could eliminate a person’s need to leave the house entirely.
“I doubt that people will be compelled to remain in their homes,” said Cerf. “We’ve evolved to carry our communications with us. Mobile and handheld devices have proven this.”
Cerf also enlightened the audience on nanotechnology, saying that it has already been able to cure deafness and in the future it will be able to relieve blindness.
“Technology [such as nanotechnology] has the ability to improve disabilities and enhance normal abilities,” said Cerf.
At the conclusion of his lecture, some impressed listeners asked him how he felt being labeled as the “Father of the Internet.”
“If you think the Web happened because of the work of two or three people, you’re wrong,” Cerf said.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.