Internet pioneer Dr. Leonard Kleinrock is still pushing emerging technologies

It's not hard to find Internet pioneer Dr. Leonard Kleinrock -- he's been at UCLA for 50 years, since 1963.

His current position is not too much different than it's always been: distinguished professor of computer science. But he's also involved, and has been involved, in several other ventures outside of UCLA.

He's the founder of Platformation, a 5-year-old company developing an interactive three-way platform for shoppers, retailers and manufacturers, so as to influence and guide shopping behavior. He's also chairman of TTI/Vanguard, a 15-year-old membership-based high-tech forum for senior IT executives and thought leaders focusing on emerging technologies.

Kleinrock founded Nomadix, a developer of hardware and software for nomadic computing that was acquired by NTT DOCOMO in the mid-2000s. And now Dr. Kleinrock is assembling an exhibit at UCLA, in 3420 Boelter Hall, of the nodes involved in what's considered the first host-to-host communication that gave birth to the Internet.

"We've created an Internet history center at UCLA, the idea being that the Golden Era was a very special time," Kleinrock says. "And we're trying to capture the essence of that time by taking that original switch, the first [Interface Message Processor], and we put it back in its original location -- the same two square feet where it operated at the initiation of the Internet."

Kleinrock and his collaborators are combing the IMP with some other materials from back then -- such as the original log book, which has the entry of the first Internet message: "lo" on Oct. 29, 1969 -- and oral histories of the people involved back then to create an immersive historical center on the origins of the Internet.

"We're not simply going to ask them just what did you accomplish; we're going to ask them, what was the environment that allowed you to accomplish what you did?" Kleinrock says of the oral histories from other Internet and ARPANET pioneers. "We want to capture that and make that available to the public.

"How many revolutions do you know where you know exactly when it started and the exact location where it began?"

Kleinrock says this effort is complementary and cooperative with the Internet history work underway at the Computer History Museum in San Jose, which maintains and updates a digital archive on Internet's birth and evolution.

And speaking of the Internet's evolution ... Kleinrock compared the 40+-year-old packet-based communications infrastructure as an unruly teenager when the industry recognized and commemorated its fourth decade in existence a few years ago. It hasn't matured much since then, he says.

"It's still a misbehaving, unpredictable teenager," Kleinrock says. "There's a dark side of the Internet, a manifestation of things we don't like. It will mature. It's a phase through which it is passing right now. It may create a personality that is uncooperative or offensive rather than benevolent and cooperative. But we're still in the unpredictable misbehaving teenage years."


Getting that rebellious teenager to behave and cooperate is a slow and difficult process, Kleinrock says. There will always be the outliers that exploit it, and the effects of their disruption are exaggerated and magnified compared to the multitude that want the Internet to behave properly. And in many cases, governments are leading the direction that organizes the Internet, isolates it and controls it.

"It's the Big Brother effect," Kleinrock says.

And what to do to correct it?


"So much depends on the Internet that those who disrupt it or exploit it or abuse it there'll be an awful lot of social pressure brought to bear, and sentimental pressure that would hopefully modulate and moderate the extent of the abuse," he says. "It's much easier to destroy than to create. So the maturity of the Internet will in some ways depend upon the maturity of some of these governments, which is far more difficult to influence. So we're not going to see a rapid resolution. But I believe the kind of thing we're seeing from peer pressure, social networks, will have an influence on individual and government in positive ways across the world. But it's unpredictable and a constant source of concern."

That's because the Internet is becoming a much broader, and more comprehensive and all-encompassing medium for general purpose communication, a utility much like the telephone network or the TV network. Every communication-related innovation that's developed separately from the Internet ultimately winds up on the Internet.

"There's a convergence of capability on the Internet, and yet a divergence as well, that not too many people are aware of," Kleinrock says. "So this notion of a Balkanization and divergence is not necessarily foreign or a bad thing. Along with that comes a certain level of specialization which we may see emerge. And at some point as these new capabilities emerge independently, they tend to then converge onto the Internet in the sense of an enormous device that scoops up everything around. When a new capability arises it suddenly gets integrated with the Internet, suddenly it's part of this thing called 'the Internet.' The paging network is an example."

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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