STORIES
Scientists

Vint Cerf

by Jeanne Meyers

...a lifetime of effort, to the care and feeding of the global information infrastructure...
Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award

Vinton Cerf is a computer scientist, humanist and futurist. He is married and has two sons. They must be very proud of him; he has in fact changed the way people around the world communicate. Vinton Cerf is widely regarded as the "founder of the Internet," a title he shares with his colleague, Robert E. Kahn.

When David-Michel Davies, Executive Director of The Webby Awards, planned an event to bring together the leaders in the field of technology and internet communications he was thrilled to have a chance to introduce Vint, one of his personal heroes, to the group.

I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that in the world of the Web, well really in the world overall, our next guest stands right next to Alexandre Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Chief Internet Evangelist of Google Internet co-inventor Mr. Vint Cerf.

MY HERO was honored to have a chance to interview this hero at the Webby Connect Conference held in Southern California in October of 2007. We asked Vint Cerf about his own heroes and role models. He explained that while a child he really did not think in terms of role models but that he was greatly influenced by books that he discovered at an early age that focused on science.

....When I was about ten years old I started reading books about science and I remember a particular book called, The Boy Scientist- ...and other books, One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science by George Gamow, for example, and another guy wrote Micro-Binders, his name Paul Decreuve. These were books that were probably written in the 50s when I was quite young. Those [books] were inspiring because they really caused me to be curious about science.
As an eighth grade student, Vint was invited to visit the campus of Stanford University with his father. He vowed to return. He did and once there took all the computer science classes that he could. "I was taken by the whole idea of being able to make a machine do whatever we wanted it to do," said Cerf, recalling his classes with Professors John Herriot and Gene Golub. After graduation he worked for a computer company, IBM, went back to school at UCLA for graduate studies and then found his way back to Stanford University as an instructor. Later on he co-created TCP/IP internet protocol, the foundation for the Internet, and most importantly, he was able to help break down political barriers that helped turn the government-based network into a revolutionary commercial medium.

When asked by MY HERO about his own personal heroes, Vint replied:

In terms of role models, honestly, I did not think in those terms so much as a boy. But there have been people who have been enormously influential for me. One of them is Bob Conn, the guy with whom I did the work on the Internet, and earlier work related to the architecture of the archinet. Bob and I have worked together for a very long time now, roughly since 1969. Over 30 years getting on 40.

The other person who has had an enormous influence on me may not be very famous, but is my best friend; his name is Steve Crockert. I met him in high school and we still work together.

MY HERO asked Vint to share some advice with young people interested in following in his footsteps, making a positive difference in the world.

First of all do stuff that you love to do. Second, don't just try to change the world - just do something you really love, that you're interested in. And if it works and you get other people excited about it, it will grow. And, half of this battle is selling the idea to other people. The Internet is not the product of one, or two or three people. It's the product of millions of people who have contributed to its content and functionality and it continues to evolve because of that. So figuring out how to get other people to be involved and contribute what they want to do and creating opportunities for them to do that--- that's the way to do something really big.

Vinton Cerf has brought solar powered computer cafes to Africa in his own effort to bridge the digital divide. He is a firm believer in the importance of empowering those in need with the skills and resources to support themselves. He sees great potential, with new advancements being made in internet technology, to address the digital divide. He believes that in the future, visitors will be able to speak and ask questions online. Real time translations into a spoken language will really help those who are blind or illiterate. They will be able to HEAR the answers to their questions online. This valuable new resource will help those without formal education use and access vital information online.

Vint Cerf, ever the pioneer, continues to explore and plan for the future at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he is working on the design of an interplanetary Internet. The research for this project has already benefited reindeer herders, in remote ice covered villages, connect to one another.

Cerf continues to explore new ways to "take this massive information (system- the web) and make it more accessible" to people around the globe. The Internet was an experiment that was launched before it was ever completed; it has grown and changed and is now a critical part of the global communications system. It is an experiment that never ended. Cerf is a true pioneer who embraces change. Vint Cerf passionately believes that all people should benefit from the information revolution. Keeping the information highway an open resource is a priority for this Internet Guru.

With a twinkle in his eye, Vint Cerf explained this process quite simply:

Man plans. God laughs.
&
Life is what happens to you
when you are planning something else.

MY HERO wishes to thank Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, for his important contributions to all humanity.

Page created on 3/1/2015 1:36:44 PM

Last edited 1/9/2017 11:13:49 PM

Related Links

Stanford University Web Site on Vint Cerf
Vinton G. Cerf - Vice President & Chief Internet Evangelist GOOGLE
Vint Cerf - Message to Youth - MY HERO film by Wendy Milette and Jeanne Meyers

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