20 Who made it possible: Vinton Cerf

20 Who made it possible: Vinton Cerf


FRAMINGHAM (10/02/2002) - VINTON CERF Senior Vice President of Architecture and Technology

WorldCom Inc.

Vinton Cerf, the coinventor of TCP/IP, is the subject of dozens of media profiles. His views about technology are referenced and dissected in hundreds of Usenet messages. Politicians ask his advice. He is chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which manages the technical details of the Internet. Strangers send him e-mail describing how they tracked down long-lost family members online.

Last June, he had to fly to a meeting instead of helping Sigrid, his wife of 36 years, finish packing for a move to their new house west of Washington, D.C. "I did pack my sock drawer," he volunteers a bit sheepishly. "I can't think of anyone else who would put up with me."

He owes his frenetic pace in part to his continued stewardship of the Internet, almost 30 years after he and Robert Kahn talked through its first schematic. Dismissing the days of dotcom greed, Cerf says, "there is still an underlying core of people committed to the Net as an idea." From a user's perspective, he says, "there continues to be a surprising amount of interest and willingness to put information on the Net simply to share it."

Denying Paternity

Though he often gets credit for being the Father of the Internet, Vinton Cerf won't take it. "The Internet is an enormous, grand collaboration of people who were all swept up in a common belief that this kind of network could make a huge difference," he says. He counts many of his Internet colleagues among the people he most admires, including the late Jonathan Postel. He was, Cerf says, "modest and always trying to do the right thing."

His natural stamina keeps him going. "He used to get up at 6 in the morning to go marching around with ROTC, and we'd have been working until midnight or 1 in the morning on some project," recalls childhood friend Stephen Crocker, who went to high school with Cerf in Van Nuys, Calif.

Although Cerf, 59, continues to focus on the Internet for Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom, he manages to find some time to relax (perhaps with his favorite wine, a 1970 Beaulieu Vineyards George LaTour Special Reserve Cabernet). But he can't sit still.

His latest project? Helping NASA build an interplanetary version of the Internet.

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