Here's what President Barack Obama said:
"The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet."And Slate, plus legions of others, jumped on the old meme that the Internet grew out of Arpanet, and is a government invention:
Rather than founded on the independent spirit of the Wright Brothers, the Internet is literally the bastard offspring of a government civil defense program and European physics research consortium.The problem? Both Slate and the President are full of shit.
First, consider what Robert Taylor, who actually directed Arpanet, said way back in 2004:
"The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks."Then who did actually invent the internet?
Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet's backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.
But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks. Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto) and the graphical user interface that still drives computer usage today.And the government (specifically the National Science Foundation, which was actually the only part of the government ever seriously involved in the development of the Internet), what did the government do?
Nothing, as it turns out:
As for the government's role, the Internet was fully privatized in 1995, when a remaining piece of the network run by the National Science Foundation was closed—just as the commercial Web began to boom. Blogger Brian Carnell wrote in 1999: "The Internet, in fact, reaffirms the basic free market critique of large government. Here for 30 years the government had an immensely useful protocol for transferring information, TCP/IP, but it languished. . . . In less than a decade, private concerns have taken that protocol and created one of the most important technological revolutions of the millennia."The government did not create the Internet. And to paraphrase Jesse Jackson on Ronald Reagan, if Mr. Obama knew that the government didn't invent the Internet and made that speech anyway, that's bad. But if Mr. Obama, as President of the United States, didn't know the story of how the Internet was invented, that's a whole lot worse.