OHI project interviewed Steve Crocker on 20th September 2019 in Washington, DC.
Steve Crocker was involved in the development of the Internet from the very beginning and is one of the few people who has closely cooperated with four fathers of the Internet. In early 1969, he has participated in the research and development of the earliest node of ARPAnet as a graduate student at UCLA. Later, he created the open-minded style of Internet documentation memos, referred to as the RFCs, and led the creation of the first Internet protocol, NCP. He has chaired the board of ICANN until last year and witnessed the whole 50 years' history of Internet development as well as Internet governance. Except for Vint Cerf, who is the middle school classmate and best friend of Steve Crocker, there is no one could compete with him concerning on the Internet history.
Two years ago, we have already interviewed Steve Crocker once but our conversation was restricted due to the time shortage. On this occasion, we scheduled a two-and-a-half-hour interview to discover more stories from him. The conversation began with his personal growth experiences and his relationships with some key figures in the field of the Internet, such as Frank Heart and Danny Cohen, and also Larry Roberts, who has just passed away.
On the walls of his conference room hanging several whiteboards with historical milestones of Internet development on. He told that he is working with his colleague to sort out the early history of the internet and managing to write a book about it in the future. We believe that Internet inventors are the best writers with their first-hand materials and experiences. We are very much looking forward to reading his book.
Steve Crocker who used to work for Kleinrock (one of the fathers of the Internet), got the invitation from Kleinrock for the celebration of internet’s 50th anniversary at UCLA on October 29th. However, the birthday of the Internet has been under highly debated for a very long time. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn who are both the fathers of the Internet thought that the Internet actually formed after the invention of the TCP/IP which connected different networks, while Leonard Kleinrock and Larry Roberts who are also fathers of the Internet believed that the real start of the Internet was ARPAnet.
From Steve Crocker’s point of view, it was hard to say which party is absolutely right. On one hand, he believed that ARPAnet was the origin of the Internet, and 2019 is absolutely the internet’s 50th anniversary. On the other hand, he still thought that the actual birth date of the Internet can hardly be defined.
Indeed, it was a challenging question, but Steve Crocker did not avoid it, he shared his opinions and comments on both sides which reflected his true frankness and open-mindedness. I thought his answers concerning the birth date of the Internet was undoubtedly the highlight of this precious interview. I totally agreed with him and I believe that it is crucial and struggling to interpret the truth of history honestly and reasonably without being selfish and subjective.
Due to the time limit, we cannot talk thoroughly with him about his 50-years experiences of Internet governance and his stories with ICANN in this interview. Fortunately, Steve Crocker pleasantly agreed to have another appointment in the future.
The interview with Steve Crocker began at 9 am in the morning and ended at nearly 12 pm. After a quick lunch, we still had some time to look around and enjoy the scenery before the next interview. The autumn here was cool and refreshing, I must admit that this moment was a precious gift since we almost have no time to relax during the three days interview in Washington, DC. Our interview schedule is quite intense, we are going to interview 7 people at Washington, DC, in other words, more than 2 people for one day. What a tough task! We are looking forward to having more interviews here in the future.
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