Which Of These Internet Pioneers Was Pivotal In Creating A Decentralized, Communication-Centered Internet?
Answer: Robert Taylor
Today it seems like an absolutely elementary concept: geographically distant computer networks are the most useful when they are all connected. It’s the fundamental underpinning of the Internet as we now know it: thousands of small networks around the world linked together into a greater network. It’s what makes sharing everything from scientific research to pictures of your cat incredibly easy and lightning fast.
In the early days of computing, however, networks were in their own little silos. Early Internet pioneer Robert Taylor had a vision to change that. In the 1960s, Taylor moved from a position at NASA to a position at ARPA, the Advanced Research Project Agency run by the United States Department of Defense and the incubator for the early Internet. While there and working with various projects, Taylor found himself pondering how isolated all the ARPA computers were. His office had terminal connections to various mainframes around the country that were part of the ARPA system, but those systems were all functioning in isolation from each other with users on, say, the Berkley node never coming into contact with users on the MIT node.
Under Taylor’s guidance, the ARPANET project took form and the various ARPA computer networks around the country were retrofitted with dedicated nodes designed to link all of them together in what would become the proto-Internet. While many other early Internet pioneers were critical to the development of the Internet as we know it (like Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn’s contribution of the TCP/IP protocol), Taylor deserves a special place in the history of the Internet for his vision to bring computers, coast-to-coast, together in a cohesive and decentralized communication network.