Thursday, February 17, 2005

Will the Engineer step into the light?

Finally, Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn win the Turing Award.

For those who come in late, the Turing Award is the equivalent of the Nobel prize in Computer Science. It is the accolade for a computer scientist to win.

Cerf and Kahn are well-known in networking circles for having been the inventors of the TCP and IP protocols, the plumbing on which this Internet of today runs. What is most remarkable is that the underlying design of the protocols is still the same, almost 25 years later. No major changes in the protocols have been needed to make them work for an ever-increasing number of systems. Of course, it has undergone changes ( look at TCP Tahoe, Reno, or New Reno on Google or CiteSeer or somewhere), but the underlying design is still the same.

The Turing award has historically had a bias towards theory and algorithms (though the inventors of Unix and the RSA algorithm have been among winners). It's great to see some real-world engineering get recognition. As this NYT article says, the Internet does have many fathers, but IMO, these are a pair that deserve all the accolades they get. Try writing something technical that's still useful for a billion people after over 20 years.

For the uber-geek, RFC 791 and 793 .

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