Net’s Founding Father Dr Larry Roberts Dies Aged 81

The original computer was invented to do repetitive calculations quickly and accurately. Later it became a device to not only do calculations but also store information and save space and the first internet was created to transmit that stored information from one computer to another on a networked system and Dr. Lawrence Roberts had an integral part of bringing that together.

Lawrence Gilman Roberts, who was born on December 21, 1937, was an American scientist who received the Draper Prize in 2001 “for the development of the Internet,” died on December 26, 2018.  He was 81 years old.

Roberts was born to parents who both earned doctorates in chemistry.  In his youth, according to Wikipedia, he built a Tesla coil, assembled a television, and designed a telephone network built from transistors for his parents’ Girl Scout camp.

Roberts attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his bachelor’s degree (1959), master’s degree (1960), and Ph.D. (1963), all in electrical engineering. He chose electronics because he thought it was forward looking and new, not old like chemistry, as he once told a reporter with the New York Times.

During his years of study at MIT he worked at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, (a US military research and development center) and continued to do so after receiving his PhD. 

Then in 1967 he was recruited by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to manage its Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) and was assigned the project of creating the computer network which was to be called ARPANET, the forerunner of today’s internet system.

ARPANET, under Robert’s leadership, developed the original technological foundation (which is still being used by the internet today) for computers to communicate with each other on one network

Two key developments in the creation of ARPNET are attributed to Roberts.  First was the distributed layout for the elements of the network rather than a centralized system.  Then he decided that data should be split into small chunks of packets as it travelled to its destination.  This would later be referred to the packet-switching system which was developed by Donald Davies of the UK.  Packet-switching, a method for effectively transmitting electronics data would become the building block of the internet.

In 1969 the first four computers (which were gigantic at that time) were connected to ARPANET and as universities and research institutions joined in it began to grow rapidly.

Another thing that Dr. Roberts is credited for is coming up with the ides of email.  He wanted ARPANET to be used practically and the use of email he also believed would improve communications and collaboration.

In 1970, the transmission control protocol (TCP) and internet protocol (IP) were developed and together TCP/IP became the model for network communication for not just computers communicating with each other but networksof computers communicating with each other.

In 1983, both ARPANET and the US Department of Defense adopted the TCP/IP model and as a result ARPANET was immersed into the larger internet and became one part of a greater network.  

Then in 1990 the World Wide Web was invented by another computer scientist and now we have the internet as we know it today!