• May 22, 1945
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

An IBM computer scientist who developed RSCS (later known as VNET), fundamental software that powered the world’s largest network (or network of networks) prior to the Internet and which directly influenced both Internet development and user acceptance of networking between independently managed organizations. Within IBM, the resulting network later became known as VNET and grew to 4000 nodes. In the academic community, VNET formed the base for BITNET which extended to 500 organizations and 3,000 nodes. VNET was also the networking design underpinning EARN in Europe, NETNORTH in Canada, and USENET/UUNET at numerous universities. Born in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June, 1967 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. He began graduate studies with networking pioneer J. C. R. Licklider, but, impressed by the groundbreaking computer work being done nearby at the IBM Cambridge Scientific Center (CSC), he joined their staff in March 1968. As an undergraduate, he visited the MIT student employment center where he was offered the position of computer operator, running an IBM System/360 model 65 computer. He was rapidly promoted to Systems Programmer. When IBM added a 2250 video display to the 360/65, he looked for a project to learn how to program it. Upstairs in the same building, Steve Russell had created “Spacewar!” the first computer game, using a DEC PDP-1 computer. He wrote his own game, also named “Spacewar!” which was the first computer video game to run on an IBM Computer. For several years, MIT used his version of “Spacewar!” at their Annual Open House, making it possibly the first video game ever to be seen (and played) by the general public. At IBM, he worked with the team that had developed the world’s first virtual machine operating systems, CP/CMS. A key problem with this new software architecture was finding a way to expand the functions of the system without significantly increasing the size of the hypervisor (control program). He developed the concept of a service virtual machine, implemented in a simple communications system named CPREMOTE. In 1971, Norman Rasmussen, founder and manager of IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center, asked him to find a way for the CSC machine to communicate with machines at IBM’s other Scientific Centers. He and Tim Hartmann, of the IBM Technology Data Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, produced RSCS, which went into operation within IBM in 1973. RSCS was later renamed and released to IBM customers as the VM/370 Networking PRPQ in 1975. The importance of this subsystem as a component of VM has been described by Robert Creasy. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1974, IBM announced System Network Architecture (SNA) as its official communications strategy. SNA was incompatible with VNET and with many of the networking ideas being developed for what would be called the Internet, particularly with TCP/IP. He and others lobbied vigorously within IBM for a change in direction, but were rebuffed. In 1976, MIT Professor Jerry Saltzer accompanied him to DARPA, where he described his innovations to the principal scientist, Dr. Vinton G. Cerf. Cerf had come to ARPA from Stanford to run the Internet research program. By the time he arrived, TCP was already in its third iteration of design and implementation. Jon Postel's Internet Experiment Note (IEN) #2 of August 1977 argued for splitting the TCP functions into two layers and outlined the design of the lower layer Internet Protocol (IP) that took a "datagram" approach as had been advocated by Louis Pouzin at IRIA in the CIGALE network. While his ideas were consistent with this view, they were not the basis or rationale for the creation of the Internet Protocol. That impetus came from strong arguments by Danny Cohen and Jon Postel at USC-ISI and David P. Reed from MIT who advocated for a low delay, if unreliable, datagram mode of operation. From this debate emerged the Internet Protocol and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) [RFC 768]. The result developed into the Internet as we know it today. In the late 1970s, VNET was much larger than the ARPAnet/Internet as measured in the number of computers connected. In 1981, when the ARPAnet began converting to TCP/IP, there were about 250 ARPAnet nodes and 1000 VNET nodes. He and others had proposed the interconnection of the two networks. Turing Award winner Jim Gray, then at IBM, thought the VNET/ARPAnet linkup would be "absolutely wonderful - with no downside except security risks, which were containable." IBM management declined. In 1977, he received an IBM "Outstanding Achievement Award," for the "VM/370 Networking PRPQ," and the IBM internal network. He left the CSC in July 1977, joining the IBM San Jose Research Laboratory. In 1983, unable to convince IBM management to support his networking ideas for joining VNET and TCP/IP, he left IBM and worked as an independent consultant for several years. He then joined the Linkabit Corporation, and later became one of the very earliest employees at ViaSat in Carlsbad, CA. He now lives in San Diego, CA. RSCS was sold as a product by IBM until May, 2008, when it was repackaged as an optional feature with the z/VM operating system. A children’s book App, “It's Cool to be Clever” was developed by Agio Studios at Agio Publishing House. It targets kids 6 and up, and tells his story: “of an inquisitive schoolboy in the 1950s who is bullied because he is so smart. He finds comfort in an imaginary world where he has machine parts, and no biological organs or emotions. Years later, his strange capacity to "think like a machine" helps him create a way for computers to communicate.” It goes on to tell how later he went to MIT and IBM, and invented “connectionless” network design, which is used in today’s Internet. In addition to the story itself, the App also includes some good information on teaching a genius child and fighting bullies. He narrates the story written by Leanne Jones author/composer of its original musical score.
  • Date of Birth:

    May 22, 1945
  • Noted For:

    Developer of RSCS (later known as VNET), fundamental software that powered the world’s largest network (or network of networks) prior to the Internet
  • Category of Achievement:

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