ACM 2005 Turing Award

The ACM turing award ceremony was held on Monday, August 22, 2005 and the webcast can be found here. Below is my report.

Assessing the Internet
Lessons Learned, Strategies for Evolution, and Future Possibilities

The lecture started out with Vinton Cerf talking about open architecture where the network has to find interfaces, protocols and objects thus enabling plug and play. He added “The internet is a logical architecture, and the effort to link systems produces something that is not itself”. A few points I noted that can sum up the talk.

  • Layering is a very effective implementation strategy but is often misconstrued as a requirement. Also each layer is a stair step for people to interface with it.
  • The concept of TCP/IP enables creativity and gives rise to further developments as the packets only need to know the start and destination points.
  • There is a need to link nets together as well as the need to have systems self configured. Not to forget Cerf’s idea of “the Edge” of the Net, this was supported by SIGCOMM Chair Lyman Chapin.
  • One cannot foresee an architectural change in the Internet but people are no longer interested in the architecture of the internet. It’s the functioning that matters to most and not how it functions.
  • Cerf and Kahn both stressed on “Creeping incrementalism” where the Internet is incrementally evolvable and improvable.
  • Kahn used analogies from physics where like in Computer Science, the Physics timeline had key points where major upheavals had occurred.
  • There were mentions of “uniqueness & commonality” and how can I forget “interplanetary internet”!
  • Challenges in security were talked upon and this gave a way for the word ‘terrorism’ to find its way into an ACM lecture.
  • Lastly, the speakers cited the “everything is connected” nature of the internet that has two faces. This being the driving reason for VPNs.
  • This was followed by audience questions; the best being “Is there a way to shut down the Internet?”

In my opinion one of main the reasons for the adoption of TCP/IP protocols was the lack of intellectual property claims (patent) by Cerf and Kahn. ‘It was an open standard that we would allow anyone to have access to without any constraints’ was what once Kahn said. The internet is certainly a marvel and all the best things in the world are those that are just left there for others to benefit from.

PS: It’s 5:30 AM here, am i mad?