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Vint Cerf kicks off dg.o2002
Visionary's tour of IT's past and future includes "Interplanetary Internet"

dg.o2002 Convenes
vint cerf, photo by mack reed - USC/ISI

WorldCom VP and Internet co-founder Vint Cerf keynotes dg.o2002

Vint Cerf on Monday took researchers at the dg.o2002 conference back in time to the Internet's first stirrings in primitive packet radio experiments, then boomeranged them into the future, when we'll all be watching streaming video from Mars. At least, that is, if the Internet visionary has anything to say about it.

That's right, after briefly sketching how, as a UCLA graduate student, he helped create the TCP/IP protocols that made packets of computer-transmitted information intelligible, Cerf told how he is now off to the stars, or at least the planets.

In a joint project with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he hopes to see pieces of an interplanetary Internet backbone shot into space as soon as the 2003 Rover mission to Mars.

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"By 2009, there should be satellite transmission. We'll carry information through a deep space network to JPL and the public Internet," he said before his keynote address Monday.

Cerf, currently the senior vice president for architecture and technology at WorldCom telephony company, also led the digital government research crowd down a list of nifty little applications popping up on the Internet right now, such as the digital picture frame, which can be instructed to display an ever-changing array of kids' pictures for the grandparents.

Voice recognition telephony is another new app, Cerf said, recounting a recent experience in which an automated United Airlines answering system voice was able to "understand" which flight he was calling to inquire about - and to tell him it was arriving early.

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"That's when I accelerated," Cerf recalled of the rolling automobile conversation.

With web servers now engineered to fit on a couple of chips, it will be "no big deal to Internet-enable anything," Cerf said, predicting convenient Internet phone service, ensemble GIS devices and smart refrigerators in the near future. Be careful your bathroom scale doesn't start talking to your fridge and shut it down, Cerf warned, laughing.

Cerf said security research has to go beyond providing an "armor plate" and extend to intrusion detection and response. He was reluctant to end with a Q & A "because that implies you have the questions and I have the answers ... But discussion is cool."

And discuss the group did, particularly the flagging fortunes of companies like his once high-flying WorldCom, whose stock price has slid from $64 to $1.08 a share. Cerf blamed the government for failing to ensure real competition in the deregulated telephone market, but he also allowed as how the dot-com bust was not a bad thing.

"We're back to Econ 101. Make more money than you spend. Don't mistake capital for revenue," he advised.

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