ATN Profiles Dr. Vinton Cerf: Co-Founding Father of the Internet
"Universal usability for everyone not accessibity, should be the goal of anyone making products or providing services for veryone," Dr. Cerf said.
I met Dr. Vinton Cerf two decades when I was writing a weekly column for Business Week On-line Magazine titled Assistive Technology. My editor Doug Hambrecht wanted me to interview Dr. Cerf. So did I. Dr. Cerf’s Chief of staff Carla LaFever arranged the interview. Dr. Cerf was working for MC I. I knew I was going to interview one of the world’s most renowned scientists. I had read that his peers called him the “Albert Einstein of the last quarter of the 20th century. “ I knew President Bill Clinton had presented Dr. Cerf and Dr. Kahn the National Medal of Technology. I knew Dr. Cerf was one of the two co-designers of the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), the heart of the Internet. Bob Kahn is the other Founding Father. I knew Dr. Cerf was partially deaf and had been since birth.
I knew Dr. Cerf is deaf and had been since birth. I had read that a motivator behind Dr. Cerf’s developing TCP was his frustration with communicating with other researchers developing internet communications protocols.
I have seen the power and the splendor that accompany Chairman of the Board (COB) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). Their offices that I visited were huge and filled with plaques honoring their achievements. Photos of COBSCEO’s with Presidents of the United States, Senators, Governors and foreign political leaders cluttered their walls. They had big staffs and big expense accounts. They wore expensive clothes and had chauffeured driven cars. They ate at the best restaurants, travelled on company and had the best seats at sports events. Their egos were bigger than the Empire State Building.
I never expected to meet, one-half of a team whose work changed the way the world communicates. For the first time in the world of computers tens of millions of computers and devices were connected to each other. Letters travelled tens of thousands of miles in seconds. Information was more readily available and cheaper to get. The Internet was available to everyone who had access to a computer
I did not have a clear picture in my mind of what kind of man Vinton Cerf was. Was he vain? Was he ill tempered? Would his office walls be cluttered with plagues honoring his contributions to science? My image of Dr. Cerf was caught off guard when I entered his office. I saw only one person. It was his Chief of Staff Carla LaFever. She is still his chief of staff. I introduced myself to her. She took me into Dr. Cerf’s office. It was small and without grandeur trappings. His walls were practically bare. He was the senior vice president of Technology Strategy for MCI responsible for guide corporate strategy development from the technical perspective. He welcomes me as though we were long-time friends. He asked me questions about myself and then told me h was ready for the interview. He allotted 30 minutes for the interview. He answered all of my questions. When I was finished, he invited me back
`` From my first meeting with Dr. Cerf to the present, I have never met anyone who has accomplished so much in one lifetime. His scientific accomplishments are revered
universally. His peers have honored him with numerous awards for his achievements in technical importance to the computer field, communications, the advancement of engineering, and educating the public in engineering, outstanding contributions to telecommunications, his lifetime contribution to the field of communication networks and his work to promote peace and prosperity for all mankind.
Among his many achievements, Cerf served on the board of Gallaudet University and supported computer-building programs for deaf students. The deaf and hard of hearing community are proud to call him one of them.
Dr. Cerf is committed to advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He wants to replace the term accessibility with usability. Products should be made so that everyone can use them.
In the 20 years I have known him, Dr Cerf has never talked about his accomplishments. He has never bragged about the honors he has received. He does not see himself as a king in his field. He has shown me his humanitarianism and humility.
At a recent buffet breakfast, I was standing behind Dr. Cerf. He turned around and saw I was diskinectic. (Having Parkinson’s disease, my body was performing involuntary movements). I would have had difficulty filling my plate and walking over to the table .without spilling the food on the floor. He asked, “John, may I serve you.”
I was not surprised at his offer.
He took my plate and said, “Tell me what you want.”
After filling my plate, he escorted me to the table. He put my plate in front of me, got me a glass of juice and went back to get his breakfast. He sat next to me during breakfast. Ten other people sat at the same table. He was one of the group. He listened to stores. He asked questions. He answered questions. He laughed. H e told stories. Watching Dr. Cerf assimilate himself into a group consisting of advocates for people with disabilities, teachers, manufacturers and the media, I thought sitting to my left is one of the greatest scientific and mathematical minds in the world. He has dined with U.S. presidents, European Royalty, fellow scientists of his stature and other notable people. At this moment, he has assimilated himself with people who are not his intellectual equals. Who will never reach his stature and who will never live the many lives he has in one lifetime.
He is a man for everyone and every occasion. He is a pioneer, teacher, visionary, an international renowned scientist, a change maker, a revolutionary, an inventor, an advocate for disability inclusiveness and a progressive thinker. He is a man without vanity. A humble man committed to improving the quality of life for everyone through technology.
Dr. Vinton Cerf is the most accomplished and humblest person I have ever met.
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"I tell my engineers at Google, it's easy to develop something that's hard to oprate. It's harder to make a product easier to leanr to operate, Vinton Cerf said
ATN Profiles Vinton Cerf, Co-Founding Father of the Internet
"Usability for everyone, not accessibility, should be our goal when developng new products," said. Dr. Cerf.
By John M. Williams
"Usability for everyone,, not accessibility, should be our goal when developing products," Dr. Cerf