...Redifining Journalism for Development

Breakthrough with Prof. MK Othman: Recognizing the second generation inventors (1)


My 5 – series of articles titled “Recognizing the First Generation Inventors” were published between Friday 21st July and Friday, 29th September 2017. The article was aimed at inspiring new inventors within our society despite our developmental challenges. My readers may recall that the epistle started with a Utopian scenario: “imagine a land or situation whereby all your wishes are met effortless courtesy of technological facilities, available and accessible to you. Imagine a driver-less car, you enter with your wish of travelling to a choice destination in your mind, the car simply drives you and stop at exact point you had in your mind without making any effort. On the other hand, let us imagine another scenario, opposite to first one; the present technological facilities making our lives easier and happier cease to function. No telephone to speak with others few kilometers away from us, no plane to crisscross the continents, no car to travel long distances, no weapon of mass destruction, and many other things making our lives comfortable, enjoyable and sometimes fearful”.
The import of the article were to appreciate the inventors, educate the society and show that inventors succeeded out of personal dedication and utmost commitments to bring out the hidden, God – given talent to achieve breakthrough.
The list of first generation inventors and their achievements cannot be exhaustive as their works cut across all spheres of human endeavors. However, salient achievements were showcased from communication (paper, writing, etc) to transportation (bicycle to plane), which spanned over six thousand years (4400 BC to the eighteenth century).
Those early inventions were modified and made more efficient and cost effective. For instance, the first ever-controlled flight (1700 AD) flew for only 12 seconds over a distance of 37 m. This was then the greatest achievement. It is mind boggling when the snail speed plane of the 1700s is compared to today’s plane which could carry over 500 people with their personal belongings and move with amazing speed of a thousand or so kilometers per hour, faster than speed of sound – a supersonic speed as physicists will call it. In addition to efficiency, there are other totally new inventions, which are very amazing and extremely useful to human race. The inventors of these modern facilities are second-generation inventors.  The most miraculous invention in human history under this category is the “internet”. Who was (were) the inventor(s) of Internet?
Historically, Internet was not invented by a single individual but was a product of aggregation of efforts made by many people in USA, UK and France over a period of several years. A journal paper entitled “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” published in 1948 authored by Claude Shannon (1916–2001) gave impetus to a formal way of studying communication channels as cited by Wikipedia. The article established fundamental limits on the efficiency of communication over noisy channels, and presented the challenge of finding families of codes to achieve a greater capacity. The message conveyed by the article led to the work of Leonard Kleinrock who published his result in a Journal entitled “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets” in 1961.

Robert (Bob) Elliot Kahn

Leonard’s article provided the necessary clue for the invention of Internet. Before eventual Internet invention. Robert Taylor used the Leonard idea to create a communication network called “ARPANET”. It was an acronym of Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. ARPANET was a Wide Area Network linking many Universities and research centers. It was the beginning of what we consider today as “Internet”. ARPANET was created to make it easier for people to access computers, improve computer equipment, and to have a more effective communication method for the military. ARPANET first came into existence when the first two nodes were established between University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)and Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1969, which was followed shortly by the University of Utah.The networks based on the ARPANET were government funded and therefore restricted to noncommercial uses such as research.  Unrelated commercial use of the system was strictly forbidden and thus,the larger society was not even aware of the invention. Therefore, ARPANET was restricted connections to military sites and universities. During the 1980s, the connections expanded to more educational institutions, and even to a growing number of companies such as Digital Equipment Corporation and Hewlett-Packard, which were participating in research projects or providing services or support to such projects. The term “Internet” was first adopted in December 1974 as an abbreviation of the term internetworking and the two terms were used interchangeably. In general, an Internet is any network using Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP). The Internet is a global connection of various networks, which allows communication between any two computers globally.
As interest in networking grew and new applications for it were developed, the Internet’s technologies spread throughout the rest of the world. The network-agnostic approach in TCP/IP meant that it was easy to use any existing network infrastructure to carry Internet traffic. On July 3, 1969. University of California, Los Angeles presented a press release with the formal introduction of the Internet to the general public. Twenty years later, in 1989, the first commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the USA was introduced, it was then known as “The World”.
Vin Garry

In Africa, a privately owned company called InfoMail Uganda, Ltd. first introduced Internet in Kampala, Uganda in 1995. In 1996, a USAID funded project, the Leland Initiative, started work on developing full Internet connectivity for the African continent. Guinea, Mozambique, Madagascar and Rwanda had satellite earth stations in 1997, followed by Ivory Coast and Benin in 1998. The satellite stations facilitated the introduction of Internet in major towns of the African continent.
As the development of Internet continued to flourish, more interests were generated, which brought in many inventors who added value to the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee was among the Internet – Value – Addition inventor. He introduced the popular acronym “www” (World Wide Web)to the public on August 23, 1991. The “www” is a series of sites and pages that are connected with links.The world wide web consists of billions of pages linked to each other that contain text, graphics, multimedia files, and other interactive software that are accessed using a browser.
Other equally important contributions to making the Internet an efficient communication tool are Java and JavaScript. These are computer-programming language. Java was initially called “oak”, It was developed by James Gosling and his team at Sun Microsystems in 1995. Today, Java is still being used to create Internet applications and other software programs. Similarly, Brendan Eich developed JavaScript in 1995. It was initially called LiveScript. It was released with Netscape Navigator 2.0 and renamed to JavaScript with Netscape Navigator 2.0B3. JavaScript is an interpreted client-side scripting language that allows a web designer the ability to insert code into their web page.
Still the question of who made giant contribution to the invention of the Internet needs an answer. The answer to this question was provided by www.computerhope.com “If you had to isolate the key inventors of the Internet, it would have to be two people: Vinton Gray and Robert Kahn”. Vinton Gray nicknamed, as “Vint Cerf” is an American computer scientist, who is referred to as one of “the fathers of the Internet.” He was instrumental in the development of the first commercial email system, which was connected to the Internet. He worked with the networking group that connected the first two nodes of the ARPANet, the predecessor to the Internet, and “contributed to a host-to-host protocol” for the ARPANet. He was the founder/co-founder of the Internet Society in 1992. He worked for Google as a Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist since September 2005. Robert (Bob) Elliot Kahn is another American Computer Scientist who is an Internet pioneer, engineer, and computer scientist. Alongside Mr. Vinton Gray,they invented the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which is the fundamental communication protocol at the heart of the Internet.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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