I was saddened to learn that Vint Cerf, considered a “father of the internet”, contracted COVID-19 in late March. Thankfully, he’s since reported being on the road to recovery. News of his illness came just after we were ordered to shelter-in-place, and the country began waking up to a reality we work-from-home folks have known for many years - fast and reliable internet access is critical for daily life.
Consider the difference between our current pandemic and the Spanish Flu of 1918. To be sure, being stuck at home stinks, but for most of us the internet is making this pandemic much more tolerable - and far less deadly. More tolerable because we have access to nearly unlimited sources of entertainment. Less deadly because we have access to rich sources of information in real time, and we can order food and essentials online versus risking community transmission in a restaurant or store. We’ve become experts on which video calling services are easiest to use, which HD cameras are best, how to set up lighting and a decent backdrop. And while there have been reports of slowdowns due to increased online usage, the internet - based on a concept designed to withstand a nuclear holocaust - has performed admirably and appears well able to be able to handle the added load we’re placing on it.
All of this is courtesy of people like Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Claude Shannon, Paul Baran, Tim Berners-Lee, and Marc Andreessen who led the way in creating the internet. Without them, we’d be sitting at home waiting for the evening news to tell us what’s happening, wondering which stores have food, and able to speak with but not see our colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Tonight, at dinner, before we settle in for an evening of streaming video, let’s all raise a glass and give thanks to the inventors of the internet.
About the Author
David Witkowski is the Executive Director of Joint Venture's Civic Technology Initiatives. You can learn more about David on his bio page.