One of the side effects of BT's new tie-in with MCI is that it links it to some of the original innovators on the Internet. Daddy of them all is Vinton Cerf, MCI senior VP of Internet architecture and engineering. As co-inventor of computer networking protocol TCP/IP, which underpins the Internet, he is often asked: "How do you feel about creating this monster?" He laughs at such talk but admits he feels like a modern day Frankenstein. He was one of the founders behind MCI Mail, the first commercial email service, and is now on the US presidential panel reviewing the government's program for "Next Generation Internet".
On a recent visit to London, he outlined his current hopes that the Net will merge smoothly with telephony to create new forms of telesales linked with Web sites. He sees a future where users seamlessly move from Web site to phone call to online order - Web and phone in perfect harmony. The ideas are being developed into what he calls vault architecture, which ensures that intelligence on the Web links with intelligent voice technology.
Despite the problems telephone companies have encountered in the past decade trying to merge telephones and computers, he's confident that telcos will emerge as victors on the Internet scene: "It's all about bandwidth. We have to find ways of increasing the bandwidth and frankly that is the biggest threat to the Web now. If we can't deliver jumps in bandwidth every few years things could get seriously congested."
Cerf fondly remembers the early days of the Net and the Web and says he still marvels at the thinking behind it: "I've seen all the major breakthroughs and hope to see a few more. It wasn't as smooth as it all looks now in retrospect."
So what does he think about today's cyber generation? "They're so lucky. I had to wait until I was 30 before I could mess around with computers. Now its all at their fingertips. I too would have been a hacker if today's technology had been around when I was a kid. It's all so fascinating."
Cerf says his love of engineering began with chemistry sets and taking his mother's washing machine apart: "The problem was that there were always a few parts left over when I put it back together."
Later this year, Cerf will receive a National Medal of Technology from President Clinton for his work on the Internet.
Vinton Cerf photographed by Louis Fabian Bachrach (C).
Geoengineering on the sea floor near glaciers would form a new ice shelf to prevent melting
Alterations in capillary blood flow can be caused by body position change
Curiosity rover is in 'normal mode' but not transmitting scientific data back to base
NatWest outage comes a day after Barclays' IT systems shut out customers and staff