UW-Madison professor honored for early '80s computer network - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW-Madison professor honored for early '80s computer network

MADISON (WKOW) -- A University of Wisconsin-Madison computer science professor is being honored by the Internet Society for his work on the Computer Science Network (CSNET).

Before the modern Internet came into being, Lawrence Landweber helped build CSNET in the early 1980s. The network brought together computer science researchers in university and private settings in the same way a handful of sites had participated in the Defense Department's ARPANET.

The Internet Society is awarding Landweber the 2009 Jonathan B. Postel Award for his work on the project.

"In 1979, I realized it was really important for the computer science department here to be on a network, either the ARPANET or another network," says Landweber. "So we got a bunch of folks together, put together a CSNET plan and proposed it to the National Science Foundation."

Landweber had to be persistent.

"People didn't necessarily believe in 1980 that the Internet, or any network, was the way to go," Landweber says. "We were turned away once, twice, three times before we received funding."

UW-Madison computer science professor Marvin Solomon and research associate Michael Litzkow developed the network's name server, which is an early example of a distributed directory service to guide network communications. By 1985, the network grew to include close to 200 universities and companies and tens of thousands of users. It also encouraged and supported connections to nascent computer networks in countries including Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Israel.

President and CEO of the Internet Society, Lynn St. Amour, says CSNET helped set the stage for the Internet that currently reaches over one billion people.

"CSNET's community-driven, self-sustaining governance structure was an early example of the model that helps ensure that even as today's Internet grows and evolves, it remains an open platform for innovation around the world," St. Amour said in the society's award announcement.

CSNET collaborators Peter Denning of Purdue University, David Farber of the University of Delaware, and Anthony Hearn of RAND Corporation are being honored alongside Landweber.

The Postel Award recognizes sustained and substantial technical contributions, community service, and leadership.

For more information about the Internet Society, click here.

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