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flight credit, night drive wallpaper, the wsj’s revionist history of the internet

Otto Lilienthal with his collapsible glider built in 1893. Rathenow, Germany.

Pictures depicting crazies and their flying apparatuses and machines are al over the net. Lilienthal(May 23, 1848 – August 10, 1896) who has been described as “The Father of Flight”  might thus be categorized as such just judging from the photo. Yet starting in 1891 he made many successful glider flights, holding the record for number of successful glides at one point. The Wright brothers would make their first powered flight in 1903. Lilienthal was an influence on the Wright brothers and their designs. Just as Lilienthal has problems with stability and the Wright brothers saw that as a major flaw in emulating his designs for sustained flight. There has been some disagreement as to whether the Wright brothers were actually first in powered flight which I’m not going to get into. One aspect of the Wright brother’s innovations was the fight with Glenn Curtiss over who invented those help the patent for the all important aileron. If you have ever made a paper plane and put little flaps in the wings that could be folded up or down, you made ailerons. because of the years of patent struggles the U.S. approach WW I with less than state of the art aviation or manufacturing capabilities. So much so that we purchased aircraft from France. With World War I underway in 1917, the U.S. government pressured the new aircraft industry to form a cross-licensing organization, to be called the Manufacturers Aircraft Association. Oddly or not, the MAA  acted as a kind of collective, or cooperative if one prefers, in which member companies paid a blanket fee for the use of aviation patents which included the original and subsequent Wright patents. This is in the ball park of how the music industry and its licensing fees to radio work. Even by 1917 the achievements which made the frontier of modern flight possible rested on almost simultaneous developments. Those people who we view today as the famous names in aviation were often times simply faster to the patent office. While Otto Lilienthal and his brother deserve a lot of credit for creating a gliding mechanism that worked, a basic issue of maned flight for centuries, the picture above looks not too dissimilar from the flight machines design by Leonardo da Vinci.

In rereading some history of early aviation for this some of what occurred in the Wright brothers patent fights rubbed up against a prejudice I accumulated in childhood. I’ve een to the Wright brothers museum and stand on the spot where they had their first successful glider flights. They were like childhood heroes. So when I read that some guy named Curtiss says he was first I can fell a little resentment creep up on my view of events. Though if I put on my judges robes and try to judge who deserves credit for the ailerons it is a tough call. I would probably say Curtiss or call it a tie, with some credit also going to someone rarely mentioned in popular accounts of those years – French born American engineer Octave Chanute. He wrote Progress in Flying Machine in 1894, and gave technical and financial support to the Wright brothers. History, innovation, patents, credit – all get messy very fast. I believe in proper credit having experienced other people taking credit for my work and my innovation, abet at a much less revolutionary level than the pioneers of aviation. Its weird to see people steal credit. Should I speak up. Will I appear petty – especially in work places that empathize a “team” culture. I would not have had any financial windfall, though such things are considered at many companies during yearly salary reviews. Though all I wanted was simple credit. Though to be clear what I deserved credit for was not something derived out of the ether and was never purely the result of my own invention. I could not have had those ideas without my third grade teacher who made me want to increase my vocabulary and be aware of spelling. Or my middle-school teacher who came up to my desk after asking a question that no one in the class wanted to answer and plead, really you have no ideas, no opinions what so ever about what Poe was trying to say. There were other teachers, professors, co-workers, fiction and non-fiction writers, and the writers and works they referenced in their writing. There was all the people I’ve known and learned from – some in a positive way, some as a kind of example about how not to be. I didn’t grow up in a glass dome sealed off from the world, escaped one day and had ideas that made their first appearance on earth when I took pencil to mini-legal pad. So I always felt that being too obsessive about my ideas was as out of place as someone stealing them. In an age where obnoxious arrogant twits like Donald Trump and Mitt Romney brag out of all proportion to anything that have accomplished and any ideas they’ve had, modest people, people with just the average amount of humility are out of style.

Factlet: On October 7, 1908, Edith Berg, the wife of the brothers’ European business agent, became the first American woman passenger when she flew with Wilbur.

city at night, highway lights

night drive wallpaper

That super brief trip int the history of late 18th and early 19th century flight brings us to this, Who Really Invented the Internet? by Gordon Crovitz.

A telling moment in the presidential race came recently when Barack Obama said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He justified elevating bureaucrats over entrepreneurs by referring to bridges and roads, adding: “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet.”

It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet. The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike. The truth is a more interesting story about how innovation happens—and about how hard it is to build successful technology companies even once the government gets out of the way.

“Gordon Crovitz is a media and information industry advisor and executive, including former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, executive vice president of Dow Jones and president of its Consumer Media Group.” Just his name and the word hack would be an honest summation for Gordon’s resume. The Government created the internet – using the word “launched” seems strange, perhaps to give himself some plausible  deniability later. He is putting words and new meanings into what Obama said.  All of the ingredients – the technology and history, and every individual that touched that creation would fill a book or two, and has. One of the reason the net was created was the military’s fear of loss of communication should the Cold War become hot (The birth of ARPAnet). That is a relatively simple fact. He provides no documentation for this bizarre historical revisionism.

1961 First packet-switching papers
1966 Merit Network founded
1966 ARPANET planning starts
1969 ARPANET carries its first packets
1970 Mark I network at NPL (UK)
1970 Network Information Center (NIC)
1971 Merit Network’s packet-switched network operational
1971 Tymnet packet-switched network
1972 Internet Assigned Numbers


The net or ARPAnet would not have been possible without computers and computing, which has its own complex history. One in which governments played at large role. Gordon also writes,

But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks.

The Ethernet is an important piece of technology in computer networking. That is great, and good for Xerox for building on technology originally called ALOHAnet. ALOHAnet was developed at the University of Hawaii – one of those publicly funded thingys that gov’mint does. Has Gordon ever heard the saying, popular in science circle, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Why do we have an Ethernet today where someone’s old Windows 98 PC can talk with someone’s brand new MacBook? Because the bad old gov’mint in partnership with private business, created standards. Standards, the concept of standards are an interesting issue involving private enterprise and government cooperation in themselves. I’d suggest Gordon check out a couple of books on the subject but it would just be a waste of reading light. It is not just my take on history here, but the very same source that Gordon’ cites as his authority, WSJ’s Crovitz: “Creating The Internet” And Getting Everything Wrong

To back this up, Crovitz cited Michael Hiltzik’s book Dealers Of Lightning. Hiltzik responded to Crovitz’s column this morning and said that Crovitz got everything completely wrong:

And while I’m gratified in a sense that he cites my book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning,” to support his case, it’s my duty to point out that he’s wrong. My book bolsters, not contradicts, the argument that the Internet had its roots in the ARPANet, a government project. So let’s look at where Crovitz goes awry.

First, he quotes Robert Taylor, who funded the ARPANet as a top official at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, as stating, “The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.” (Taylor eventually moved to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, where he oversaw the invention of the personal computer, and continued promoting research into networking.)

But Crovitz confuses AN internet with THE Internet. Taylor was citing a technical definition of “internet” in his statement. But I know Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor is a friend of mine, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today.

There is a legitimate question as to when “the internet” as we come to know it today first appeared on the scene. But, again, that’s not what Obama was talking about. He said that government research led to the internet’s creation. The government-created Arpanet, while not “the internet,” was what made the internet possible in that it was the basis from which all the tech legends lionized by Crovitz did their innovating.

Indeed, Robert Taylor — who, in Crovitz’s retelling gets “full credit” for creating the internet — said as much. Crovitz quoted a 2004 email in which Taylor wrote: “The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.” Here’s the part of that email Crovitz left out: “The ARPAnet was not an internet.  An internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.  The ARPAnet, with help from thousands of people, slowly evolved into the Internet.  Without the ARPAnet, the Internet would have been a much longer time in coming.”

So that’s pretty dishonest of Crovitz.

The general issue of who deserves credit for what in western society, the U.S. urgently so is getting a lot of attention. Gordon’s side wants to make the ridiculous case that only private enterprise creates anything. Even with the commercial internet we all use, the technological backbone came out of publicly  funded research. Individuals deserve credit. Some institutions – public labs and universities deserve credit. Finally private enterprise deserves some credit for yes, making it another engine of commerce. Why not this crazy philosophy, Gordon and like-minded zealots may have heard this in passing, credit where due. That means everywhere it is due. Some of us grew up hearing about concepts like modesty, merit, fairness. Who knows what happened, what trauma occurred to the lone inventor believers, the John Galt worshipers that they have become so desperate to create new mythologies.

fostercare – burial

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