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Internet Pioneers Cerf and Kahn to Receive ACM Turing Award

Team Developed Architecture for Computers to Communicate

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

New York, February 16, 2005  --  ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, has named Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn the winners of the 2004 A.M. Turing Award, considered the "Nobel Prize of Computing," for pioneering work on the design and implementation of the Internet's basic communications protocols. The Turing Award, first awarded in 1966, and named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing, carries a $100,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation. Cerf and Kahn developed TCP/IP, a format and procedure for transmitting data that enables computers in diverse environments to communicate with each other. This computer networking protocol, widely used in information technology for a variety of applications, allows networks to be joined into a network of networks now known as the Internet.

ACM President David Patterson said the collaboration of Cerf and Kahn in defining the Internet architecture and its associated protocols represents a cornerstone of the information technology field. "Their work has enabled the many rapid and accessible applications on the Internet that we rely on today, including email, the World Wide Web, Instant Messaging, Peer-to-Peer transfers, and a wide range of collaboration and conferencing tools. These developments have helped make IT a critical component across the industrial world," he said.

"The Turing Award is widely acknowledged as our industry's highest recognition of the scientists and engineers whose innovations have fueled the digital revolution," said Intel's David Tennenhouse, Vice President in the Corporate Technology Group and Director of Research. "This award also serves to encourage the next generation of technology pioneers to deliver the ideas and inventions that will continue to drive our industry forward. As part of its long-standing support for innovation and incubation, Intel is proud to sponsor this year's Turing Award. As a fellow DARPA alumnus, I am especially pleased to congratulate this year's winners, who are outstanding role models, mentors and research collaborators to myself and many others within the network research community."

Making Networked Computers Communicate

In 1973, Cerf joined Kahn in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now called DARPA) project to link three independent networks into an integrated "network of networks." They sought to develop an open-architecture network model for heterogeneous networks to communicate with each other independent of individual hardware and software configuration, with sufficient flexibility and end-to-end reliability to overcome transmission failures and disparity among the participating networks. Their collaboration led to the realization that a "gateway" (now known as a router) was needed between each network to accommodate different interfaces and route packets of data. This meant designating host computers on a global Internet, for which they introduced the notion of an Internet Protocol (IP) address.

As a graduate student at the University of California at Los Angeles, Cerf had contributed to a host-to-host protocol for ARPA's fledgling packet-switching network known as ARPANET. Kahn, prior to his arrival at ARPA, led the architectural development of the ARPANET packet switches while at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), and had showcased the ARPANET in 1972, at the first International Conference on Computer Communications. ARPANET had already connected some 40 different computers and demonstrated the world's first networked email application.

In May 1974, they published a paper describing a new method of communication called transmission-control protocol (TCP) to route messages or packets of data. Like an envelope containing a letter, TCP broke serial streams of information into pieces, enclosed these pieces in envelopes called "datagrams" marked with standardized "to and from" addresses, and passed them through the underlying network to deliver them to host computers. Only the host computers would "open" the envelope and read the contents.

This networking arrangement allowed for a three-way "handshake" that introduced distant and different computers to each other and confirmed their readiness to communicate in a virtual space. In 1978, Cerf and several colleagues split the original protocol into two parts, with TCP responsible for controlling and tracking the flow of data packets ("letters"), and the Internet Protocol (IP) responsible for addressing and forwarding individual packets ("envelopes"). The new protocol, TCP/IP, has since become the standard for all Internet communications.

Background: Vinton G. Cerf

Dr. Cerf, Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at MCI, is responsible for identifying new technology needed for the development of new products and services. From 1994 to 2003 he served as Senior Vice President for Internet Architecture and Engineering. From 1982-86, he was vice president of MCI Digital Information Services. He joined Kahn as vice president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in 1986, conducting research on information infrastructure technologies. Cerf earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Stanford University in 1965, and a Master of Science degree and Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA in 1972. An ACM Fellow, he has received the Kilby Award, the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, and the Silver Medal of the International Telecommunications Union among many others. He serves as chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and was founding president of the Internet Society from 1992-95. In 1994, People magazine identified him as one of that year's "25 most Intriguing People."

Background: Robert E. Kahn

Dr. Kahn is Chairman, CEO and President of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), a not-for-profit organization for research in the public interest on strategic development of network-based information technologies, which he founded in 1986. He worked with BBN on the system design of the ARPANET before joining ARPA, and prior to that was an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and on the Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories. Kahn received a B.E.E. from the City College of New York and earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University in 1962 and 1964 respectively. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a former member of its Computer Science and Technology Board. An ACM Fellow, he was a member of the President's Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure, and a recipient of the Harry Goode Memorial Award and the Marconi Fellowship. Kahn coined the term "National Information Infrastructure" in the mid-1980s, which later became widely known as the Information Superhighway.

Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn share a number of awards, including the 1991 ACM Software System Award, the 2001 Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering, the 2002 Prince of Asturias Award, and the 1997 National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton. They are both the recipients of numerous honorary degrees.

ACM will present the Turing Award at the annual ACM Awards Banquet on June 11, 2005, in San Francisco, CA.

About the ACM A.M. Turing Award

The A.M. Turing Award was named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing, and who was a key contributor to the Allied cryptanalysis of the German Enigma cipher and the German “Tunny” encoding machine in World War II. Since its inception in 1966, the Turing Award has honored the computer scientists and engineers who created the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information technology industry. Go to for information.

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.