“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,'” L. Gordon Crovitz writes for The Wall Street Journal. “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.”
“The federal government was involved, modestly, via the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Its goal was not maintaining communications during a nuclear attack, and it didn’t build the Internet,” Crovitz writes. “Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, sent an email to fellow technologists in 2004 setting the record straight: ‘The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.'”
“If the government didn’t invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet’s backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks,” Crovitz 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.”
“So having created the Internet, why didn’t Xerox become the biggest company in the world? The answer explains the disconnect between a government-led view of business and how innovation actually happens,” Crovitz writes. “Executives at Xerox headquarters in Rochester, N.Y., were focused on selling copiers. From their standpoint, the Ethernet was important only so that people in an office could link computers to share a copier. Then, in 1979, Steve Jobs negotiated an agreement whereby Xerox’s venture-capital division invested $1 million in Apple, with the requirement that Jobs get a full briefing on all the Xerox PARC innovations. ‘They just had no idea what they had,’ Jobs later said, after launching hugely profitable Apple computers using concepts developed by Xerox.”
Crovitz writes, “As for the government’s role, the Internet was fully privatized in 1995, when a remaining piece of the network run by the National Science Foundation was closed — just as the commercial Web began to boom. Blogger Brian Carnell wrote in 1999: ‘The Internet, in fact, reaffirms the basic free market critique of large government. Here for 30 years the government had an immensely useful protocol for transferring information, TCP/IP, but it languished… In less than a decade, private concerns have taken that protocol and created one of the most important technological revolutions of the millennia.'”
Read more in the full article here.
[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]
Mitt Romney: Does President Obama think Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple? – July 18, 2012