Thursday, January 12, 2012

(empo-tymshft) Al Gore's initiative

Let's start with the famous quote, from an interview of then Vice President Al Gore by Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.

Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?

GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I've seen during that experience is an emerging future that's very exciting, about which I'm very optimistic, and toward which I want to lead.

As we all know, Al Gore did not create the Internet, any more than Tim Berners-Lee did. But what did Gore do to advance the Internet?

Gore certainly has a long-standing interest in futurist issues. Gore, along with Newt Gingrich, was an early member of the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, an organization which grew out of an Alvin Toffler conference. Of course, Gore had a number of interests:

Gore's passion for technological issues, from biomedical research and genetic engineering to the environmental impact of the "greenhouse effect," linked him with other technophiles on Capitol Hill known as "Atari Democrats."

By the late 1980s, the Internet was actively linking a number of agencies, but it was about as efficient as the U.S. road system in the 1940s. The parallel is significant - Gore's father had participated in the effort to create the U.S. Interstate Highway System, and now the son began to actively campaign for a new highway system.

In 1986, Gore introduced S 2594, the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986. But things really began rolling when the 1988 report Toward a National Research Network was released. In 1991, Gore introduced S 272, the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. Despite previous failures to get a bill through both houses of Congress, the 1991 bill passed and was signed by President George H.W. Bush.

One result of the act was easy to document: Marc Andreessen's creation of the Mosaic web browser was accomplished via funds from "the Gore Bill." The National Research and Education Network created by the Gore Bill has been characterized as "a short-lived stepping-stone to the commercial Internet."

The question can be raised - could the Mosaic web browser and the commercial Internet backbone had come forth through private initiative alone? On this question, however, even Newt Gingrich defers to Al Gore's vision.

In all fairness, it's something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is -- and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a "futures group" -- the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the '80s began to actually happen.

Gingrich is also quoted as saying

Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.

Gore was certainly a major contributor.
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