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Surprising Science

The Father of the Internet

The words “packet switching” don’t mean much to many people. But for Leonard Kleinrock, UCLA Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, packet switching is what ultimately gave him the title, “Father of the Internet.” What began as a fascination with an instructional page on how to build a crystal radio in the centerfold of a Superman comic book became a lifelong journey in engineering. Kleinrock’s most famous achievement: sending the first-ever message between two computers over the Internet.

It was October of 1969, and Kleinrock and his computer programmer built a high-speed line between two computers, one at UCLA, the other at Stanford University. Kleinrock recalls: “What was the message we wanted to send? All we wanted to do was login from our computer to their computer. To login, you have to type L-O-G, and that remote machine was smart enough to know what you’re trying to do; it types the I-N for you.” Turns out, the system crashed before the “G-I-N” were inputted, so the first message sent was simply “LO.” “As in ‘Lo and Behold.’ We couldn’t have anticipated a shorter, more prophetic, more succinct message than ‘Lo,'” says Kleinrock.

Also featured in this eight-week series are Martin Cooper, inventor of the cell phone; David Ho, the AIDS researcher famous for pioneering combination therapy in treating HIV-infected patients; Arlie Petters, a mathematical physicist at Duke who’s out to prove that there’s a fifth dimension; Nathan Wolfe, who led a team that discovered the origins of malaria; and Katie Salen, who started a game-based school in New York City.  Get exclusive insight into the fascinating minds of our greatest math and science thinkers at This series is sponsored by Intel.


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