Question: Did Al Gore invent the internet?
Answer: Al Gore served as the Vice President from 1993-2001. During an interview on CNN’s Late Edition on March 9, 1999, the urban legend that he invented the internet originated and remains a subject of controversy to this day. In his discussion with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, he stated the following:
“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.”
Obviously, Gore never took credit for the invention of the internet, which occurred in the 1970s and allowed scientists in the Defense Department to communicate with each other. Taken in context, his comment, despite some initial ambiguity, means that as a congressman, Gore promoted the system we enjoy today, not that he could patent the science, though that’s how the quotation has been manipulated. Hence the disingenuous substitution of “inventing” for the actual language.
But the real question is what, if anything, did Gore actually do to create the modern Internet? Gore had been involved with computers since the 1970s and was considered a genuine nerd with a geek reputation. In the 1980s and 90s, he promoted legislation that funded an expansion of the ARPANET, a predecessor of the internet.
According to Vincent Cerf, a senior vice president with MCI Worldcom who’s been called the Father of the Internet, “The internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the Vice President in his current role and in his earlier role as senator.”
In June 1986, Gore introduced the S 2594 Supercomputer Network Study Act. He also crafted the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, commonly referred to as “The Gore Bill.” This Act allocated $600 million for high performance computing and for the creation of the National Research and Education Network, which brought together industry, academia and government in a joint effort to accelerate the development and deployment of gigabit/sec networking. Passage of the bill led to the National Information Infrastructure (NII), which Gore referred to as the “information superhighway.” Perhaps one of the most important results of the Gore Bill was the development of the Mosaic Browser in 1993 by Marc Andreesen, who credits Gore with making his work possible. This World Wide Web browser is credited by most scholars as beginning the internet boom of the 1990s.
As unimaginable as it may seem, in the early 1990s the internet was big news. In the fall of 1990, there were just 313,000 computers on the Internet; by 1996, there were close to 10 million.
Gore himself would later poke fun at the controversy. In 2000, while on The Late Show with David Letterman, he read The Top Ten Rejected Gore-Lieberman Campaign to the audience. Number nine on the list was: “Remember, America, I gave you the Internet, and I can take it away!”