Internet Guide Logo

Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler

Last Edit: 04/04/17

Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler is a scientist who is renown for her pioneering work as the director of the Network Information Center (NIC) for ARPANET.

Elizabeth Jake Feinler, worked at the NIC, and wrote a book about the history of the NIC.

Elizabeth Feinler is an American citizen who grew up in West Virginia, she later studied to become a Doctor of Philosophy at Purdue University in biological chemistry; which is the study of the chemical process in relation to living organism. In 1960, she became intrigued by data collection systems, and joined an information department at the Stanford Research Institute in California.

Doug Engelbart had taken a position at the Stanford Research Institute in 1957, his work at SRI - within electronics and computing - received numerous patents and received funding from ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency). ARPA funded the development of a wide-area computer network in the late 1960's, and Doug Engelbart would oversee the creation of one of the first operational nodes for ARPANET in 1969. The result of this work would ensure that the Stanford Research Institute - later named SRI International - would become one of the most important research institutes in the United States for computer science, computer networking and the development of the Internet (ARPANET would evolve to become the Internet by the late 1980's).

Doug Engelbart recruited Elizabeth Feinler in 1972 to work for his nearly founded ARC (Augmentation Research Center); Feinler work would involve organising the information resources of ARPANET. Feinler wrote a handbook - which could be compared to a phone book - that connected physical locations to people on ARPANET. Her initial work at ARC would evolve to become the Network Information Center (NIC) (1974): the NIC maintained and distributed a master list of host names that were updated on a daily basis. Feinler would work in collaboration with J. Postel, K. Harrenstien, M. Stahl, Zaw-Sing Su, Vic White, M.D. Kudlick, J. Reynolds, and S. Crocker, to formalise and develop a text file (hosts.txt) format for the ARPANET hostname master list (host table). This list would initially be a ASCII text file of hostnames, addresses, and attributes. The file could be downloaded at NETINFO:HOSTS.TXT on the SRI-NIC host. The specification for the file was outlined in the following RFC documents: RFC-810, RFC-953, RFC-608, RFC-952, RFC-791, RFC-796, RFC-921, and RFC-943. Feinler would also work on the specification of the Hostname Server Protocol.

Eventually, many drawbacks became apparent with the hostname system developed and managed by the NIC. The Domain Name System (DNS) would replace it by 1985, but the NIC did not become obsolete. Feinler and the NIC would manage the top level domains of the Domain Name System (DNS). In 1989-1991, this role would be removed from the NIC and Feinler left SRI International. Feinler worked at NASA after leaving SRI - in relation to it's computer network - and is now a member of the Internet Hall of Fame.