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Lawrence 'Larry' Roberts

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Lawrence 'Larry' Roberts is a computer scientist who is credited as helping create the Internet. Roberts was born in the New England state of Connecticut, United States, in 1934. Roberts studied in New England, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1963, Roberts completed his Ph.D at MIT, and the subject he studied included electronics and electromagnetism; subjects which would be applicable to the creation of early computer networks.

During the early 1960's, Roberts was inspired by Joseph Licklider, who wrote a memorandum about a global computer network. Licklider was the director of the IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) at ARPA. After completing his Ph.D, Roberts worked at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory - which Licklider had co-founded in the 1950's - which is a development and research centre that is funded by the US Department of Defense. Joseph Licklider was replaced by Ivan Sutherland as the director of the IPTO at ARPA in 1964, and Sutherland, along with Bob Taylor, attempted to receive funding (1964-1966) from ARPA to build the wide area computer network that Licklider had outlined.

In 1966, ARPA Director, Charlie Hertzfeld, provided funding to Bob Taylor to build a ARPA computer network. Taylor had replaced Ivan Sutherland as the director of the IPTO in 1966. Taylor wanted to hire Larry Roberts to build ARPA's network, due to Roberts research into packet switching - the technology that Taylor wanted ARPA's network to use. Roberts initially refused Taylor advances, and it was left to ARPA's director Charlie Hertzfeld to persuade the Director of Lincoln Labs to change Roberts mind. The result was that Roberts joined ARPA in 1966 and began the process of designing APRANET.

In 1967, Roberts held a "ARPANET Design Session" in Ann Arbor, Michigan: with the conclusion that minicomputers - named Interface Message Processors - would need to be built to act as nodes between the various host computers that constituted ARPANET. In 1968, Roberts contracted BBN technologies to build the Interface Message Processors, and supervised a team of computer scientists (led by Steve Crocker) who designed the host-to-host protocols of ARPANET. ARPANET (ARPA Computer NETwork) was operational by the end of 1969, and by the early 1970's had incorporated over thirty nodes in the United States, and international nodes. Roberts left ARPA in 1973, and went on to develop a commercial packet switched network called Telenet. The packet switching technology which underpinned ARPANET would evolve to underpin the Internet.