An interesting interview with Turing Award co-winner (and CRA board member) Robert Kahn by C-Span’s Brian Lamb ran yesterday, covering everything from the birth of the Internet, to his role at DARPA, and whether he was a geek in high school and college. As is usually the case with C-span programs, it’s pretty in-depth and worth watching. It’s viewable online, and there’s a written transcript as well.
Here’s a snippet:
LAMB: Today, or even in history, how much has the taxpayer, through the government, paid for, do you think, to create this Internet?
KAHN: You know, I think, I dont know the exact numbers and there may be no way to know the exact numbers, but I bet its the biggest bargain that the American taxpayer and the economy has ever had.
In fact, I remember in the late 1990s when the Clinton administration was riding a big economic boom, they had come out with some numbers that said one-third of all the growth in the economy was due to Internet-related activities of one sort or another.
I remember that when we built ARPANET, the very first of the networks, the actual money that was spent on the network piece of it was a few millions of dollars. I dont have the exact number, but it was less than 10 million.
And if you took into account the amount of money that was spent on the research community to help them get their computers up and develop applications, maybe over its lifecycle a few tens of millions, that would be my guess, I dont have the exact numbers, and maybe they are not findable anymore, but it was a number like that back in the early 70s.
If you were to look at all the other monies that were spent in other agencies of the government, the Department of Energy had a major program, NASA had a major program in networking. Of course, you have all the National Science Foundation expenditures, you know, where money is spent on building other kinds of nets. I mentioned the satellite and radio net.
But, you know, if you compare that with what private industry is putting in even on year today, private industry contributions dwarf everything that the federal government probably put in over its lifetime.
And so that has got to be one of the biggest or most successful investments that has ever been made.
(“Mad props” to Tom Jones for the head’s up!)