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WALTER ISAACSON: You know, we're very, very lucky here.
I mean, when I wrote this block, I
thought, who are the great heroes of it,
and Dr. Khan and Vint Cerf are among them,
and I hope you appreciate how cool it is, especially
for somebody like me who loves history,
to be able to talk the internet with you all.
VINT CERF: Well, it's a real pleasure to have you here
and to have the rest of you here in our new offices.
For those of you who came in more on time,
we kind of started just informally.
This man sitting next to me has had
quite an interesting history, so I'll
repeat a little bit of that.
He's currently the chairman of the Aspen Institute
and was formerly the chairman of CNN.
He was also managing editor of Time Magazine
and has written a whole bunch of books, the most recent of which
you have before you, "The Innovators."
The most recent before that was Steve Jobs's biography
and many others before that, all of which
are well worth reading, so we welcome you to our presence
and to an opportunity to ask you some questions about this book.
Sitting over on my right is Bob Kahn.
I was going to say the late Bob Kahn, that would be bad taste,
so I won't do that.
BOB KAHN: Wasn't that late.
Your problem is your garage says it closes at 7 o'clock,
so we were about to go find some other garage to park in.
VINT CERF: Well, since we're all here,
I can make the door open for you.
WALTER ISAACSON: All you have to do is say, OK, glass,
open the door.
VINT CERF: That's it.
I'm wearing one right there.
BOB KAHN: Is the audience all from Google?
VINT CERF: No, no, no.
These are people from all over the place.
WALTER ISAACSON: Who's from Google?
VINT CERF: Fair number but not everybody.
So what I thought we would do, Bob,
is start out with a couple of questions about the book itself
and what Walter has discovered.
This thing covers quite a broad range
of topics about things that were highly innovative
and made huge changes in our history.
So what is it that you would distill
from what you've already discovered
in writing the book that you would like us to take away?
WALTER ISAACSON: Thank you, and let
me say that when we get further along
and we're discussing the internet,
I'm going to turn the tables because to be
able to ask questions of the two of you
about both the ARPANET, the RFCs, and then
the internet protocols.
So watch out because that's going to be a two way street.
VINT CERF: Fair deal.
WALTER ISAACSON: The main thing I discovered.
I've written biographies a lot-- Steve Jobs,
Einstein, Franklin-- and those of us
who write biographies kind of know in the back of our minds
that we distort history with the great man theory of history.
We make it sound like there's a guy or a gal in a garage
or a garret who has a light bulb moment and innovation happens.
True innovation, and there's no better example of it
then the ARPANET RFC process and then the TCP/IP process,
really comes from pairs of people, teams of people,
and from collaboration, bouncing ideas off against each other,
finishing each other's sentences,
and the internet age in particular
allows such teamwork and collaboration.
The other thing was I started this book when I said,
way earlier before we started, we
were talking about when I ran digital media for Time Inc
in the early 1990s, and I first met Vint when he was at MCI,
and I was trying to convince Time Inc to do things
with the internet.
And so the president of Time Inc says to me, well,
who owns the internet?
So first of all, I think to myself
because I don't want to get fired,
that's a clueless question.
I say, nobody owns it.
He says, well, who built it?
Who created it?
And I realized after thinking how
clueless that question was that I did not really now.
And if you feel detached from the history of the things you
use, there's sort of a detachment that leads to you
not feeling comfortable with it.
So I wanted to know, how did computers happen?
How did the PC happen?
How did the transistor become the microchip,
and then how did the internet or digital packet switch networks
come into being?
So that's why I did this book, and in doing so, as I said,
you learn about the importance of collaboration,
but you also learn that there wasn't
one person who invented the computer.
And certainly, even after doing this book,
you and I have been discussing some of the,
no, I should get more credit type feelings,
but it was done creatively and collaboratively.
VINT CERF: This notion of collaboration
resonates very well with all of us
at Google because a lot of the tools that we make and use
are exactly collaborative elements,
things like Shared Documents, things like the Google
Hangouts, things like that where multiple parties can
communicate all at the same time.
WALTER ISAACSON: That was the original intention
of the internet or ARPANET was time
sharing research computers, and then collaborating.
I even did that with this book.
When I was writing that, I said, wait,
this is how we collaborate, and I put parts of this book
online, like on a medium with Google Docs, whatever,
and said, everybody share.
Help me collaborate.
Help put stuff in.
And people like Stewart Brand, who I knew,
started rewriting the demise of the Whole Earth Catalog,
and exactly what drugs were being served at the demise
partly because I got the drugs wrong.
But people like Dan Bricklin were explaining,
no, VisiCalc was done this way.
And so they're in the book from having been crowd sourced.
BOB KAHN: Walter, I'd like to ask you a question.
Vint and I were both on a panel at the National Academy
about a week ago, and one of the questions that came up was,
what is the internet?
One of the panelists took the position
that the internet is what people think it is.
So if you think the web is the internet,
then that's the internet.
If you think the web is this.
I just wondered, do you care much
in writing a book like that of clarifying that example.
Because a lot of places in the book, you say,
the ARPANET morphed into internet, and not
exactly clear what the internet is from reading your book.
Are you comfortable with that definition?
WALTER ISAACSON: I see the internet,
and I'm going to turn it to you, because you should answer
it better, but I see it as the TCP/IP protocols.
Now, the question is when Tim Berners-Lee
puts a layer of that [INAUDIBLE] that have hypertext protocols
and markup languages, to me, that's still the internet.
Now, the question then becomes, if I'm using Twitter,
is that the internet?
And the answer technically is no.
I mean, that's not--
VINT CERF: Well, actually, we could argue that because--
WALTER ISAACSON: Oh, we could argue it,
so let me turn it back to you all.
VINT CERF: Wait, wait, wait.
You're right in the middle of chapter six,
and I wanted to at least point out to you--
WALTER ISAACSON: Start at chapter one?
VINT CERF: Well, we don't have to go through every chapter
but this starts out with Ada Lovelace, who
was Lord Byron's daughter.
And I wanted to start out by just asking, what
was it that drew you to that story first,
because it's in the 1850s in England,
and it's the earliest manifestations
of mechanical computing?
What made you decide to start there?
WALTER ISAACSON: To be honest, what
drew it to me first was my daughter had not written
her college entrance essay, and my wife, who we've talked
about, was going nuts the way Yuppie wives do, and saying,
get it done.
And one day, Betsy said, I did it.
I said, what was it on?
She said, Ada Lovelace because she's
a computer geek and stuff.
And I paused.
I kind of knew the name Ada Lovelace,
but I didn't know exactly what she did.
VINT CERF: You didn't mix it up with Linda Lovelace?
WALTER ISAACSON: No, I did not.
I'm surprised that people all remember who she is.
So I became much more interested in Ada Lovelace.
Now, Ada Lovelace is partly a symbol in this book,
because as a person, she's kind of controversial,
but what she does as Lord Byron's daughter is
her mother, Lady Byron, was optically fond of Lord Byron
by the time Ada was growing up, for reasons that Byron
fans will understand, and so had her tutored mainly
in mathematics as if that were an antidote for her becoming
a romantic poet, which Lady Byron did not want her to be.
So she embraces what she calls poetical science.
It's the ability to link the poetic and the beauty
of humanities with the technology of science.
She loves, for example, traveling the Midlands
and looking at the punch cards that
are being used in the mechanical looms of the Industrial
Revolution in the 1830s.
VINT CERF: The Jacquard looms, yes.
WALTER ISAACSON: The Jacquard loom,
and showing how they weave patterns.
Her father, Lord Byron, was a Luddite,
and I don't mean that figuratively.
His only speech in the House of Lords
was defending the followers of Ned Ludd, who
were smashing these looms because they
were putting people out of work.
And he also is there with Mary Shelley
when they do Frankenstein's monster.
This notion that technology can destroy us
was ingrained in Lord Byron.
Ada felt the opposite.
She had this friend, Charles Babbage,
who had made a pretty good calculator called
the difference engine, was trying
to conceive one which he never got
built called the analytical engine, which
uses punch cards to do the processing of the numbers.
Ada writes a set of notes that are totally fascinating.
You've got to read them.
And among the notes to this thing
is how if you use punch cards, the machine
will be able to weave patterns like Jacquard's loom,
as she puts it.
In other words, the machine will not only do numbers, she says.
You can make it do words, or even music.
I can feel her father rolling over in the grave.
Patterns, anything that can be notated in symbols, she said.
So to me, that is the core notion
of what a computer is, anything that can be notated in symbols.
She has many other things, but I'll
only mention one, which is her final note is
that they'll do anything but think.
Machines will never be creative.
Machines will never think.
And 100 years later, assuming you're
going to jump there, Alan Turing, who really comes up
with the concept of the universal computing machine,
and then works at Bletchley Park to break the German ENIGMA
code with some people.
They build the Bombe and then Colossus.
He writes a wonderful paper.
The movie's about to come out called "The Imitation Game."
He called it the imitation game.
We now call the Turing test to address
what he calls Lady Lovelace's objection,
because Turing was fascinated by Lovelace.
And he says, well, you say machines will never think.
How would we know that?
If you had a machine in a different room and a person,
you couldn't tell their answers apart,
you'd have no empirical reason to say machines don't think.
And so he believed in artificial intelligence,
that eventually, we would have machines that think without us.
I basically use that as one of the framing devices
in the book, the notion of those who
believe that the intimate partnership between humans
and machines will get us forward and those
who believe that the pursuit of artificial intelligence
will get us forward.
Sorry for the long answer.
BOB KAHN: One of the first programs
that I ever used-- Vint actually wrote one
about PARRY and the DOCTOR.
This is about the DOCTOR program.
It made some outrageous statement,
and it was supposed to be a conversation about you.
I remember when I saw that, I responded to it, "my oh my,"
and its response back was, "your oh your?"
And I knew we wouldn't get very far.
WALTER ISAACSON: With all due respect to my Google Android's
ability to talk to me, it is really hard
to do language processing.
VINT CERF: Yes.
We have a lot of people who have confirmed that.
BOB KAHN: And we know quite a bit about it from [INAUDIBLE].
WALTER ISAACSON: You know more than anybody.
VINT CERF: The earliest experience
I ever had with trying to do language translation
was at Stanford when I was an undergraduate in the 1960s,
and we were pretty naive.
We had this Russian/English dictionary,
and we poured it into the computer.
We typed in, "out of sight, out of mind."
We translated that into Russian, then
we translated it back into English,
and it came back, "invisible idiot."
Which told us that there was more
to this than the dictionary.
WALTER ISAACSON: By the way, the book
ends with a chapter called "Ada Forever," which
is what you just said, this notion of understanding
a bit of language, or being able to spot your mother's
face in Grand Central Station, which
if you go to the total domain awareness system
down in lower Manhattan, they have all these cameras.
They say, oh, we can do that.
Or a robot that can walk across the room and pick up a crayon.
A four-year-old can do it but a machine can't.
It's called Moravec's paradox.
VINT CERF: It's getting better, though.
WALTER ISAACSON: It's always getting better,
but it's always 20 years away.
It's always a mirage.
VINT CERF: Look, the latest Tesla announcement,
the D thing parks itself.
We're getting closer and closer to something useful,
even if it isn't as fully creative as--
WALTER ISAACSON: I was onstage yesterday
with Elon Musk, who told me that the singularity is so close he
wants to go to Mars because machine learning will make
machines want to destroy us, and he's smarter than I am.
You all at Google are smarter, but I've
been reading that since 1955 right after Alan Turing
does his Turing test, and they always say, 10 years from now,
we'll have machines that can think better than we do.
Maybe so, but as the heroes of this book,
Lick Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, say, in the meantime,
let's make our machines connect to us better
than try to out-think us.
VINT CERF: Well, let's make partners out of them,
if nothing else.
I have to admit Google search is a pretty cool partner when
you think about it.
It does stuff that I couldn't do.
WALTER ISAACSON: And Google search
is done not by an algorithm that thinks without us,
but an algorithm that harvests millions of links
put every day onto websites by humans.
VINT CERF: That's right.
BOB KAHN: I wanted to ask you one question about something
that struck me when I first really understood
what Turing and company were doing at Princeton.
I gave the keynote at the 100th anniversary of his birth.
VINT CERF: His birthday.
BOB KAHN: Last year [INAUDIBLE].
It was one of a multiplicity of them.
But one of the things that struck
me back then was when Turing wrote
that paper on computable numbers, that was actually
not easily accepted by people because they didn't think
computing was something that a machine could do at that time,
If you looked at what Church did with the lambda calculus,
it was a conceptual thing.
If you looked at what his colleagues, like Kurt Godel,
and there were a number of really excellent logicians
there at the time, they were thinking
of conceptual frameworks for organizing things
so that the logic made sense.
WALTER ISAACSON: You have to remember that, as you do,
uncomputable numbers was not written
to invent a universal computing machine.
That was just a thought experiment
he uses to solve one of Hilbert's
mathematical questions about whether all problems are
BOB KAHN: But it seems to me that the one thing that really
came out of that was the idea that you could actually
create a machine that would do these computations.
They eventually showed that recursive function
theory and the lambda calculus and the Turing machine all
could do all the computable functions,
but that wasn't known at the time, nor was it obvious.
The realization that pops out at that time
that you can actually build something
around these numbers that was so fascinating,
but I didn't get that out of the book,
and I wondered, was that something you just didn't think
the public would understand, or was--
WALTER ISAACSON: I thought that was important, totally
I drilled down, read the entire Turing thing.
That is a sideline because it's not
about the actual what they were doing at Bletchley Park, which
I was trying to tell.
BOB KAHN: This was at Princeton.
WALTER ISAACSON: Right.
What happens there, and I would love your feedback on it,
is they are trying to figure out whether all problems are
computable, whether it's decidable to know which ones
or not, and you end up with Godel
saying there's an incompleteness inherent, and with Turing
and Church both saying, and we can't even
decide what is completable and what's not completable.
So there's still a mystery that's
wonderfully inherent in math, that not all things-- I mean,
there is an incompleteness in the mathematical system.
BOB KAHN: But there was also the fact,
I believe, that what Turing had done
was not appreciated that much by the other people around him
because they were the pure theoreticians,
and Turing was more of an engineer,
if I can use that term, even though he never built anything,
much like the conflicts that we've seen in computer science
in recent days between the people who
are the pure theorists and the people who are actually
WALTER ISAACSON: You're absolutely right,
and I do say in the book that there
are only four or five people who even comment or review
It's not very well thought of.
And throughout history, you see that where Penn,
they're building these computers,
and yet it seems a little beneath their dignity
because it's not an academic, theoretical pursuit,
so then they get rid of the computer.
And even at Princeton, if I may say,
the IAS finally, after von Neumann leaves,
they don't feel computing is a grand endeavor in its own way.
BOB KAHN: Well, there was physics.
WALTER ISAACSON: Yes, right.
VINT CERF: Well, everything is physics
when you get right down to it.
WALTER ISAACSON: Everything is math.
VINT CERF: Well, OK.
So we start with math and we go to physics,
and the abstraction of physics is chemistry,
and the abstraction of chemistry is biology,
and the abstraction of biology is psychology,
and it keeps on going like that.
BOB KAHN: But you remember the symposium we had up at MIT
when Richard Feynman came and a bunch of others,
and it was called "The Simulation of Physics,"
and they didn't like that one bit because they said,
physics is not a simulation.
It's not some bigger, digital thing that's creating it.
WALTER ISAACSON: You're losing control of the bus.
VINT CERF: I'll come back to a couple of things.
Well, it's impossible.
Nobody could manage these guys.
But I do want to draw you back for just a couple seconds.
First of all, the point about Turing, for example,
reinforces the notion that theory is helpful
if you can underwrite or underscore or somehow support
If you don't have much theory underneath the application,
then you don't quite know what to expect
and what you're doing.
So it's clear that the Gedankenexperiment that Turing
did is not unlike the Gedankenexperiments
that Einstein did.
A lot of his work was not math.
It was Gedanken imagery.
He thought in those terms.
WALTER ISAACSON: Visual thought experiment.
VINT CERF: Now let's go to something more concrete,
You have a really interesting story
here about what happens when the transistor gets built in 1947.
The three guys who do this go off-- well, Shockley anyway,
goes off to start a company to build transistors.
And I think it's worth recounting
what happens because the focus that we got
to early in this game was collaboration
and what happens when you get groups of people all focused
on trying to do something.
So what happens in that case?
Shockley goes to the West Coast and starts his company,
brings some really smart people together,
which should have produced an important collaboration.
WALTER ISAACSON: It goes to the theme of the book, which
is that vision without collaboration and execution
is just hallucination.
What you have at Bell Labs is this wonderful environment
where Shannon is riding a unicycle up and down doing
information theory, but you also have--
VINT CERF: Did he do that when you were there?
WALTER ISAACSON: Yes.
BOB KAHN: Shannon had left.
I started my career at Bell Labs.
One of the things I got from your book
that I found very interesting was
he started at the same place that I did,
which was 463 West Street in New York.
WALTER ISAACSON: Right on Greenwich Village's side
of the Hudson.
BOB KAHN: It was right on the Hudson River,
and you could watch the Queen Mary and Queen
Elizabeth coming in every Tuesday
and going out every Thursday.
WALTER ISAACSON: It's still a wonderful warehouse,
and then they moved it to New Jersey.
BOB KAHN: Murray Hill existed at the time that I was there.
I think it probably didn't when he was there.
WALTER ISAACSON: It becomes a cauldron
in which you have information theorists, quantum theorists,
like Shockley to some extent, and certainly Bardeen.
VINT CERF: Bardeen for sure.
WALTER ISAACSON: Walter Brattain,
who is a great experimentalist, but also people with grease
under their fingernails who've climbed a pole to figure out,
how are we going to amplify a phone signal between New
York and San Francisco, and they collaborate.
They work together.
They have a little bit of a problem
once the collaboration was over, does Shockley get
to be in the pictures with Bardeen and Brattain,
and who gets credit and who gets a Nobel Prize,
but before you fight over Nobel Prizes, you collaborate well.
Shockley was really bad at collaboration,
and he got worse, and the Nobel Prize didn't help.
I'm glad we've not all won one yet
because it made him into a bit of a jerk.
He goes off and he forms Shockley Semiconductor,
and he gets more and more uncollaborative with his team,
and more and more top down dictatorial,
unlike, say, a [INAUDIBLE] environment.
VINT CERF: Hiding his research results from other people.
WALTER ISAACSON: Hiding his research from his own people,
making them take lie detector tests,
worrying who's going to get the credit.
So obviously, the great thing about it
is it disintegrates because of this, and the people who
fly off from this big bang are so allergic to Shockley's
way of doing things that they move to the other extreme, two
of the best examples being Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce,
who form Fairchild Semiconductor,
and then eventually form Intel.
VINT CERF: Why was it called Fairchild Semiconductor?
WALTER ISAACSON: Because they did not
have venture capitalists back then,
so they wanted to start their own semiconductor company,
but they couldn't just go to Sandhill Road
and tell Kleiner Perkins, give me an investment.
Arthur Rock was just starting, and so he
helped put it together.
Arthur Rock was not yet a venture capitalist.
He was still a banker from the east.
So he calls his east coast buddies-- IBM, Bell-- and says,
do you want a division we can start
that will make semiconductors?
And they'll say, no, we don't want that.
We don't want an autonomous division.
We don't want to give them the power.
He's just about to give up and then went
to Sherman Fairchild, who's a bit of a nutcase and a playboy
and always out in nightclubs and 21 Club.
They make a deal and Sherman Fairchild says,
yeah, I'll stake you.
I'll make you a Fairchild Semiconductor division.
They were also doing cameras and aircraft.
And of course, it becomes the biggest division
in the company, and eventually, Fairchild
exercises the right to buy them out, after which Noyce
and Moore start their own company, Intel.
VINT CERF: That's amazing.
So this is sort of like one of those black hole explosion
WALTER ISAACSON: Well, they call them fairchildren,
because Fairchild then breaks up a bit,
and if you look at Silicon Valley, you can do a Google map
and just say Fairchild, and you'll
see all the companies that spun off.
BOB KAHN: You know, there are actually
two parallel stories with Intel and the work that
went on before that are interesting.
You focused on one of them in the book,
and I knew two of those people very well.
I've met Gordon Moore, but I knew Bob Noyce very well,
interacted with him a lot, especially when
I was doing the DLSI program at DARPA
and he was fighting the VISIC program in the DoD.
And the other was Andy Grove, who was in my class
in undergraduate school, so I knew him.
WALTER ISAACSON: That's in New York.
BOB KAHN: At City College, yes.
So I knew those two well.
But the other story that's quite interesting
is who gets the credit for the microcomputer.
WALTER ISAACSON: The microprocessor
BOB KAHN: The microprocessor in this case.
VINT CERF: This is after the integrated circuit, about which
there was another big argument.
BOB KAHN: That's right.
This was in the early '70s, when Intel was trying to figure out
internally how you connect one piece to another piece,
and instead of doing a one of, they
decided, let's build a programmable thing.
So you have a guy named Frederico Faggin, who actually
did the actual implementation of it.
You had a guy named Ted Hoff, who is credited by everybody,
and Bob Noyce told me, when he was pushing
some of the nominations for awards for him,
that he was sort of the architect of the whole thing.
But you had it all done in a lab that
was run by a fellow named Les Vadez,
and Les always claimed that he set
the environment and the tone, which enabled it all to happen.
Between three of them, they don't really
necessarily all see the development the same way.
WALTER ISAACSON: You know, it's a shame,
and that happens a lot.
And in this book, I'm already getting emails,
and you are, too.
I won't name names because we're online,
but people say, he didn't quite give me enough-- oh,
actually now I've read it, he give me enough credit.
The one I love is Kilby, as you know,
Jack Kilby does it at Texas Instruments, the microchip.
I'm moving back earlier, the integrated circuit.
And Noyce does it at approximately the same time
And Kilby wins the Nobel Prize, and unlike Shockley, it
doesn't go to is head.
And he also says, if Bob Noyce was still alive,
he'd be sharing this prize with me.
They both deserve it.
They don't give Nobel Prizes when you're--
VINT CERF: Kilby didn't get that award until he was 82,
and he passed away a couple years later.
WALTER ISAACSON: But when they finally bring Kilby
and he's awarded it, the Norwegian scientist introducing
him says, everything we have in the digital revolution
comes from what you did.
And Kilby says, that reminds me of what the beaver said
to the rabbit at the foot of the Hoover Dam,
which is, no, I didn't build it, but it
is based on an idea of mine.
One of the things about collaboration
is it gets hard to allocate credit,
and I try very hard in this book to say,
OK, here's how I would parse the credit for the computer.
I mean, is it basically Mauchly and Eckert at Penn?
Is it Atanasoff at Iowa State?
We all want to parse out credit, whether we're
intellectual property lawyers fighting over the patents,
whether we're Nobel Prize jurists,
or whether we're biographers, and I tried to minimize,
and you and I were talking beforehand.
There's dispute amongst the people
who conceived of packet switching, which
are three or four or five people.
They all fight over it.
They're all quoted by name on the record, will tell you,
oh, this guy's an idiot.
I try to say, no, it was the collaboration.
Packet switching was an amazing idea.
It is the heart of, obviously, what you two did,
and I was slightly annoyed by the people who
wanted to disparage their colleagues'
contribution because there is enough credit to go around.
VINT CERF: Exactly, and this emphasizes several things.
The first one is a lot of stuff happens
because it's now possible to happen.
The economics are possible or the amount of memory available
makes it possible or the speed of something makes it possible,
and so concurrent invention is not
unusual under those circumstances.
WALTER ISAACSON: Especially, there
was a miracle year of 1939, let me say,
where conceptual breakthroughs have happened, including
Turing's papers published on universal computing,
but Shannon and other people are starting
to apply Boolean algebra to how to do it in circuits.
But you also have mechanical inventions, including
the vacuum tube and telephone switchboards,
that have come together, but you also have the drums
of war, both in Germany with Herman Zuse,
and at Bletchley Park in England,
and at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the United States.
It's dawning on people that firepower is actually not
going to be as important as computing power in winning
the next war, and so that's why I'm
convinced that you have a fertile ground from 1940
to '45 for the creation of the computer.
And likewise, another fertile stew
happens, which Google is part of it
out in California, Mountain View and all,
that in the early '70s, there was just this yeasty brew
of counterculture types, electronic geeks, people who
had been in the defense industry,
people who had read the Whole Earth Catalog once too often,
all of whom are coming together and want computing
power to the people to take it back from the big corporations,
and they're creating the Altair and the Apple and all
VINT CERF: I was waiting for you to leap into something.
BOB KAHN: I have so many thoughts going through my mind,
I'm not sure where to jump into this.
One of the questions I had about the book
was, what prompted you to choose the things
that you did to emphasize?
It's a wonderful read.
WALTER ISAACSON: That's the toughest of all questions.
BOB KAHN: About the only complaint I have is
that you couldn't touch everything
with uniform treatment.
So for example, there are things that don't show up here at all,
like, for example, the role that NSF
played in bringing the internet out.
There are people who I think played an important role that
never get mentioned, like Steve Wolf is a good example.
VINT CERF: Absolutely.
BOB KAHN: I just wondered, this is a reflection
on what you felt you wanted to write about.
WALTER ISAACSON: I had about a 1,000 page book.
BOB KAHN: How did you get to this rendition?
WALTER ISAACSON: When I did all my notes,
there were about 1,000 pages.
Wolf is in them, and the other things.
There's a certain limit in this day and age
to books, which is approximately 500 pages.
I mean, that's--
BOB KAHN: I've read books bigger than that.
WALTER ISAACSON: I know, but I meant-- not many.
BOB KAHN: I read "Godel, Escher, and Bach" in one swoop.
WALTER ISAACSON: That's what, 600 pages?
Not much more.
BOB KAHN: I think it was more than that.
WALTER ISAACSON: That's a good book.
BOB KAHN: One sitting.
WALTER ISAACSON: Yeah, but you know what?
Not everybody can read "Godel, Escher, and Bach"
in one sitting.
You're not the best focus group for the publishing industry.
But I did decide, hey, I want to keep it in the package,
and I'm going to get to why we don't
need to do that in the future.
So I ended up picking 12.
I just made a list finally at the end,
12 major things I wanted to do.
I wanted to do the computer, and so I focused on those three,
and by that, I mean the people who really began it,
not Control Data Corporation and others that pick it up.
I wanted to do the transistor, the microchip, video games,
because I actually do think that they were
important in the interactive computing realm.
I wanted to do software and how original
operating system software, and the women
as well as men who did it.
And I go down the web and others.
I could have picked many other things
and I could have picked many other people
in each one of those categories, but I said, OK,
who made a conceptual leap that I really feel passionate about?
Now, I know that leaves out more than it includes,
but it makes for a narrative.
The problem with narrative history
is narrative is defined by you leave out a lot of things
so that you have a thread.
BOB KAHN: But that's really interesting,
because if you focus it all on the conceptual leap,
you minimize the contributions of the people who actually
then implemented those ideas.
As an engineer, and I think Vint would agree with this, too,
a lot of the details are in making things actually work.
WALTER ISAACSON: Right, and I really
try to emphasize in the book that you
have to execute on vision, and that's
why I focus on the engineers and the software engineers of ENIAC
more than on this conceptual leap
that Atanasoff has at Iowa State because he
doesn't implement it.
And I hope-- I mean, you can be the judge--
that with Fairchild and Intel, we
get into a lot of the engineers who are making it.
Let me leap forward to what I hope
is the solution to this, which is I would love it,
and Google is the best place to invent it
with Google Docs, networks, everything else,
and I've tried.
I've worked with people.
I'm still not there yet, but I would
be quite happy to take this book and make it a curated wiki
Google Doc, and I have done that with some of the chapters.
It's why Dan Bricklin-- you say, why
is Bricklin in there for doing VisiCalc?
Well frankly, because he gave me all of his documents
when he read an early draft and it was on Medium, which
is like a Google Doc place where people put in.
I think the book of the future will
be a collaborative, crowd-sourced,
and yet author curated, meaning you just can't run off
anywhere, multimedia, where, let us
say you want to talk about-- let's pick one thing--
how the planar process worked and how the planar process led
to the microprocessor being easily invented at Intel.
I would love the videos, I'd love the original documents,
I'd love people to upload those things, because online,
on a Google Book, I'll call it, you couldn't make it
not 500 pages but 500,000 pages and video.
BOB KAHN: Is that still your book at that point?
WALTER ISAACSON: And that's why I
would like to curate it, meaning that you're
going to have fights.
I won't name names again, but even
with your friends who were originally there
with packet switching, just like the revision wars in Wikipedia
fought with more intensity than we seem to be fighting wars
in the real world these days, you
would have to have some curator who would say, OK,
enough of this fighting about who
came up with packet switching.
Let's try to just put it all and synthesize it.
But I suspect, like Wikipedia, the crowd
would also curate pretty well.
I also think, and this is the next thing
I would love Google to do, for that to be really fair,
there has to be a payment system.
I would be happy to put this book online--
I shouldn't say this too publicly,
but after "Steve Jobs" I'm not looking for more book sales.
VINT CERF: This only just came out,
so don't say that to your publisher yet.
He'll cancel your book tour.
WALTER ISAACSON: But let us say that Vint Cerf and Bob
Kahn looked at this and said, there
are 22 things you really left out
of the RFC process and the ARPANET,
and then the TCP/IP process we went through in '73,
I think it was.
And here's all our documents, and here's
somebody who should have gotten more credit,
here's his picture, here is an interview
I've just done with him.
I want to put all that up.
You would be doing that, as you would be editing a Wikipedia
entry, just for the good of the commons,
but there would be other people who
might want to contribute and actually make
a living out of it.
BOB KAHN: So this would be like sticky notes on your book?
WALTER ISAACSON: Well, it would be
like making my book into a Wikipedia page
where everybody could put documents up,
and I would love the royalties to then
be allocated in some crypto currency way
that Google could invent, so that if people are paying
$30 for this book and they read these parts,
the royalties get allocated to whoever contributed.
VINT CERF: So that's a challenge before us.
WALTER ISAACSON: And I hope my next book,
I'd love to write about Louis Armstrong, but you need music.
I would need a Wynton Marsalis to say,
here's the 17-bar cadenza that opens "West End Blues,"
and here's how he changed it from King Oliver's version,
but that would need to be crowd-sourced and multimedia,
and I want Google to invent that.
BOB KAHN: I always thought that one of the really nice things
that historians rely on are crafted treatises
on various topics.
There's a lady that Vint and I both know
who wrote some monographs on infrastructure development.
She would not write a single sentence in there
that she couldn't curate from some well known historian who
quoted something and made a point.
So how do you treat something like this
when the only real authority behind it
is the party who put it all together
and everything else is all this other stuff that's
stuck in there?
WALTER ISAACSON: This is much more footnoted,
source noted than, say, the Steve Jobs book,
which mainly came from interviews with Steve
and 60 or 70 other people around him.
I am probably not the best reporter
in the history of the world.
I just saw Bob Woodward when I was walking here.
He's much better.
I'm probably not the best academic historian.
I mean, somebody like you just talked about who does that.
I do have, I hope--
BOB KAHN: Yeah, but you write so well.
WALTER ISAACSON: Thank you so much.
But I also have, I hope, the ability
to combine historical resource, like looking at the monographs
or whatever, with just being able to call Gordon Moore
and saying, I'm going to get in the car,
I'm going to drive to Woodside, you've
got to spend all day with me, and I'm
lucky because I've been at Time Magazine.
Gordon Moore, who would not take the phone
call of my second cousin from Louisiana if he said,
I want to drive up to Woodside, I get to see these people.
So I do a lot of interviews.
There are about 100 or so, including you and others,
in the book, but I also go back to the papers and the IEEE
and everybody, your collaborated document
on the invention of the internet, a little original Len
Kleinrock and Paul Baran papers.
There's no quote in this book, I think,
or no major quote in this book or assertion that's not source
cited by name on the record, but all history
is just the next draft of history.
There will be people who will build upon this.
I think I bring some journalistic skills.
Other people bring better historical-- Janet Abbate,
others who have done great academic histories
of the internet.
And someday, when it's all part of this curated, crowd-sourced
system, you'll be able to hop around and get
whatever you want.
VINT CERF: So I have a suggestion.
He was threatening to turn the tables us,
so maybe we should do that, and I'd
like to let everybody else have some time to ask questions.
BOB KAHN: Are you trying to filibuster against that?
WALTER ISAACSON: No, I'm trying to--