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Lawrence 'Larry' Roberts

Last Edit: 06/04/17

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 would go on to work at MIT's Lincoln Lab. The subject he studied included electronics and electromagnetism; subjects that would be applicable to the creation of early computer networks. The Lincoln Lab's funding was primarily provided by ARPA; a research section of the United States Department of Defense.

(Pictured: Lawrence Roberts (centre) at the Internet Hall of Fame induction)

In November 1964, Roberts met Joseph Licklider at a Homestead Meeting and they spoke about Licklider's idea of a wide area computer network. Licklider, at the time, was the director of the IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) at ARPA. Roberts received funding from Ivan Sutherland (the new ARPA IPTO director) to conduct a networking experiment in 1965. The experiment proved a success and led to Sutherland, and his successor Bob Taylor, to ask Lawrence Roberts to come to work at ARPA and expand upon his experiment. Roberts refused the requests, as he was a native of New England, and he was happily settled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eventually the director of ARPA, Charlie Hertzfeld, provided enough pressure to persuade Roberts to join ARPA.

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. Roberts would finalise his plans for ARPANET by 1969, and it's first test in October 1969 proved a success. Lawrence Roberts would become director of the IPTO in 1969 - Bob Taylor was sent to Vietnam - and oversaw the expansion of the network until 1973. In 1973, ARPA decided it would no longer fund projects without a strictly military use, and Roberts felt it was time to move on.

Roberts was recruited by BBN - builders of ARPANET's IMPs - to help create the first American commercial packet switching network: named Telenet. Roberts worked under the leadership of Barry Wessler, who had assisted Roberts in creating the plans for ARPANET IMPs, and eventually became the CEO of Telenet. Telenet would have nodes located in the following cities: Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Telenet was sold to Sprint in 1979 and was renamed Sprintnet. After helping to create Telenet, Roberts would become CEO of the following companies: Anagran Inc, Caspian Networks, ATM Systems, NetExpress and DHL. The latest company he has become CEO of is FSA Technologies in August 2015.

Lawrence Roberts has received many awards for his contribution in creating of ARPANET and the Internet. He has received awards from: National Academy of Engineering, Internet Hall of Fame, Computer Design Hall of Fame, NEC C&C Award, Principe de Asturias Award and the IEEE Internet Award.