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Stephen D. Crocker

Last Edit: 11/04/17

Stephen D. Crocker, born on the 15th of October, 1944, is an American computer scientist who is acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the Internet. Crocker, as a graduate student University of California, worked as part of a team which developed the first host to host protocols for the ARPANET computer network. ARPANET was a fore-runner to the Internet, and the protocol Crocker helped create NCP (Network Control Program) evolved into TCP/IP; which is the protocol suite that underpins the Internet.

Steve Crocker helped to create the Network Control Program for the ARPANET network.
(Pictured: Steve Crocker (centre) at the Internet Hall of Fame induction)

One of Crocker's most notable contributions to the Internet: is as the inventor of the Request for Comments (RFC) document series. RFC documents outline the technical architecture of the Internet, the protocols of the Internet, the history of the Internet, and much more. In fact, Request for Comments predate the Internet; although, present day (2014), they are exclusively authored for Internet related topics. The first RFC, as you would assume, is RFC 1, and it titled "Host Software", this document goes on to say "During the summer of 1968, representatives from the initial four sites met several times to discuss the HOST software and initial experiments on the network. There emerged from these meetings a working group of three, Steve Carr from Utah, Jeff Rulifson from SRI, and Steve Crocker of UCLA, who met during the fall and winter. I present here some of the tentative agreements reached and some of the open questions encountered. Very little of what is here is firm and reactions are expected."

In RFC 1000, Crocker briefly discusses how the protocols of ARPANET were developed. After a meeting with Bolt, Beranek and Newman technologies - the company who built the hardware for ARPANET - a team including Crocker set forth to design the protocols for ARPANET. This process was largely 'accidental' in nature, and did not adhere to a 'grand plan'. The development process was littered with documents, and it was Crocker who acknowledged a document system was needed and it was he who wrote the first RFC document on the 7th of April 1969. In RFC 1000, Crocker provides a summary for all of the Request for Comments issued between April 1969 and March 1987 (RFC 1 - RFC 999). This document is essential reading for grasping a quick overview of how ARPANET evolved into TCP/IP networks and how these TCP/IP networks were on the precipice of becoming the commercial Internet.

By 1973, Crocker's work on the host to host protocols for ARPANET had been completed, and the leadership for RFC had been passed to Jon Postel. Crocker then began studying for a PhD at the University of California: which he completed in 1977. Since the late 1970's, Crocker has been a member of many important Internet organisations, such as: Internet Architecture Board, ICANN, and the Internet Society. Crocker also worked at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT), which is the organisation that took on the role of Crocker's ARPA Network Working Group. The IEFT is chiefly responsible for engineering the protocols used by the Internet, just as the Network Working Group was chiefly responsible for engineering the protocols used by ARPANET. The IEFT also manages the Request for Comments (RFC) document series; which, of course, Crocker invented.

Crocker has also held positions in the private sector as a co-founder of two companies: CyberCash and Longitude Systems. Stephen Crocker was awarded the 2002 IEEE Internet Award and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in the 'Pioneer' category; he was inducted in the first year of inductees: 2012.