Net pioneers awarded top honour

Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn are being awarded America's highest civilian honour. The pair will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with 12 other recipients in a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. The two men co-created the basic networking protocol, called TCP/IP, that keeps the net running to this day. Politicians, generals, entertainers and astronauts have been awarded the honour in the past. The medal is generally given to those that have made exceptional contributions to America's security, to world peace or had a significant impact on the cultural life of the nation through their efforts. High praise Mr Cerf and Mr Kahn were among the small group of engineers who worked to create the basic building blocks of what has become the Internet. "Dr Cerf and Dr Kahn have been at the forefront of a digital revolution that has transformed global commerce, communication, and entertainment," reads the citation for the medal. The two protocols that the pair worked on and refined in the early 1970s made it possible to interconnect heterogeneous computer networks and thereby create the "network of networks" that the internet has now become. Together the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) ensure that packets of data reach the right net address and check that once data has arrived none of the information was lost during transmission. These protocols also help to make any network built with them resistant to disruption as they can generally route around any damage to links between separate networks. Also being honoured with the medal in 2005 are Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Alan Greenspan, historian Robert Conquest and Paul Rusesabagina who sheltered people in his hotel during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Past recipients include Doris Day, Pope John Paul II and Edward Teller. US President Harry Truman established the medal in 1945 and it was initially intended to recognise significant civilian contributions to the war effort. It was revived in 1963 by John F Kennedy as a reward for distinguished service to the American nation.

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