This past week, just about every DC-based news outlet has picked up the Associated Press story that Arlington County is dedicating a plaque at 1400 Wilson Boulevard to commemorate the birthplace of the Internet-predecessor, the ARPANET. While there’s no question that DARPA, namesake of the network, was deeply and inextricably involved in the development of the network, can you really say that Arlington was its birthplace?
Part of this question is deeply philosophical: what exactly does it mean to invent something that spanned a continent, and then a globe? Are the wires the network? The machines that connect them? The people that wrote the software that the machines run? There’s not going to be as clean cut an answer here as you’d like, but let’s take the opportunity to explore the region’s involvement in the creation of the second greatest technical achievement of the 1960s, shall we?