as time-shared computer systems have permitted groups of
hundreds of individual users to share hardware and software
resources with one another, networks connecting dozens
of such systems will permit resource sharing between thousands
Program Plan 723, 3 June 1968.
(Larry) Roberts was the ARPANET program
manager, and led the overall system design.
Roberts obtained his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees
from MIT, and then joined the Lincoln
Laboratory, where he carried out research into computer networks.
In a pivotal meeting in November, 1964, Roberts met with J.C.R.
Licklider, who inspired Roberts with his dream to build
a wide area communications network.
In February, 1965, the director of the IPTO,
Ivan Sutherland, gave a contract to Roberts to develop a computer
network, and, in July, to Thomas Marill (who had also been inspired
by Licklider) to program the network. In
October, 1965, the Lincoln Labs TX-2/ANS/Q-32 computer talked
to Marill's SDC's Q32 computer in one of the worlds first
digital network communications.
In October, 1966, Roberts and Marill published a paper titled Toward
a Cooperative Network of Time-Shared Computers at the Fall
AFIPS Conference, documenting their networking experiments.
Also in 1966, DARPA head Charlie
Hertzfeld promised IPTO Director Bob Taylor a million dollars to
build a distributed communications network if he could get it organized.
Taylor was greatly impressed by Lawrence Roberts work, and asked
him to come on board to lead the effort. Roberts resisted,
but finally joined as ARPA IPTO Chief Scientist in December
1966 when Taylor got Hertzfeld to twist the arm of the head of
Lab to put pressure on Roberts.
Roberts immediately started working on the
system design for a wide area digital communications network that
would come to be called the ARPANET.
In April, 1967, Roberts held an "ARPANET Design Session" at the
IPTO Principal Investigator meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The
standards for identification and authentication of users, transmission
of characters, and error checking and retransmission procedures
were outlined at this meeting, and it was at this meeting that
Wesley Clark suggested using a separate minicomputer called the Interface
Message Processor to interface to the network.
Roberts presented a paper called Multiple Computer Networks
and Intercomputer Communication that summarized the ARPANET
plan at the ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles at Gatlinburg,
Tennessee, in October 1967. He then wrote a program plan called "Resource
Sharing Computer Networks" to build a working implementation
of the network. The project justified itself, in part, by arguing
that different departments would be able to log into other computers
and use their programs remotely, thereby saving the costs of
buying or building programs themselves, and greatly expanding
the capabilities available to each site on the network. He gave
the report to Taylor on June 3, 1968, who approved it on June
21. The work was begun.
Roberts also hired the developer of TCP/IP, Robert Kahn, who had worked on the Interface Message Processor
Roberts became Director of the IPTO when Taylor
left in September, 1969. He left the IPTO in October, 1973,
to become CEO of Telenet, the first packet switching network
carrier, which later standardized on the X.25 networking
system originally used on the EUnet.
He later left Telenet when it was sold to GTE in 1979 and
became the data division of Sprint.
In 1982, Roberts was President and CEO of DHL.
From 1983 to 1993, he was Chairman and CEO of NetExpress,
Inc., an electronics company specializing in packetized facsimile
and ATM equipment. From 1993 to 1998, he was President of
networking company ATM Systems. In the late 1990's, Roberts
was Chairman and CTO of Packetcom, specializing in advanced
Internet routers with improved quality of service, and later
became Chief Technology Officer and Chairman of Caspian
Among other awards
and honours, he has received the Secretary of
Goode Memorial Award from the American Federation of Information
Processing, the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, the Interface
Conference Award, the L.M. Ericsson prize for research in
data communications in 1982, the IEEE Computer Society W.
Wallace McDowell Award in 1992, and the ACM SIGCOMM
communications award in 1998. He shared the Charles
Stark Draper Prize for 2001 with Kahn, Roberts, Vinton
Cerf, and Leonard
Kleinrock for their work on the ARPANET and Internet.