Vinton Cerf

updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Vinton Cerf once broke the ice at a meeting of computer engineers by stripping off his jacket, vest and shirt to reveal a T-shirt reading, "IP on Everything"! He was only half kidding. Internet Protocol is the language that allows 20 million scientists, hackers, students and e-mail users to talk to one another over a worldwide community of computers known as the Internet. Cerf, 51, not only cowrote IP, he lobbied to have his vision of shared information adopted by the scientific community and earned the title Father of the Internet.

Cerf, formerly an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford and now a senior vice president at MCI Telecommunications Corp., has a personal stake in the Internet. His premature birth left him hearing-impaired (he met his wife Sigrid, 51, who is deaf, at a hearing aid dealer's), and he has difficulty recognizing telephone voices. E-mail presents no such problem. His sons David, 21, and Bennett, 16, are occasional visitors to the Net, which pleases Dad. As president of the Internet Society, an organization that attempts to govern the unruly web, he is working toward universal access. One day, if Cerf has his way, we will all be "an extended family in cyberspace."

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