Come 'Cerf' the Net
You may think you need the computer skills of a techie to publish information on the World Wide Web, create an intranet, or set up your own Web server. No longer. Thanks to a flood of powerful new technologies that have swept into the market, everyday users now have easy access to a wide range of Web-based applications.
To help NIH staff learn about these tools and other changes in the Web, DCRT is sponsoring Web Information Day on May 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Natcher Conference Center.
The program, whose theme is "Tools for the Web, the Web as a Tool," features seminars and demos on a wide range of topics including Internet 101, HTML, search engines, page design, remote access to the Internet, tools for webmasters, sequence analysis applications, biomedical research sites, implementing an intranet, voice and video over the network, and setting up your own Web server, among others.
Also offered are technical briefings on a variety of hot tools such as SILK, Java, group or collaborative software, and virtual reality modeling language. Attendees can visit booths demonstrating interesting uses of the Web such as electronic commerce, DCRT Web services, and the Community of Science database. All NIH staff are welcome to attend this free event.
Web Day kicks off with a keynote address by Dr. Vinton Cerf, "father of the Internet" and codeveloper of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which became the computer networking language for Internet communications. Now senior vice president of Internet architecture at MCI Communications Corp., he was recently appointed to serve on the advisory committee on the Next Generation Internet, a 3-year, $300-million program that is coordinating efforts to design a high-speed network to handle the exponential growth of Internet traffic.
On Web Day, Cerf's address will focus on science and the Internet. "The Internet is advancing scientific research in different ways. Sharing information is far more effective in this network environment than it ever was with paper. We moved from published paper proceedings to preprints to faxes and now to email and online archives with Web-based access. The net actually accelerates the rate at which we can learn new things and allows discovery more readily. And it's blasting through institutional and international barriers, so people around the world are collaborating far more easily." Increasingly, he adds, "staying on top of your field will be impossible without participating in a discussion group and an email distribution list or monitoring several Web pages."
Several major initiatives are under way to ensure that the future Internet serves the needs of research and education. One of them, the K-12 initiative, is a government-funded program that will connect schools across the country to the Internet. Another, Internet 2, is being organized by a consortium of 100 universities and research organizations to build a high-speed network dedicated to research and higher education.
The most ambitious initiative and the one with the mandate to develop a national plan is the Next Generation Internet, a federally funded, interagency effort to connect universities and national labs on high-speed networks that are 100-1,000 times faster than today's Internet. One of its goals is to foster partnerships among academia, industry, and government in order to keep the U.S. at the cutting edge of information and communication technologies. It also seeks to promote experimentation with the next generation of networking technologies such as high-quality video conferencing and to demonstrate new applications, e.g., in telemedicine and remote instrumentation.
NIH, the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, NASA, and other agencies participate in the Next Generation Initiative through their membership in the National Computing, Information, and Communications (CIC) program, formerly known as the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program.
"As exciting as Web technologies are today, the capabilities of the next-generation networks will make present technologies look ordinary," says Dr. Robert Martino, who heads DCRT's Computational Bioscience and Engineering Laboratory and represents NIH on the CIC research and development program. "All these new technologies -- virtual reality environments, systems that enable multi-modal human interactions, and 'collaboratories' that facilitate knowledge-sharing, group authorship, and control of remote instruments -- will have many uses in research and clinical practice."
As founder and president of the Internet Society from 1992-1995, Vint Cerf is aiming for global access. "I hope the Internet will become a new infrastructure for communication around the globe by the end of this decade," he says. With demand growing at 300 percent a year and an estimated 200 million computers to be connected to the Net by 2001, he has his work cut out for him.
When he designed the Internet protocol, did he anticipate what the Internet would become? "No way. My original focus was on its functionality. I figured it could never get bigger than 128 networks. Today, we've got 200,000 networks linking more than 18 million computers. In fact, the Net has doubled in size every year for the last 8 years."
Cerf, who holds a B.S. in mathematics from Stanford University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science from University of California, Los Angeles, can't remember his first email message but suspects it was something like, "'This is a test.' Engineers, most of the time, aren't poets," he says.
To learn more about Web Information Day, call 4-DCRT or visit http://wid.dcrt.nih.gov.
Up to Top