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The Prince of Pain
The Prize

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Fall 1997
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Roberts and Kleinrock conceived of the Measurement Center as an outfit that would be responsible for performance analysis -- a sort of digital test track like those on which fearless drivers push the outer limits of high-performance cars. Kleinrock and his group were in charge of gathering data -- total network response time, traffic density, delays and capacity -- the measures needed to evaluate how the network would perform. Kleinrock was a theoretician; his speciality was simulation and modeling. Through his analysis and simulations, he had come as close as one could to predicting the ways in which computer networks might perform without actually having a network to run. He welcomed the chance to put his theories into practice.

By 1968, both Vint Cerf and Steve Crocker were back at UCLA, ensconced in the labs at Boelter Hall. As an undergraduate, Crocker had worked, as he puts it, "at the bottom of the totem pole" on one of the first networking projects ever. The goal of that project, overseen by Professor Gerald Estrin, a longtime faculty member who had an interest in digital computing, had been to connect three existing computer centers on campus: UCLA's main computing facility, the medical center and the business school. All operated IBM 7090/7094 machines of the period but, as it turned out, machine compatibilities weren't the main obstacle to success. Human clashes were. To their chagrin, Estrin's group discovered that each of the UCLA computing centers had developed its own culture, programming style, policies, quirks and egos. As a result, their project fizzled: The people involved simply couldn't agree on a common approach to linking the centers.

But now, with Crocker and Cerf as members of his 40-member UCLA team, Kleinrock mounted a second, epochal venture into computer networking. He put Crocker in charge of software and added a new player, a young man named Jon Postel 66, M.S. 68, Ph.D. 74. Postel was the resident eccentric. He sported a long, bushy beard, wore sandals year-round and never put on a necktie in his life. Unlike the others on the project, who were mainstream academics, Postel had developed his interest in computers at a local community college. Like the others, Postel was passionate about computers.

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