(I guess it's about time I set down this bit of history. In the context of the Net Neutrality debate it seems like something which ought to be made public, and as the youngest participant in these events I may eventually become the last surviving eyewitness. Photo to right is me in 1979 with hair and everything.)
In 1979 I was a junior at Franklin and Marshall College. I was also a fledgling Science Fiction writer with several professionally published stories, a libertarian activist who had worked on a couple of campaigns and formed a chapter of Students of a Libertarian Society and also what passed for a hacker in those early days of computers. Somehow that summer I lucked into the perfect internship in Washington, DC. Because I attended the right high school and with some pull from my mother, who worked for Senator Mac Mathias, I got an internship as a writer and editor for What's Next newsletter published by the Congressional Clearing House on the Future, which was largely under the oversight of a dynamic young Congressman named Al Gore.
Gore and I had both attended St. Albans School in DC, about 10 years apart. At that point he was in his second term in the House of Representatives and he had decided that his way to make a mark was to become the leading Congressional voice for the emerging world of high tech. The Congressional Clearing House on the Future was his vehicle for doing this. It basically brought in information from the frontiers of science, analyzed it and put it into a form where busy politicians could figure out what to think about it. My job was to do research and write introductory articles on a wide variety of topics, including satellites, solar energy, microwaves, charged particle beam weapons, space exploration and research, and the frontiers of computers and communications. I was good at taking technical topics and summarizing them for a more general audience and got lots of practice at it while I was with the CCF.
As a lowly intern I really had very little direct contact with Congressman Gore. He did call on the phone a few times and I got to field a couple of technical questions in areas where I had some expertise. Apparently somewhere along the way someone must have passed on to him that I knew more about computers than anyone else on staff and I guess I had proved pretty adept at using LexisNexis (one of the very first major online databases) for research, plus I had a background in computer typesetting. So I got pegged to do a lot of work relating to a series of meetings called the Chautauquas for Congress sponsored by CCF and Rep. Gore. These meetings had begun in March and I came in towards the end. They brought together experts from private industry, government, the military, academia and the press to discuss emerging aspects of technology. One of those was computers and communications, and it was the results of that meeting which gave Al Gore some claim to having invented the internet, though to be fair his role in sponsoring the chautauquas was more that of a facilitator who brought the work of many inventors together than that of an actual inventor.