Did Al Gore invent the Internet?

A viewer asked this question on 8/18/2000:

People keep referring to Al Gore's quote that he invented the internet. What was this all about?

madpol gave this response on 8/19/2000:

Gore co-sponsored the legislation that created defensenet, a project that military computers and later grew into the worldwide web.

He was pretty much the "Alpha Geek" in the senate from the early 80's, sponsoring and promoting internet related legislation and helping remove the legal obstacles to make the modern internet possible.

While the claim, "I invented the internet," is exaggeration to the point of hubris, Gore was instrumental in the rapid growth of the information superhighway and with Bill Bradley led the group of technogeeks which became known as the "Atari Democrats."

During an interview with Wolf Blitzer last in March 1999, Gore said, 'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the internet.'

The claim is essentially true - of course it would have been more precise to say 'funding the creation' rather than 'creating'. In the 1980s DARPA, which is part of the Pentagon and financed the first incarnation of the internet, defunded a number of projects, including civilian use of the internet, which weren't directly related to military applications. Gore played a major role in seeing that the internet project was retained under the National Science Foundation, which created nsfnet. Nsfnet ultimately became the internet we know and love today.

The story that Gore said he 'invented' the internet was created by Dick Armey, a Republican member of Congress. Armey's imaginary wording was then picked up by the media, since what Gore actually said wasn't a good enough story. It was often combined with the stories that Gore claimed to have discovered Love Canal(also phony), or that he said that he had inspired 'Love Story' (yes, phony), to produce the theory that Gore is an obsessive fibber.

JesseGordon gave this response on 8/21/2000:

Here's the synopsis from Gore's biography, which is fairly non-partisan:

In 1989, Gore introduced the National High-Performance Computer Technology Act, a five-year, $1.7 billion program to expand the capacity of the information highway to connect government, industry, and academic institutions. Signed by President Bush in 1991, the bill supported research and development for an improved national computer system, and assisted colleges and libraries in connecting to the new network. While Gore is not, as he suggested in 1999, the father of the Internet, he can credibly claim credit as the wealthy uncle who stepped up to provide funds at an important moment. In 1989, when few public officials grasped the profound changes that new information technology would bring, Gore saw them plainly. "I genuinely believe that the creation of this nationwide network will create an environment where work stations are common in homes and even small businesses," he told a House committee in the spring of 1989.

Source: Inventing Al Gore, p.217, on

My colleague cited Gore's other "exaggerations" as well (Love Canal and Love Story). Those are somewhat exaggerations, too, but only about as bad as the Internet one. Here's his biography on Love Story:

Erich Segal began working on the script for Love Story while in residence [at Harvard while Gore was a student there]. He saw in Gore some of the elements for the character of Oliver Barrett IV, the blue-blooded Harvard hockey player who falls for Jennifer Cavilleri, the smart-aleck Radcliffe musician. Segal sketched Barrett as an amalgam of [Gore's roommate] Tommy Lee Jones--the tough guy with the poet's soul--and Gore, who Segal recalled, was "always under pressure to follow in his father's footsteps."
The literary footnote became an embarrassment to Gore three decades later when he suggested that he and his wife were models for the young lovers. Being merely part of the inspiration for Oliver wasn't enough; he needed to be all of it. Segal was forced several days later to concede that Gore was only half right about Oliver and completely wrong about Jenny. "I did not draw a thing from Tipper," he said. "I knew her only as Al's date."

Source: Inventing Al Gore, p. 58, .htm

Here's the scoop on Love Canal; Gore again said he "discovered" it while the truth is that he helped expose it:

In 1978 chemicals from an abandoned underground dump seethed into basements and backyards in he Love Canal neighborhood in upstate New York, [causing] an abnormal number of miscarriages and birth defects. [Gore's father was a board member of its corporate owner]. Gore considered recusing himself but decided that the issue was too important. Later that year he co-sponsored passage of the first Superfund bill, mandating a joint public-private effort to clean up the sites.
Source: Inventing Al Gore, p.137, on

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