Short history lesson for Tony Abbott, who has apparently claimed that Shadow Communications spokeperson Malcolm Turnbull virtually invented the Internet in Australia, presumably on the basis of being an early investor in OzEmail, one of Australia’s first commercial ISPs.
The Wikipedia’s History of the Internet is very comprehensive, and the first key point is that none of the key technologies of the Internet were invented in Australia. The modem, packet-switched networks, and the TCP/IP network protocol were all developed in the United States (with parallel developments in Europe in some cases). Unix, the operating system that drove the early Internet (and still drives most of it) was mainly developed in the USA, with contributions from all over the world, including some minor ones from Australia. The concept of hypertext was developed by a number of people over the years, mostly in the United States, and brought to fruition in the form of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee, a Briton working at CERN.
As this history of the Australian Internet documents, Australia’s connections to the Internet started at the University of Melbourne, initially with mail and “news” gateways in the mid-1980s, and a full connection in 1989. The first non-academic access began in the early 1990s, through organizations such as the non-commercial APANA and a couple of very small commercial ISPs with “affiliate” arrangements with AARNet, the academic consortium providing internet access to Australia’s universities.
OzEmail, which is where Turnbull came in, was indeed one of the first AARNet resellers, in 1994. But, as the Gizmodo article linked first indicates, his role was as a canny investor who spotted an opportnity:
“OzEmail came to be in 1992 when the editor of Australian Personal Computer sold his stake of the magazine to ACP to focus on his email service provider, originally dubbed MicroTex.
Fast-forward two years and Malcolm Turnbull enters the picture, investing in the company to the tune of $500,000. He later sold his stake for $57 million in 1999.”
Yes, Turnbull was one of the first Australian businesspeople to appreciate the commercial potential of the Internet, and made a killing out of it. But he did not virtually invent anything.
Tony Abbott should avoid further embarrassment by not opening his mouth ever again on anything related to telecommunications. He’s had years to get it right, and he still has no clue.