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So, who really invented the Net?

Another great British invention that had to go overseas for funding

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News that a senior minister in Her Majesty's government didn't know his Arpanet from his elbow has ruffled some feathers among learned British Net users. A number of people have contacted The Register to say that Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, was right when he claimed yesterday that the Internet was a British invention. Surely, there's some mistake? Everyone knows that those military techies in the US invented the Net, just as everyone knows that it was an American who first set foot on the moon. "Not so," cried an uncharacteristically vocal band of Brits eager to defend one of the nation's finest technological accomplishments. "You're the one that made the gaffe -- the Net was invented in Britain to send stuff to Sweden. So there," wrote one reader, no doubt with brass knobs on. Other, more reasoned arguments, have suggested that the Net was invented by The Open University and/or the National Physical Laboratory in UK. As reader, Andrew Pitt, explained: "It does seem a little off the mark for Mr Brown to make wide assumptions about the birth of the Internet, but he does have a somewhat misguided point. "Packet Switching, the basis of transmitting information over the Internet by dividing the data into small chunks was invented at Middlesex University. The developers at the time saw great potential and contacted the Minister responsible for technology, which was Tony Benn at the time. However, the government never allocated any money and the research went abroad where ARPA was doling out large sums of money. "So, in a somewhat ironic note, it was actually the last Labour government that killed the early development of the Internet in Britain. It's a very similar story to that of Sir Frank Whittle and the jet engine -- it's a shame the establishment have a dangerous habit of ignoring these people." So, the Net was invented by Brits and rubbished by the same political party back then, that is now attempting to turn the country into a cybernation of wired junkies. Does this now mean that our American readers -- who remained strangely silent when it seemed that The Register was upholding their claim to being the country that invented the Net -- will now bless us with their views on this matter? That is, of course, if Britain and the US aren't in an all-out email blocking war by then... ®

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