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DACS General October 9, 1996

Program Review : John Patrick – The Internet Brings Universal Connectedness

IBM’s John Patrick Lays It Out

By Wally David

BY ALL ACCOUNTS John Patrick, Vice President of Internet Technology at IBM, was supposed to be a terrific speaker. He was supposed to be smooth, funny, engaging, interesting, and down to earth. Well, all those accounts were right on target. Patrick has addressed groups around the world, from government agencies to industry gatherings to user groups. DACS was lucky enough to have him discuss the Internet at the October General Meeting.

While Patrick works for IBM, he was not here to push IBM products or services. He did mention IBM from time to time, but it was usually to illustrate a point, not to sell. Instead, Patrick discussed the trend what made the Web take off, what it has to offer, Web commerce, what is coming, and what it all means.

In the past, said Patrick, enabling large numbers of people in one location, organization, or country to communicate reliably and consistently was a feat we now take for granted. The current challenge is to allow large numbers of people to communicate and collaborate reliably and consistently with thousands of other people in other organizations in other countries, independent of what technology they may be using. The Internet allows that.

In the past there were really only local markets. Now, markets are truly global. A bookstore in the middle of Montana can sell books to someone in Florida or Fiji because of the Internet. Patrick envisions a time when your doctor can enter a prescription for you into a network, and you can have it filled at any pharmacy, anywhere in the world.

The Internet is an enabling technology. TCP/IP is becoming pervasive, observed Patrick. TCP/IP will be in our telephones, in our pagers, in our cars, in every computer, of course, in vending machines, and yes, perhaps in our toasters. He said that there will even be a time when your car will send you an E-mail to remind you to change the oil!

The World Wide Web is what Patrick feels made the Internet really take off. It is an application that uses the infrastructure of the Net. It acts like the table of contents of Reader’s Digest. It allows you to scan the information available and choose to read what interests you.

As for what the Web offers us, there are two main items. For business, it offers incredible reach to an unlimited market. It is the equivalent of a 50-million-person local area network. For the individual, we get compatibility. Access is platform- and application-independent. We are all now on the same playing field. It doesn’t matter if you are on a MAC, PC, or UNIX box. All that matters is that you can view the Web with it.

Commerce and security on the web are really a non-issue, according to Patrick. If you have ever ordered anything via an 800 number, you are in much greater danger of having someone fraudulently use your credit card than if you buy something via the Web. Assuming the people you might want to buy from on-line are legitimate, the chance of someone snatching your credit card number off the Web is small. In fact, with data encryption, fraud is nearly impossible.

While this is not the place to discuss the intimate details of the process, on-line purchasing works something like this: You want to order a bottle of wine from a virtual vineyard. You choose the wine and fill out an on-line form with your name, address, and credit card number. Your encryption-enabled Web browser scrambles the information and sends it across the Web to the virtual vineyard. Your software has a private key built into it, which is unique to you. The software on the other end has a public key, which authenticates you to the vineyard. They never see your credit card number. Instead, they send the encrypted message to your credit card company for authorization. When the vineyard gets the authorization, they ship you your order.

This is a simplistic, nonscientific, nonexpert explanation of encryption and commerce, according to my understanding of what Patrick said. If you are interested in reading in full this speech and others John has delivered, please see the information at the end of this article.

What Will the Future Bring?

So what is coming in the future? Many interesting things, including improved and expanded commerce and instant information within seconds, in real time.

IBM Web Sites What drew everyone’s attention were Patrick’s examples of some of the IBM-powered Web sites. They included last years Master’s Golf Tournament, the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, and a move by-move simulation of the chess match between IBM’s supercomputer and chessmaster Gary Kasparov.

We also saw examples of IBM’s experimental Web site, where Big Blue tries out its latest technology and lets you download the experience. You can reach this URL here. It is well worth exploring.

I think that we could have listened to John speak all night. Actually, the question-and-answer session following his presentation lasted for quite a while. John has a very informative personal Web site from which you can read and download transcripts of his past speeches and papers. He also has an extensive list of his favorite web links. The URL for John’s site is: johnpatrick.com. I recommend checking it out.


A vice president of DACS, Wally David is also a member of the dacs.doc editorial committee. He is the special projects manager for Shepard’s, Inc. in Bethel, Connecticut, a medium-size fulfillment and warehouse company. You can reach Wally via e-mail at [email][email protected][/email].