i3 - November/December 2019 - 39

INTERNET PIONEER
( 1 9933 1 - )

A

s the leader of the
Network Information
Center (NIC), the
information hub for the military
networks that evolved into
today's internet, Elizabeth
Feinler, better known as "Jake,"
led the team that organized
NIC's online information
system and devised the
familiar internet dot-com
domains.
Feinler was born March 2,
1931, in Wheeling, WV. During
the Great Depression, money
was scarce and all the guardian
adults in her life worked, so
Feinler grew up independent
and able to fend for herself.
Her mother taught Feinler to
enjoy learning how to do things
instead of dreading doing
them, and she took pride in
learning new skills.
When she was 8, Feinler
talked the local librarian into
an adult library card by getting
her mother to insist she could
read and understand adult
books. Science and murder
mysteries were Feinler's
favorites. She also liked
movies, and was attracted
to strong female actresses
like Betty Davis, Katherine
Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman.
Feinler worked her way
through West Liberty State
College, WV, where she earned

C TA . t e c h / i 3

a B.S. in chemistry in 1954, then
completed Ph.D. course work
in carbohydrate chemistry at
Purdue. In 1956, she left Purdue
to earn money to continue
her education, became
interested in information
science, and never returned to
carbohydrates.
Feinler joined Chemical
Abstracts Service in
Columbus, OH, as assistant
editor in 1957. Chemical
Abstracts was a huge manually
indexed information project,
which provided Feinler insights
into data organization. While
the work was interesting,
Feinler wanted to travel and try
something different.
In 1960, Feinler read an
article describing a program
at Stanford Research
Institute (SRI) that teamed an
information specialist with
a research team. Excited,
she called SRI, asked for and
received the Menlo Park, CAbased job.
Several years later, Feinler
was organizing an enormous

amount of data using 3x5 index
cards and thought, "This work
needs a computer." Feinler
teamed with a programmer to
build a bibliographic system on
a time-shared computer. Her
system attracted the attention
of Doug Engelbart (CT HOF
2012). In 1972, Engelbart hired
Feinler to join his SRI-based
Augmentation Research
Center (ARC), which had
been awarded the Defense
Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) project to
provide the NIC for its packetswitched ARPANET (Advanced
Research Projects Agency
Network) - the forerunner of
today's internet. In 1973, the NIC
became a separate project,
now funded by the Defense
Communications Agency
(DCA), and Feinler became
principal investigator (PI).
Over time, Feinler managed
a group of more than 40, and
her funding increased from
$100,000 to $11 million - a
large program for a woman at
the time. She remained PI for

the project until retiring from
SRI in 1989.
Feinler's team morphed
hard-copy system directories
into online "white page"
and "yellow page" servers.
Her group operated a
24/7 computer center,
ran a telephone "hotline,"
administered network naming
and addressing, and provided
the first WHOIS name server.
In the late 1980s, when the
internet converted to today's
familiar dot-based Domain
Naming System (DNS),
Feinler's group chose the toplevel domains - .com, .org,
.mil, .edu, .gov - and assisted
sites with transition to this new
system. She later referred to
the NIC she and her team built
as "the prehistoric Google."
After a stint a NASA Ames
from 1990-1995, Feinler
retired - sort of. She donated
and organized 350 boxes of
archives for the Computer
History Museum, then wrote
a detailed finding aid for her
contribution, which proved
to be an important source
of internet history. She was
inducted into the Internet
Society Hall of Fame (2012)
and the Women in Technology
Hall of Fame (2018) and earned
the 2013 IETF Postel Service
Award.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

39


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i3 - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - November/December 2019

i3 - November/December 2019 - Cover1
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i3 - November/December 2019 - Cover3
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170506
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