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Ted Stevens, Father of "Intertubes", said to die in plane crash

Longest-serving Republican Senator from Alaska made name in tech circles for calling Internet a series of tubes

By , Network World
August 10, 2010 04:03 PM ET

Network World - Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, best known in technology circles for once referring to the Internet as a series of tubes, has reportedly died in a plane crash in Alaska at the age of 86. He was among five people killed in the crash, but at least three people have survived.

Stevens, a World War II veteran, held the distinction of having served longer than any other Republican senator -- from December 1968 to January 2009. The end of his tenure in the senate was marred by a federal indictment that he violated ethics laws by not reporting gifts, and although he was found guilty, his conviction was later vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Notable deaths in IT during 2009

In technology circles, Stevens will be remembered as a strong opponent of net neutrality and for his description of the Internet -- during debates on that topic -- as a series of tubes, akin to pneumatic tubes used to zip memos around office buildings and factories in the old days. 

Stevens said: "And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled, and if they are filled, when you put your message in it gets in line, and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

Some defended him as simply using a metaphor -- like pipes -- to boil down the subject matter, though others, such as the Daily Show, poked fun at the senator's description.

Stevens' terminology has even been reworked into "intertubes" and found itself in the Urban Dictionary, a techno remix video and many a pundit's column.

A Series of Tubes was the top trending topic on Twitter at one point today.

Aside from his involvement in the net neutrality debates, Stevens was also a vocal proponent of teleworking and put forth legislation to require federal agencies to support telecommuting.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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