Technology from the feds


Government research and development has resulted in many commercial products over the years, and here are a few examples in computer technology.

Air Force

Purpose: The Air Force wanted a decentralized communications network that could function despite nuclear attacks that destroyed segments of the network.

Fate: Spawned X.25, frame relay, ATM, TCP/IP and ultimately the Internet.

Interface Message Processor

Purpose: Develop a connectionless device for forwarding packets in a network that relies on endpoints for ensuring the packets arrive, not the switching devices.

Fate: They evolved into routers, used everywhere from home Internet connections to the core of the largest public TCP/IP networks.

Aspen Movie Map

Purpose: Create a multimedia system to quickly acclimate soldiers to new environments. The project ran a car with four cameras through the streets of Aspen, Colo., to film ahead, behind and to both sides, then reproduced the images on touchscreens that enabled viewers to navigate through the city.

Fate: The project was a precursor to virtual reality technology.

The Clipper Chip

Purpose: To encrypt voice, but to leave a set of encryption keys in a key escrow system that would allow authorized government officials to decrypt the conversations.

Fate: The idea failed to catch on and in 1998, the underlying algorithm called Skipjack was declassified.

Security Enhanced Linux

Purpose: Impose mandatory access controls as required by the Department of Defense.

Fate: Released to the open source community in 2000 it is available in commercially supported products from Red Hat, Fedora, Ubunto and others.