08-21-2006

Vinton Cerf, a computer pioneer who is now Google’s “Internet evangelist,” is joining the Better Hearing Institute’s (BHI) campaign to convey the tremendous benefits of modern hearing aid technology and other hearing solutions to people with hearing loss. Cerf, who has used hearing aids since he was 13, will be a BHI spokesman and will join the organization’s Advisory Council as well as its “Circle of Celebrities.”

“I have spent much of my life thinking about the potential of communications technology to transform people’s lives,” Cerf says. “Now I’m equally excited about new digital technology that is transforming the lives of people with hearing problems.”

Known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” when he was a professor at Stanford University in the early 1970s, Cerf co-designed the protocols and architecture that make it possible to communicate through cyberspace. He was also a pioneer in the development of electronic mail. His own hearing loss helped to motivate him to look for new ways to communicate, he recalls.

“In creating the Internet with my colleagues, in part I wanted to help people with hearing loss as well as other communication difficulties. Written communication is a tremendous help for me, and so when electronic mail was invented in ’71, I got very excited about it, thinking that the hard-of-hearing community could really use this.”

Just as he has benefited from the Internet and e-mail, Cerf explains, “I have also benefited from the invention of increasingly powerful and flexible hearing aids with substantial digital processing capability. I could not function at all in the fashion that I have been able to without these hearing aids. When I take my aids off, I am basically incommunicado.”

His contribution to BHI’s work includes his participation in “Spotlight on Hearing,” a new documentary on hearing loss that will be airing on PBS stations in the fall 2006.

Cerf has held key executive positions at MCI, where he led the engineering of the first commercial e-mail service to be connected to the Internet; the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he played a key role in the development of the Internet and security technologies; and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Currently, he is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. Founding president of the Internet Society (1992-1995), Cerf also sits on numerous boards of directors, including the Endowment for Excellence in Education, and is a fellow of many prestigious organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium, and the National Academy of Engineering.

He has won dozens of awards, including the US National Medal of Technology (1997 from President Clinton), the Alan M. Turing award (2004) widely recognized as the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science,” and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005) from President Bush, which is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens.

In addition to degrees in mathematics, Cerf holds a PhD in computer science from UCLA and a dozen honorary doctorates from prestigious universities, colleges, and technical institutes from around the world.

[SOURCE: Better Hearing Institute, August 2006]