Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Robert E. Kahn

Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Robert E. Kahn

Article excerpt

The Meet Your Fellow Companion series features the work of Sigma Xi members. Dr. Robert E. Kahn is an Internet pioneer who, among other things, co-invented the TCP/ IP protocols. He was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Kahn is the chairman, CEO, and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Virginia.

You've been developing the concept of Digital Object Architecture. What is that?

The Digital Object Architecture is about managing digital objects, which are sequences of bits, or a set of such sequences, with an associated unique persistent identifier. These are basically structured data in a form that's interpretable by any machine if you've got the right applications. The information, represented in digital form, has a unique persistent identifier. If in a hundred years, you come back and say "give me the information that's got that identifier," no matter what the technology of the day is, you should be able to find it if that digital information has been managed properly.

There are three components of the architecture. One is something we call the digital object repository, which basically provides a means of accessing these digital objects via their identifiers. Second, if you don't know the identifier, you need a way of acquiring it and so registries store metadata about these objects; those registries can be searched. Once you've got these digital object identifiers, which we call handles, you need to go from the identifiers to a repository where you can access the information. …

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