Mike Muuss

Nine years ago the great Mike Muuss, inventor of PING and many other ground  breaking software tools, was killed in a car accident. Almost a decade later we pay respect to his memory in the current issue of IR Watch (to be delivered a bit late in few days). The Who is Who column of IRW features the following:

Michael John Muuss (October 16, 1958 – November 20, 2000), a multi-talented computer wizard who helped lay the foundations for the modern-day Internet, was killed at the age of 42 in an automobile accident near his home in Havre de Grace, while returning home from a restaurant, when his car was involved in a multivehicle pileup on Interstate 95. At 9 years from his death, we pay respects to his memory. The following are excerpts from his Obiturary. (Obituary from The Baltimore Sun Company: http://www.ping127001.com/pingpage/muuss.htm).

A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, Muuss spent his entire career at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he established a reputation as an enthusiastic problem-solver who did groundbreaking work in areas ranging from computer networks to graphics.

He is best known for inventing PING, one of the most widely used IP address retrieval and diagnostic tools for computer networks in the world and used in almost all PCs.

Contrary to popular opinion/urban legends, the PING name was not intended to be a ping pong analogy or to stand for Packet Internet Grouper. According to his own words (http://ftp.arl.mil/~mike/ping.html):

  • “I named it after the sound that a sonar makes, inspired by the whole principle of echo-location.”
  • “From my point of view PING is not an acronym standing for Packet InterNet Grouper, it’s a sonar analogy.“

In the early 1980s, Muuss helped lay the technological foundation that would transform what was then called the ARPANET, back then an obscure military computer network created in 1969 by the Department of Defense, into the modern-day Internet. (http://ftp.arl.mil/~mike/).  

Muuss also created BRL-CAD, a program that allowed the military to create sophisticated 3-D models. Over the years, BRL-CAD has become one of the Army’s most-licensed technologies and is used to model everything from tanks to brain tumors.

His work in computer security landed him a cameo appearance in Clifford Stoll’s 1989 hacker classic “The Cuckoo’s Egg,” a nonfiction thriller about the hunt for an international band of computer criminals. Muuss was also known for tracking down crackers.

In 1990, he was one of the government’s key witnesses in the case against Robert Tappan Morris, whose “Morris Worm” in 1988 nearly brought down the Internet.
(Case Sentence: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/05/us/computer-intruder-is-put-on-probation-and-fined-10000.html?scp=2&sq=robert+tappan+morris&st=nyt
Case Appeal: http://morrisworm.larrymcelhiney.com/morris_appeal.txt).

In 1999 and at the age of 41, Muuss was given the Research and Development Achievement Award, the Army’s highest civilian award for scientific accomplishments. Before his death, he assembled an impressive review on the History of Computing Information (http://ftp.arl.army.mil/~mike/comphist/).