The “father” of the internet in Portugal gave his last lesson on Wednesday as a full professor of distributed computing systems and computer networks at the Department of Informatics of the NOVA School of Science and Technology, on the same day he turned 70 – a current age of retirement. FCT NOVA’s Grand Auditorium was filled with students, colleagues and even researchers from other faculties to attend the jubilation ceremony of José Augusto Legatheaux Martins.
After the usual tribute speeches, the professor began the lesson “Internet: impact, virtues and limitations of a network architecture with more than 40 years” and i was present to bring him the career notes of this researcher who boosted the first web server internet access (ISP – Internet Service Provider) Portuguese, in 1996.
A teacher since the 1980s, he chose to teach because, at the time, it was only possible to pursue research along this path. In 1979, he graduated in Computer Engineering from the Faculty of Science and Technology of Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Before that, while attending the Lyceum D. João de Castro, he was already showing proof of a promising future, having designed and built a “Digital Didactic Computer” that was distinguished with its presence in the “Jougend Forscht” – German science competition for the youth – 1969. This work also obtained the 1st National Prize, as well as a Certificate of International Merit (in the Netherlands), in the “Contest for Young Scientists and Inventors”, organized by PHILIPS, in the same year.
From 1983 to 1987, he was a researcher at INRIA in France, at the central office in Paris, where he developed the beginnings of distributed operation systems.
At the end of 1986, he obtained his PhD in Distributed Systems at the University of Rennes, in France. From 1988 to 1992 he was a professor at the University of Lisbon and, from then on, at FCT NOVA.
Between 1990 and 1994, he led the national project that uses the Portuguese branch of the Internet and led the PUUG – Portuguese Group of Unix Users and the Portuguese branch of EUnet, non-profit organizations that promoted Open Systems, the TCP / IP network and the Internet adoption.
His previous research was related to distributed operations systems, distributed data replication, mobile systems and CSCW systems, which is an interdisciplinary scientific area that studies how group work can be aided by information and communication technologies.
Currently, his main research interests are related to the routing and management of computer networks and the future evolution of the internet.
In the years in which we celebrate 30 years of Portugal’s connection to the internet, Legatheaux, who is also a researcher at NOVA LINCS, says he is “in love with the internet”. “It is the most complex human technological achievement ever”, true in the opening of his lesson, which lasted close to an hour and a half.
In context, the internet was born from a project by a North American agency, DARPA, to use packet data switching technology to link the computers of several American universities, with the objective of allowing the sharing of computational resources between researchers.
However, it is a network with no barriers to entry: “It is a free space for criminals, it was conceived without the security aspect. But its evolution cannot depend on the resolution of security problems”, he defended.
Among the problems that IT workers do not know how to solve, he highlights the protection of devices that are connected to the network and the mitigation of services that bring services to a halt on the internet.
In addition, Professor Legatheaux also points out that “the security, functioning and stability of the internet is very dependent on one or two dozen companies”, that is, when a failure has a dominated effect, giving the example of the most recent “blackout” of Facebook, which was down for six hours earlier this month, and which dragged WhatsApp and Instagram, also owned by Mark Zuckerberg.
According to the researcher, in terms of regulation, the most pressing issues are the use of the internet for illegal activities, such as consequences for intellectual property, the use of artificial intelligence for social control, and the possibility of a cyber-war.
In this field of regulation, a Europa presents itself as champion. But those who hold digital sovereignty, he says, are undoubtedly the United States and China. Examples of this are stratospheric valuations on stock exchanges, where 5 internet giants are always present at the top: Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Facebook.
“In the knowledge society, the control of information and decision is the seat of power”, read the last PowerPoint slide that the teacher went through during the class. In the end, he received a standing ovation for about a minute.
José Augusto Legatheaux Martins was the first member of the IT department at FCT NOVA to be retired.