Daniel C. Lynch, founder of the Major Computer Exhibition, dies at 82

Daniel C. Lynch, a computer networking engineer whose exhibits on networking equipment helped accelerate the commercialization of the Internet in the 1980s and 1990s, died Saturday at his home in St. Helena, Calif., at age 82 years old.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Julie Lynch-Sasson, who said he was suffering from kidney failure.

In the mid-1980s, when the Internet was still the domain of academia and government, Lynch was a computer facilities manager who played a key role in the early years of data networking. Although the Internet was very small and limited to non-commercial use, Lynch was convinced of its greatest commercial potential.

Daniel C. Lynch in an undated photograph. He sold his company, Interop, to Ziff Davis in 1991 for about $25 million.Credit…The Lynch family

His friends had recently started companies including Cisco Systems and Sun Microsystems. “And I'm like, wait a minute, I can do that too,” she said in a video recorded for her 2019 Internet Hall of Fame induction.

In 1986, Lynch decided to hold a workshop to train vendors and developers to configure equipment to route traffic across the Internet. The goal was to make equipment from different manufacturers work together and demonstrate the uses the Internet could have for businesses. The first event, attended by 300 vendors, was run largely by volunteers, who ran cables across the room and programmed specialized computers called routers, which were just becoming commercially available, to communicate with each other.

“His idea was that you couldn't be there if you weren't willing to connect with everyone else,” said Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. Lynch required participants to adhere to the TCP/IP protocol, a language spoken by computers connected to the Internet that was quickly becoming the industry standard.

“He was essentially helping to spread the word in any way he could that the Internet wasn't just a flash in the pan,” Vinton G. Cerf, a Google executive, said of Lynch.Credit…The Lynch family

Mr. Lynch began calling his event Interop in the late 1980s. Within a decade it became one of the largest computer shows in the world, helping to create a global community of specialists capable of supporting a networking standard that would make data sharing possible among all the world's computers. One IT analyst called it “the plumbing exhibition for the information age.”

Interop also published ConneXions, a monthly technical magazine focused on data networking. Today's market for Internet-related equipment is estimated at $30 billion.

“He was essentially helping to spread the word in every way possible that the Internet wasn't just a flash in the pan or just a research experiment, that it was a real thing, worthy of attention and investment,” Dr. Cerf said. And he was right.

In 1991, Lynch sold Interop to Ziff Davis, a large computer magazine publisher, for an estimated $25 million.

Daniel Courtney Lynch was born on August 16, 1941 in Los Angeles. His father, Thomas Allen Lynch, was a public relations executive and his mother, Irene Elizabeth (Courtney) Lynch, was an educator.

Lynch earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and philosophy from Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University) in 1963. That year he married Bernice Fijak, a recent graduate of Mount Saint Mary's College (now Mount Saint Mary's University) in Los Angeles. Two years later, he earned his master's degree in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 1965 he joined the Air Force and worked as a computer programmer at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico until 1969.

In 1973, Mr. Lynch was hired as a computer manager at the Stanford Research Institute. Arpanet, the precursor of the Internet, was in its early years of operation and the institute was the second node – or connection point – of the nascent network.

Lynch moved to Los Angeles in 1980 to work at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, another early Arpanet node, as a computer facility manager.

He left the institute in 1984 “because things were happening and I wanted to get involved in a startup of some kind,” he said in the 2019 video. He financed the first networking equipment seminar with a Mastercard, a Visa and a $50,000.

After selling Interop, Lynch started a winery in Napa Valley and in 1994 co-founded CyberCash, one of the first Internet-based payment services for e-commerce. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

Mr. Lynch's first marriage ended in divorce in 1976. In 1978 he married Georgia Sutherland; the marriage ended a year later. His third marriage, to Karen Dement in 1980, ended in divorce in 2003.

In addition to his daughter Julie, Mr. Lynch leaves behind five other children – Christopher, Eric, Zachary, Katherine and Michael – and seven grandchildren.

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