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Technology 2 December 2015

Remembering Rob Blokzijl

Olaf Kolkman
By Olaf KolkmanChief Internet Technology Officer

On December 1, 2015, Rob Blokzijl passed away.

Rob Blokzijl started his career as a nuclear physicist, where he catalyzed the collaborations needed for building the networks that served scientific data exchange. Armed with that experience he became a founding member of the RIPE forum in 1989. He would be its chair, its primus inter pares, for 25 years to come. He was at the cradle of numerous initiatives that shaped the Internet, such as the creation of the first regional Internet registry in the world (RIPE NCC). He was one of the key persons for the European Internet and was involved in AMS-IX, in NATO, in ICANN, and various boards and committees. This year he was awarded the Postel Service Award for his pioneering work, 25 years of RIPE leadership, and for enabling countless others to spread the Internet across Europe and beyond.

There is a lot that can be read about Rob’s professional career on the Internet. So a more personal note on how I got to know him.

Rob Blokzijl was a leader – one that listened, absorbed, and then spoke. Never a word too much, always with the strength of logic and argument, often with small sprinkle of irony, but always with common sense.

He was a leader whose common sense was supported by being well documented. I remember that in discussions he often knew more about a document’s contents than its author did. He would share his vision and knowledge, proactively when needed. One could say that Rob was both principled and pragmatic. He held firm beliefs of the Internet that have inspired me, and many others. Rob was always available for a ‘second opinion’ and would provide advice that could be trusted. I regret the times I ignored it.

When Rob was awarded the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award this year, I asked if I could play a role in the ceremony. I did that because the awardee is what I imagine Jon Postel had been: A man with a vision about the Internet who inspired others through his competence, common sense, and personality. Rob was an important mentor throughout my career in the Internet and I was proud and happy that it was possible to pay him respect publicly by handing him the Postel Service Award.

Thanks, Rob.

Our colleagues at RIPE NCC have set up a memorial website at: https://www.ripe.net/participate/ripe/rob-blokzijl-obituary

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