Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy birthday to the Internet!

Forty years ago today, on October 29th, 1969, the first link in what was to become ARPANET (the first packet switching network, that later grew into the Internet, and formed the backbone of today's World Wide Web) was tested. The BBC reports:

It has often been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For the internet, that first step was more of a stumble.

At 2100, on 29 October 1969, engineers 400 miles apart at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Stanford Research Institute (SRI) prepared to send data between the first nodes of what was then known as Arpanet.

It got the name because it was commissioned by the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa).

The fledgling network was to be tested by Charley Kline attempting to remotely log in to a Scientific Data Systems computer that resided at SRI.

Kline typed an "L" and then asked his colleague Bill Duvall at SRI via a telephone headset if the letter had arrived.

It had.

Kline typed an "O". Duvall said that arrived too.

Kline typed a "G". Duvall could only report that the system had crashed.

They got it working again by 22:30 and everything went fine. After that first misstep, the network almost never put a foot wrong. The rest has made history.

. . .

From those first two nodes, Arpanet quickly grew and by December of 1969 it had four nodes. By 1972 it had 37 and then started the process of connecting up networks to each other and the internet, a network of networks, came into being.

Dr [Larry] Roberts [the MIT scientist who worked out the fundamental technical specifications of the Arpanet] has spent his professional life involved in networks and is not done yet. He is currently driving a Darpa research project to get the net ready for the next 40 years.

The work is concentrating on ways to improve security, enshrine fairness so no-one can hog capacity and guarantee quality of connection to support exquisitely time sensitive applications such as remote surgery.

There's no doubt that the net's first step was the start of a giant leap.

There's more at the link.

From so small a beginning, to today's World Wide Web, with probably half a billion people logged on to the Internet at any moment of the day or night . . . that's quite a story! Those involved in its origin may be justly proud, I think. Congratulations to all concerned.



Jerry said...

I didn't see any mention of Al Gore.

Tim said...

Intersting. Somewhere around 1970 and in the UK I worked as a computer techie for the American company NCR. We were installing a new piece of electronic data input equipment that enabled data to go straight onto computer tapes instead of via the IBM punch card. The company that were planning to use the equipment had a head office in Belgium, and the idea was that the data would go via a modem down the phone line direct to Belgium. I believe the system worked, but only if you could persuade the phone operator to leave the plug in at the exchange. We were bedevilled when testing by a voice coming on the line with a "have you finished now luvvy?"

Not quite the internet though.