Thursday, June 05, 2008

Something About the Origin of the Internet

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Internet. I just got some information from the book and internet. Share with you.

The Founding Fathers: Leonard Kleinrock, Paul Baran, and Larry RobertsThey were present at the creation. Baran, at the Rand Corporation in the late 1950s, conjured the idea of “packet switching.” Roberts, chief computer scientist at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, oversaw the creation of the Arpanet in the late 1960s. In Kleinrock’s laboratory at U.C.L.A., in 1969, this new digital way of transmitting data—precursor of today’s Internet—came to life.


ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency) was created by the Eisenhower administration in 1958 in reaction to the Soviet Union's orbiting of the Sputnik satellitesperceived in the United States as a clear sign that the Soviets were outpacing the United States in science and technology.

The pioneering research of Paul Baran in the 1960s, who envisioned a communications network that would survive a major enemy attacked. The sketch shows three different network topologies described in his RAND Memorandum. The distributed network structure offered the best survivability.

By April 1971, there were 15 sites connected in ARPANET:
University of Utah
RAND Corporation
System Development Corporation
Harvard University
MIT Lincoln Labs
Stanford University
University of Illinois at Urbana
Case Western Reserve University
Carnegie Mellon University
NASA Ames Research Center

The map above shows the topology of ARPANET in March 1977. It was scanned by Larry Press from the ARPANET Completion Report, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Burlington, MA, January 4, 1978.

ARPANET and the Bomb

One of the most enduring myths about the origins of the ARPANET is that its was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. The myth is undoubtedly rooted in Paul Baran's work at the RAND Corporation. But nuclear attack was the furthest thing from the minds of Larry Roberts and his scientists. Baran's network survivability ideas influenced the construction of the ARPANET for the much more immediate reason that switching nodes and the links connecting them were at the time notoriously unreliable. (According to a famous story, when Charley Kline sent the first packets on the ARPANET in 1969, from UCLA to Stanford Research Institute, he got as far as the g in "login" before the system crashed.) Redundant packet switches and links, and a dynamic routing protocol, were for routing packets around failed links and nodes, not radioactive craters.

Al Gore Invents the Internet

A recent bit of Internet mythology is U.S. Vice President Al Gore's supposed claim that he invented the Internet. The story started with an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition. Gore was campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president, and Blitzer asked Gore why voters should support him rather than Bill Bradley. As part of Gore's reply, he said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."

Although his choice of words was clumsy (taking the initiative on initiatives?), Gore was trying to get across that as a congressman and senator he had been a leader in addressing a range of important issues.
Reporters were quick to pick up on the gaffe. At first, most simply tried to point out that the Internet was "invented" in 1969 (which is not true either), long before Gore came to Congress. But the news media soon morphed Gore's unfortunate choice of words into a claim that he had invented the Internet. Comedians and political opponents happily repeated the misquote until it became accepted truth. Even Gore himself began making jokes about it.

The reality is that Gore's legislative efforts from the 1970s on did indeed help create the Internet we now enjoy (or hate). Republican leader Newt Gingrich stated, "Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet."

Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn also weighed in on the subject: "We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he 'invented' the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening." After enumerating his contributions, they conclude: "No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet... The vice president deserves credit for his early recognition of the value of high-speed computing and communication and for his long-term and consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world."


"OSPF and IS-IS Choosing an IGP for Large-Scale Networks"
by Jeff Doyle - November 01, 2005

For a good set of diagrams of the ARPANET as it grew, plus some hand-drawn sketches by Larry Roberts and others, see

"How the Web Was Won"

"Transcript: Vice President Gore on CNN's 'Late Edition',", March 9, 1999.

No comments: