The Internet at 30
On September 2, 1969, a team of computer scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles succeeded in hooking up a computer to a switch known as an Interphase Message Processor. The connection allowed a computer to talk to a switch for the first time, a necessary step in getting two computers to talk to each other. That happened the next month on Oct. 20, when professor Leonard Kleinrock and his team at UCLA were able to get their computer to talk to another one at the Stanford Research Institute. A celebration took place Thursday at UCLA when Kleinrock, the man largely credited as being the ''Father of the Internet," joined others to mark the 30th birthday of the Internet. Then known as ARPAnet, the Internet was funded by the U.S. government's Advance Research Projects Agency and was intended as a network to give researchers at selected centers the ability to use each other's computers. Listen as Robert Smith reports for All Things Considered.
The speakers are:
Robert Siegel, NPR Noah Adams, NPR Robert Smith, NPR Leonard Kleinrock, UCLA Vinton Cerf, MCI Larry Roberts, ARPANET founder Pat Hopkins, astrologer
The NPR piece goes:
RS: This is NPR's all things considered, I'm Robert Siegel ...
NA: ... and I'm Noah Adams. Today in Los Angeles, computer scientists are gathering to celebrate the thirtieth birthday of the Internet. On the second of September, 1969, on the campus of UCLA, scientists hooked together two computers and they began to communicate with each other. NPR's Robert Smith reports.
RS: In the late summer of 1969, there was a feeling that the world was radically changing. Neil Armstrong had just walked on the moon, a young generation had just rocked at Woodstock, and the Beatles released Abbey Road.
LK: The other event that occurred was the beginning of the Internet, which nobody noticed. We didn't even notice it.
RS: UCLA professor Len Kleinrock and a group of engineers had been working 'round the clock that summer of '69, to prepare for what would become the first node on the worldwide network. But before you jump to the conclusion that the Internet was influenced by the utopian dreamers of the late '60s, think again.
LK: I was more the nerd, than the, um, hippie.
RS: Kleinrock, and researchers around the nation, were funded by an arm of the Defense Department called ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency. As large-scale computing developed at universities, there was no efficient way, short of mailing punched cards, to share data and programs. So the government funded development of an ARPANET, that would connect these giant computers. On the third floor of an engineering building at UCLA, Professor Kleinrock shows off what that money bought, a giant switching computer the size of a refrigerator.
LK: It's an ugly battleship gray, made out of (bang, bang, bang) hardened material, this thing would not fit in the elevator. We had to use those hooks to hoist it up outside the side of the building, and into a large bay.
RS: But this machine, called an IMP, did something that had never been done before. It broke up streams of data into manageable pieces and acted as something of a traffic cop directing those packets in and out of a network. A little before noon on September second, 1969, they were ready to hook it up, to UCLA's mainframe.
LK: We had everybody and their brother here, and they were all ready to point to the other guy if it didn't work. Fortunately, we turned this thing on and the bits began to flow.
RS: If there was a historic message passed that day, only the computer understood it. Those random bits were just to show that the machine was working. The first human message came a month later when a computer at Stanford became the second node on the net. Researchers in L.A. talked by phone to Palo Alto, as they tried to log in from 400 miles away.
LK: So my, my cousin Charlie typed in the `l', and he said, "'d you get the 'l'?" And I said, "got the 'l'". Typed in the 'o', "you get the 'o'." Got the 'o'. Typed in 'g', "get the 'g'?" Crash. First message on the internet was "hello," crash.
RS: An hour later they succeeded, and the Internet was on the way. By the end of the year there were two more computers hooked up. Seven months later there were ten. Today UCLA holds a small birthday party for the Internet. So what kind of presents do you get for the computer network that has everything? UCLA chose to gather together all the fathers of the net, to talk about how proud they are of their child. Even so, one dad sees the day a little differently. Vinton Cerf, who helped write the common protocols of the net, says the Internet wasn't born, it evolved.
VC: It is understandable that, uh, if you're building a cathedral, y'know, and you happen to put one of the stones in it, it's very tempting to imagine that your stone is more important than somebody else's, and in fact, of course, it's not a cathedral unless all the stones get put in place.
RS: There are a bunch of other important landmarks, Cerf says. Email appeared in 1972. In 1974 Cerf and Bob Kahn developed the protocol that allowed entire networks to speak to each other. But Larry Roberts, who managed the ARPANET project, said you've got to give credit to what happened on September second.
LR: It clearly was the first day that traffic moved on the Internet, and traffic has grown every day since then, and the user population has grown, so I think it clearly is the start of the Internet.
RS: Coincidentally, Roberts says, in this anniversary month the Internet passes another major milestone. Some time in September the combined traffic on the Internet will surpass that of the world wide phone network. So is there any significance to the Internet's birthday, other than an opportunity for high-tech nostalgia? Pat Hopkins thinks so.
PH: If the Internet was born on September second, 1969, its sun sign would be in Virgo.
RS: Hopkins is a professional astrologer, and also a web site designer. The Internet, she says, was born on an auspicious date.
PH: If the Internet was a person, it would be a person with a lonely heart. Ah, but it would also be a person of service. It would be of service to others. There's a lot of a humanistic quality here, that if this was a person, that, that, uh, this person would make a great friend.
RS: But Professor Kleinrock at UCLA says the success of the Internet lies not in its stars, but in its funding. In the 1960s, the government gave them money, and let them innovate.
LK: That spirit of openness, of no control, of no di'... forced directions, is what made the Internet as successful as it is today.
RS: With an estimated 179 million ... online, Kleinrock's baby is a strapping thirty years old today, and still growing. Robert Smith, NPR News, Los Angeles.