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I get a lot of press releases in my email. And by "a lot", I mean "A LOT".

That's not a bad thing. I'm a journalist, and they're one of the tools of my trade. If I didn't get them I wouldn't get some of the ideas I use for stories and features.

However (and it's a big HOWEVER), sometimes I get press releases that are, well, annoying and wrong. They're usually trying to shoehorn something completely unrelated into an anniversary of sorts, and they're certainly trying.

Today is one of those anniversaries. It's the day that CERN has chosen to celebrate 20 years since Tim Berners-Lee persuaded his managers to give him the time and funding he needed to explore some little hypertext ideas he'd had. It's an important day for all of us who read and write on the web, as it's the foundation of everything we do.

It's a pity then that I've been receiving a string of press releases proclaiming that today is "The 20th Birthday Of The Internet". Now that's one thing I'm pretty sure it isn't. I sent my first email message in 1984, and my first USENET message in 1987, and I'm a relative newcomer to the nets.

If we're going to have a birthday for the Internet, it's got to be October 1st 1969, when the first two routers were finally in place, one at UCLA and the other at Stanford. This year is not the Internet's 20th birthday, it is its 40th.

So, as an educational tool, here are some historical photographs:

This is a BBN Interface Message Processor. It was one of the first routers, that hooked up the first few sites on the ARPANET, the predecessor to today's Internet.

ARPANET unveiled

It is substantially older than this NeXT Cube, which was Tim Berners-Lee's machine at CERN. It's the machine that ran the first web server, which itself was built on protocols that evolved from those used by the IMP.

The World's First Web Server

Still, Happy Birthday Web!


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I'm dorkily interested in this debate - I was always told the birth of the Internet was 1981 which was when (was it?) ARPA-net opened up. I think the diff between 69 and 81 is in the conceopt that the Internet is a network OF networks - but v happy to be told I'm wrong by an expert :)

I'm actually amazed 89 is the birth of the Web. I heard nothing of it till 93 - what WAS I doing? :) (Actually moving location, house, job and longterm partner. i guess I was a tad dstracted :)
Mar. 13th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
I would argue that the birth of the Internet, as opposed to A internet(work) would have to be related to the use of TCP/IP rather than NCP.
A precise date could be argued (maybe the meeting where if I recall When Wizards Stay Up Late correctly, someone pointed out that TCP and IP could be separated). Alternatively, 1st January 1983 when ARPANet switched to TCP/IP.
Mar. 13th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
I remember when Jack first showed me the WWW on a Mosaic browser we had running at home. Our first Internet service provider (dial-up, of course) required Jack to bring in our Windows box to their office (this must have been Win3.1) so they could install the Winsock stack since people couldn't get it running otherwise. I guessing this was some time in early 1994, because Jack registered our domain name "stardel.com" a few months later. We had used some of the proprietary on-line services for a few years, but gratefully bailed when we could get the "real Internet."

I thought the WWW looked pretty cool, but my first comment was "this is going to suck up a lot of bandwidth." Since we both worked for MCI at that time, this was a Good Thing. I did not think it would become so popular with non-techies so quickly.

Mar. 13th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Heh - I'm one of the oldest people living whose had the Internet around their entire lives, then, as my birthday is just that close to (and after) the Internet's :-P
Mar. 13th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
The first Arpanet IMPs were based on the Honeywell 316/516 series - which were widely used in process-control/industrial automation systems for a couple of decades. If challenged, I could probably still remember more of the instruction-set of those machines than it's wise to admit. Versions were used as the "Datanet-30/Datanet-355" frontend and "RNP707" remote-concentrator systems connected to GE/Honeywell Multics or GCOS3 mainframes. Ah, how my university memories of operating a Honeywell 6080 and subsequently a stacked 66/DPS300 come flooding back.
Mar. 14th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
While the ARPAnet wasn't a network of networks in '69, by the late '70s it was connected into a hodgepodge of other networks.

It was fairly easy to get an account on the ARPAnet if you were a computer person well before the days of the Internet. So opened up? That more had to do with the technology becoming less techie and cheaper. Nothing at all to do with the technical transition to TCP/IP.
Oct. 22nd, 2009 06:45 am (UTC)
but what's the book?
In the photograph of TBL's server, there is a book open beside it. What is this? I can't make out even from the largest size on flickr.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )