A couple weeks ago I started taking a Coursera course entitled Internet History, Technology, and Security. The course has been a fascinating journey into what’s made our Internet what it is today, and so I decided to scribble down some of the lecture material that caught my interest.
This is by no means a complete summary of the lecture material, so if you’re interested I highly recommend you go check it out. Without further ado, my favorite points (mostly in the form of rough notes) from week two…
Leased lines and store and forward as a predecessor to the way the web works today. Email deliverability used to take hours or days in the early 1980’s, depending on things like size of message and how many messages were in the queue.
Overthrowing Closed Networks
People wanted to figure out how to pay the phone companies less. This is what inspired DARPA and the invention of packets, which break data into small pieces and allow for a more efficient, distributed network.
Right about this time supercomputers hit and many thanks to Larry Smarr who ultimately becomes a big player in NCSA, academics everywhere start to realize how access to computers could improve their academic research.
Telecom lobbyists tried to block the efforts to get the federal government involved because they said it would interfere with the private sector. They made a few exceptions for the NCSA because at the time this program seemed irrelevant.
Side Note: This reminds me a lot of how Netflix started getting movie studios and television networks to license their content for streaming. In the beginning they’d say, “This is just an experiment, it won’t touch that many people.” Because it didn’t feel like a threat, the studios were happy to agree.
Other Significant Developments
1969 Michigan’s Merit network was also a predecessor because they built a state-wide network aimed at end users. This, along with partnerships with IBM, MCI and others positioned them to become the $15 million National Science Foundation funded network that would connect all the supercomputers.
Even though the NSFNET was half as fast as the EDGE cell networks, nature still found a way. The network grew significantly and in 1989 – 1990 things like the Cleveland FreeNet starting bringing network access to regular people.
In 1995 the project was decommissioned because it was determined the network should be commercial as opposed to nationally funded.
Thing this stuff is interesting? Join me for week three of Internet History, Technology and Security taught by Charles Severance.