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Series Trailer

· by Karl Auerbach · Read in about 7 min · (1477 Words)
video trailer

All video seriels need a trailer, right? Here’s the one we published in November 2012..

Commentary by Karl Auerbach

This video begins with the famous “Daisy” advertisement used by Johnson against Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. That ad reflected the end-of-the-world feeling of the cold war era. It was from that feeling that the internet was born: that our military needed a network that could survive and operate during a nuclear war.

There seems to be a movement today that tries to deny that genesis of the internet. Yet I have first hand experience of the truth of that point of view - during the early 1970’s I worked (at System Development Corporation, SDC) on networks for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and other parts of the US Department of Defense. We worked with the express goal of making a network that could survive the vaporization of elements of that network in nuclear blasts.

There were, of course, other motivating factors - not the least of which was that packet switching seemed to be an interesting technology. But the money for development came from the US military establishment.

The video then moves into a sequence of science fiction images. Besides being fun this is intended to be an ironic comment on a paternalistic notion that has become part of internet institutions - that technology and technologists are above politics and are thus the best governors of modern society. This was the message of films such as Things To Come.

Then there is a progression of computing machines - from mechanical calculators up through the giant Q7 SAGE computers.

It was the desire to share the largest of those SAGE computers, the Q32 (which lived at System Development Corporation, but before my time there), that created one of the motivations to create the ARPAnet.

The video then goes through the growth of the internet, from the seed of the ARPAnet at UCLA up through the current day.

The Music

The Cannery
Kevin MacLeod
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


The year was 1965.

It was the time of the Cold War … and it was the time of the Space Race.

Nuclear annihilation seemed only 15 minutes away … and we could turn on our TV sets to watch Mission Control and hear the Astronauts.

It was the era of The Bomb, The ICBM, and of The Computer.

It was a time of fear and hope … technology seemed to be both weapon and answer.

From the universities and laboratories arose young wizards who saw our need and who conceived new ideas.

They flew to us … and they began their labors.

Trailing Material

This series covers the formative years of the internet: 1965 through 1995.

Our focus is on people and ideas.

These are our themes:

  • The internet is a collage of many minds. The net arose from the contributions of many people.
  • There was no grand plan.
  • There were (and are) no internet deities.
  • The internet could have gone other ways (or not at all.)
  • The internet is more than the World Wide Web.
  • Government initiatives can produce great things.
  • The internet is not finished. There is much yet to be created.

Unused material

The following material was intended to follow the trailer but it was too long. It will probably show up elsewhere in the serials.

The internet is a child of the cold war and the space race.

During the cold war the US built increasingly elaborate systems to detect and survive a nuclear attack.

And the space race required world-spanning systems for telemetry and control. These systems used computers – lots of computers – and not just computers in isolation. These computers had to talk to one another.

The most powerful computer of them all was the Q32. There was only one – and it lived in Santa Monica, California. A research arm of the US Department of Defense adopted the Q32 and launched an effort to construct a network to time share it amongst users across the United States.

By the mid 1960’s computer networking had become an interesting topic.

From the beginning there was conflict over the principles from which these new networks would be designed.

The telephone companies advocated incremental advances to their existing technology … circuits.

Others looked into the past, before the telephone, back to postal systems and the telegraph.

They remembered letters and telegrams as messages – or packets - that could be relayed from station to station until they reached their intended destination.

The idea that messages could be forwarded hop-by-hop from relay station to relay station became known as “store-and-forward packet switching”, or simply “packet switching”.

The ARPAnet was a packet switching network but with a residual circuit-like property of assuring that data would be delivered reliably and in-sequence.

Other packet switching networks arose – such as CYCLADES – where the packet switches were asked to provide only best effort delivery.

Responsibility for reliable, sequenced delivery was moved into the larger computers that were the clients of the packet switching service.

Thus arose the idea that networks should be composed of layers, with the lower layers providing only basic packet carriage, and the upper layers building services upon that foundation.

Complexity and specialization were to be moved out of the network an into the computers attached to the edges of the network.

We call this idea the “end-to-end” principle.

It was this idea that gives the internet its flexibility.

But the internet is more than packet switching…

While work was progressing on low level technologies to move bits and packets other people were looking at what to do with these new networks.

Academic and research networks such as CSNET and BITNET were created.

At first these networks were each constructed around a single kind of technology.

But that created walls.

Soon people wanted to join diverse networks together into a network of networks - an “inter network”.

Exchange points would be established as places where these networks could hook to one another.

And application programs on this inter network would be written to use standard service interfaces and be insulated from the particular technology underneath.

Most important of these standards were the TCP/IP protocols and the “socket” programming interface.

At first these networks were restricted, but eventually enlightened policies reduced those restrictions, facilitated innovation, and opened the door to private investment.

By the mid 1980’s there was a rich “primordial soup” of the pieces needed for the internet to coalesce.

Nearly every kind of computer from PC to mainframe had TCP/IP software.

Much of this software was available for free and without restrictive copyright licenses.

Machines using that same software could also serve as internet routers. This allowed small networks to be joined by ad-hoc links to form larger networks. This created an opportunity for low cost innovation.

Soon the internet could no longer be thought of as being owned by the US government or by the research community. The US government began to encourage the creation and interconnection of private internet carriers.

And in a cooperative spirit where non-disclosure agreements were still largely unknown the Internet Engineering Task Force formed and ad-hoc interoperability events were held where software developers could test their code.

By 1988 the Interop trade show had become a significant force driving vendors to prove, in public, that their products actually worked with those of other vendors.

Out of this creative chaos the global internet infrastructure began to take shape: The domain name system was created; places where service providers could connect with one another were established and the concepts of transit and peering were born; network measurement and management tools were put into place.

By the early 1990’s the internet had matured to the degree where it was ubiquitous among the tech community. What was missing was a critical application that would turn the internet into the universal technology it is today.

That critical application was the World Wide Web.

This series is the story of the internet in the years before the rise of the world wide web.

Our story is of people and ideas rather than an explication of technology.

This series has several themes:

There was no grand plan. The internet could have evolved into something quite different than what it is today. Or it could have not evolved at all.

The net emerged out of the contributions of many. There were no singular geniuses who gave birth to the internet; rather the internet is a collage of many minds.

There were (and are) no internet deities.

Much of the early internet was a result of government investments, initiatives, and policies.

The internet is not done and its continued existence as an open platform for innovation and exploration is at risk.

The internet is much more than the World Wide Web.