Blog Posts for 2012

August 13, 2012 | 0 comments

The world’s first Internet transmission occurred on October 29, 1969. At least, that’s what some people believe. Others say the more important moment arrived eight years later, when a repurposed delivery van equipped with a wireless transmitter sent a message from San Francisco to Norway and back to California by way of satellite.

The date was November 22, 1977, and no one seems to remember what message was sent — or even who was in the van. But they do remember how it was sent. This marked the first time the TCP/IP protocol — the same protocol that underpins today’s Internet — was used to send information across not one, not two, but three independent computer networks.

“It wasn’t just a transmission,” says Bob Kahn, one of the key figures behind that moment. “It was a whole system of network protocols being demonstrated over three different networks.”

You can certainly argue that the first Internet transmission happened much earlier. The world generally agrees it happened in 1969, when researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles sent the inaugural message across the ARPAnet, the government-funded network that eventually evolved into the Internet as we know it. But...

August 6, 2012 | 0 comments

When Lawrence Landweber created the Computer Science Network (CSNET), an intentionally open computer network that helped pave the way for the modern Internet, he knew one day its technology would be used in banking, travel, and commerce. He didn’t predict that the unsecure network he built would today allow hackers to take down websites or extract private information.

In the 1970s, only universities that held military and Department of Energy contracts could use the first packet-switching computer network called the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). Many other universities longed to connect to ARPANET to share information and stay competitive, so Landweber proposed another academic packet-switching network, CSNET, in 1979.

Not everyone was optimistic about the technology. Some reviews of Landweber’s proposal said that the Internet could never scale to 200 universities and that it demanded too much computing power to run on ordinary computers. However, The National Science Foundation gave $5 million to fund the project in 1981, and Landweber got building.

In addition to building the network, Landweber built electronic-mail, directory, and file-sharing software to run on top of CSNET. In the span of four years, more than 200 universities, organizations, and companies were connected to CSNET, quelling earlier concerns that the network couldn’t operate...

July 30, 2012 | 0 comments

Who invented e-mail? That’s a bit like asking, “Who invented the Internet?” Even those with intimate knowledge of its creation can’t agree on the moment it actually came to life. But amid all the bluster over the origins of e-mail, one man holds a claim that resonates well beyond the rest.

Ray Tomlinson is the reason your e-mail address includes an ‘@’ symbol.

For this reason — and many others — you wouldn’t be remiss in calling Tomlinson the inventor of e-mail. And many do. Earlier this year, in recognition of the seminal electronic mail system he created in 1971, Tomlinson was inducted into the inaugural class of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) Internet Hall of Fame, alongside such pioneers asVint CerfSir Tim Berners-Lee, and Van Jacobson.

After completing an electrical engineering master’s degree at MIT in the mid-’60s and spending a few more years at the university working on a doctorate, Tomlinson wound up at Bolt Beranek and Newman, aka BBN, a Boston company that played a key role in the creation of the...

July 23, 2012 | 0 comments

In 1983, you could ask for your own internet address. But not after 6 p.m. California time. Or over the Christmas holiday.

When the internet was still the ARPAnet — the government-funded network that connected various research outfits across the country — you couldn’t get an address without the help of Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler and the Stanford Research Institute’s Network Information Center. And the NIC wasn’t open around the clock.

“If you wanted to add a machine to the network, you had to call SRI, and you would talk to the Network Information Center and ask for a name and an address,” says Paul Mockapetris, who worked on the ARPAnet in the early- to mid-’80s as a researcher at the University of Southern California. “The problem is that SRI was off during Christmas week, and they went home on weekdays.”

Mockapetris is the man who solved this problem. He invented the Domain Naming System, or DNS, which automated the management of internet names and addresses by spreading the duties among myriad servers setup across the network, and ultimately, it allowed the internet to operate without the NIC or any other single naming authority.

Though the DNS has evolved...

July 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Craig Newmark calls his recent induction into the Internet Hall of Fame for building Craigslist a “clerical error.” If it were (and it most definitely is not), there would be a certain symmetry to it. Errors, or happy accidents, have a way of finding the eccentric technologist. Newmark’s eponymous internet site is the chief example.

Newmark, who describes himself as a 1950s-style nerd, “pocket protector and all,” worked at IBM post-college writing multitasking kernels for DOS. When the World Wide Web was still young, and just making its way from universities and large companies into the average person’s home, Newmark created a small events list in 1995. The list highlighted social gatherings of interest to internet developers — folks like Newmark. “Back then, I saw a lot of people helping each other out and thought I should give back by starting a simple events list,” says Newmark. “I got feedback on the list and did something about it, and it eventually grew into Craigslist.”

The list took off via word-of-mouth and grew into one of the most trafficked sites on the internet. For almost five years, Newmark ran Craigslist as a nonprofit, even as the first large internet companies emerged and their founders made fortunes. In 1999, the height of the dot-com boom, Newmark finally relented to pressure to turn his little list into a money-making venture and...