The 1980s internet protocols become universal language of computers

Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf set the standardsThe internet was not something born of a single idea, but rather a gradual evolution, and the work of many people over many years.

The idea started with a vision to create a decentralized computer network, whereby every computer was connected to each other, but if one member of the systems was hit, the others would remain unaffected.From the initial idea of a decentralized computer network came the concept of packet switching. During the 1960s Paul Baran developed the concept of packet switching networks while conducting research at the historic RAND organization.

What is a Protocol?

The network concept of protocols establishes a set of rules for each system to speak the others language in order for them to communicate. Once the concept of packet switching was developed the next stage in the evolution was to create a language that would be understood by all computer systems.

This new standard set of rules would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences. Protocols describe both the format that a message must take as well as the way in which messages are exchanged between computers.

The next phase in the evolution of the Internet would be the work of Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf during the 1970s. Kahn and Cerf would collaborate as key members of a team to create TCP/IP, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), the building blocks of the modern internet.

TCP/IP becomes the language of the Internet

In the 1960s Paul Baran developed packet switching

geek visionary Paul Baran In the 1960s, Paul Baran, one of the founding fathers of the internet as a researcher at RAND, developed the concept of packet switching as an integral part of the new technology that would become the internet.

One of the key differences between communications before the internet, to the way information flowed with the new standards known as Internet Protocol, is the concept of packet switching.

Throughout the standard for Internet Protocol you will see the description of packet switching, "fragment and reassemble internet datagrams when necessary for transmission through small packet networks." A message is divided into smaller parts known as packets before they are sent. Each packet is transmitted individually and can even follow different routes to its destination. Once all the packets forming a message arrive at the destination, they are recompiled into the original message.

After joining the RAND Corporation in 1959, Baran took on the task of designing a "survivable" communications system that could maintain communication between end points in the face of damage from nuclear weapons.

RAND was a think tank that focused mostly on cold war related military issues, and was looking for communications systems that would survive a nuclear attack. An article on the RAND website, "Paul Baran and the Origins of the Internet," states that Paul Baran offered a solution "to communicate in the aftermath of a nuclear attack." It is often debated as whether RAND's view was the primary goal of the ARPANET.

Baran's concept of packet switching was part of this work, as it allowed for a system that could route traffic around an area if there was a problem, packets would simply be routed around it.

In 1969, when the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) started developing the idea of an inter-networked set of terminals to share computing resources, the reference materials which they considered included Baran and the RAND Corporation's "On Distributed Communications"

When was internet invented: J.C.R. Licklider guides 1960s ARPA Vision

A true geek visionary J.C.R. LickliderIn the 1960s the vision of a worldwide network of computers by Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider would lead to the ARPANET.

With the Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik, the first orbiting satellite, in 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to address the needs of technology research and development.

The goal of ARPA was to address the technology needs of the U.S Department of Defense. ARPA would be the parent of the computer network of the ARPANET.

Licklider guides ARPA Vision

J.C.R. Licklider, known by friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances as "Lick," was the first to describe the concept he called the "Galactic Network."

In the paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” published in 1960, Licklider provided a guide for decades of computer research to follow.  He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.

In October 1962, Licklider was appointed head of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA, the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The IPTO funded the research that led to the development of the ARPANET.

During his time as director of ARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) Licklider funded a research project headed by Robert Fano at MIT called Project MAC, a large mainframe computer that was designed to be shared by up to 30 simultaneous users, each sitting at a separate typewriter terminal. Project MAC (the Project on Mathematics and Computation) would develop groundbreaking research in operating systems, artificial intelligence, and the theory of computation.

Licklider sought out the leading computer research institutions in the U.S. and set up research contracts with them. Soon there were about a dozen universities and companies working on ARPA contracts including Stanford, UCLA, and Berkeley. Lick jokingly nicknamed his group the Intergalactic Computer Network. This group would later form the core who created the ARPANET.


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