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[ih] XEROX/PUP and Commercialization (was Re: FYI - Gordon Crovitz/WSJ on "Who Really Invented the Internet?")

It's articles like this, especially in publications well respected for
journalistic quality, that might finally trigger me to write down my
own perspective on internet history...people keep telling me I should
write a book.    My opinion of the WSJ has dropped several notches.

No one can really define "The Internet".  Or maybe just everyone has
their own idea.  Whatever it it, I don't claim to have invented it.
I'm not sure when it was invented.  But there's a good chance I was
there at the time, along with quite a few others in the heyday period
of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

IMHO, all of these learned publications and arguments miss the point
of "the Internet", and especially what was actually "invented".

At the time, there were many companies and organizations working on
networking computers.  IBM had interconnected computers well before
the 70s.  Xerox did XNS, and I remember John Schoch and/or Larry
Stewart being at several of the Internet meetings, one of which was
even held at PARC.  There was lots of technical exchange, in both
directions, with lots of research groups, in government, industry, and

DEC had DECNet.  Novell had Netware.  PTTs had X.25/X.75.  Banyan did
Vines. Apple did Appletalk.  Microsoft joined the fray.   ARPANet had
its own technology.  Networking was the new cool thing.  Everybody was
doing it, and inventing their own technology to interconnect computers
and networks.

All of those "internets" shared a common characteristic.  Computers,
and applications, could interact in powerful ways - as long as they
all adopted the same candidate technology.  You had to pick one, and
hope it would be the right choice.  Many companies were "IBM shops".
Others were "DEC shops".  Smaller companies chose Netware, or
Microsoft, or Apple, or some other technology oriented toward LANs and
office computing.  All of these technologies and products battled for
customer attention and "market share".

These various internet technologies shared another common
characteristic - it was painful, expensive, difficult, and/or
impossible to interconnect computers that had adopted different
technologies.  In every one of these "internet" approaches, it was
expected that the customers would eventually see the light and adopt
their obviously superior particular internet approach as the corporate
standard.  The other companies and inferior technologies would
eventually wither away.

Meanwhile, companies wanted to interconnect with their customers and
suppliers.  They wanted their Apple-based marketing department to be
able to interact with their DEC-based engineering and IBM-based
accounting operations.  They wanted to interconnect *all* of their
relevant computers, even those in other companies.  They wanted to
avoid being locked-in to a single technology and manufacturer.  They
wanted it to be cost-effective and reliable.  They wanted to survive
and thrive as a business, using networked computers as a powerful

TCP/IP - the basis for "The Internet" - was yet another internet
technology of the 70s/80s.  One can argue forever about the merits of
the technical differences of all the internets and who invented what.
But the TCP/IP world - *all* of the technology embodied in all those
RFCs, IENs, etc. - had some unique non-technical characteristics.   No
company owned it.  There were few if any legal entanglements of
patents, licenses, royalties, and such.  It was backed by a major
government as an official Standard, and the required choice for use in
government systems.  Most importantly, it worked.  It had been
deployed and was in use in non-research environments by military and
other governmental departments.  It had been implemented for computers
of many types.  Schools were producing new employees who knew how to
do things with TCP/IP, and weren't familiar with the others.
Companies were offering products and services to deploy and operate
TCP/IP-based systems, and interconnect them with others as desired.
Early adopter pioneers in commercial activities such as manufacturing
and finance had successfully deployed TCP/IP-based systems, and were
either reporting good results or quietly outperforming their surprised
competitors.   There was (and is still) a large, vibrant, open
community actively improving and extending the technology, not subject
to the business decisions of any one corporate management or political

Somewhere along that path, over the 30+ years or so of the journey so
far, The Internet was invented.  It's hard to define...the technology,
experience, processes, mechanisms, legal structure, public relations
and marketing, the pool of expertise, and other fuzzy "culture" things
that made it possible to interconnect most of the people, computers,
companies, and human activities on the planet.

This could have happened with any of those early internet
technologies.  Xerox XNS wasn't all that different technically from
TCP/IP and friends.  You could (maybe) build The Internet on
X.25/X.75.  or on Netware with SPX/IPX.  Or Apple..  Or whatever.

But it didn't happen on those.  It happened on TCP/IP.  DARPA started
it.  NSF, DCA, and others helped move it along in the early years.
Many others joined as The Internet became The Juggernaut that wiped
out all those other technologies.  Tim Berners-Lee delivered the
coup-de-grace with the Web.

Who invented The Internet?   No clue.  I think it was DARPA - the
organization with the technical knowledge, political skills, and
vision to nurture the project and lead it forward until it became
self-supporting and unstoppable.   The "invention" was that
combination of technologies and business processes that DARPA used,
and which made it possible to INTERconnect the plaNET.

Whew, thanks for listening.  Now I feel better...

/Jack Haverty
Point Arena, CA
July 23, 2012