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[ih] Internet-history Digest, Vol 2, Issue 16
On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 7:00 PM Dave Crocker <dhc at dcrocker.net> wrote:
> On 11/5/2019 2:38 PM, Joly MacFie wrote:
> > When was the first actual inter-network message sent using packet
> > technology?
> Might be interesting to seek some agreement about the biggest milestones
> for creating what we experience as the Internet.
> First, what are the criteria for a milestone? Conceptualization?
> Demonstration? A degree of production operation? Mass market adoption?
> Second, what are the easy milestones: packet switching and TCP/IP are
> obvious. What others? (I'm entirely biases towards wanting major
> applications to be added but, well, I'm biased.)
> Third, what are some less obvious but still essential milestones? I'll
> suggest NSFNet because it enabled both a standard for multiple
> backbonbes and an operational approach to infrastructure that became the
> foundation for the commercial Internet.
A very good question, i.e. I think you nailed it. You need to agree on
what an '*internet*' is before you can start to define when '*The Internet*'
Frankly, I'm not sure what the right answer is here as it was an evolution
and I'm not sure if there was any one particular event (like a dinosaur
kill off from an asteroid strike) that we can enumerate. But I think I can
postulate some other things that might be defined as an 'internet' and I
suspect other on this list can offer other examples, too.
e.g. As a minimum using TELNET, SUPDUP or the like, I know that CMU and MIT
built something internally to connect local hosts and allow them to connect
to the directly connected ARPANet hosts that had IMP connections. CMU
called this work the "distributed front-end", which replaced the
original "front-end" that was the directly connected glass tty's attached
to ASYLs on a PDP-11 which was also connected to each local ARPA host with
a DR-11B (the problem with the original FE implementation was each PDP-11
was connected to specific set of hosts so if you wanted to talk to host,
you needed a line to that specific FE). IIRC MIT used ChaosNet protocols.
For the DFE we used LSI-11 and original built something that was
ethernet-like (which we called ethernet at time but was a local hack) but
eventually morphed to 3M Xerox when we got access to the Xerox board and
transceivers (but started out as a local hack). FWIW: The CMU distributed
front end was originally implemented on LSI-11, but around 1976 switched to
Multibus 8085's and later after I left Stanford SUN boards ??I'm guessing
Someone from MIT like Noah can explain more, but IIRC: the Chaos stuff ran
on UNIX, LISP machines and much wider set of HW.
FTP and email was not allowed in the first versions, just remote terminal,
so we can argue that it will not complete inter-networking solution. I
personally think an important aspect of more formal 'internet' is that
things like the original DFE was basically unidirectional and the hosts on
the 'CMU side' were not exposed. So I think that somehow that idea of
packets flowing both ways needs to be in the definition of a full
That said, once an early IP stack started to appear, the distributed
front-end started to look more like a modern router as more and more
support for it went into each 'host" - it became a very similar in
architecture to the original CISCO AGS -- *i.e.* each local LAN became its
own network. Once that was done, support for things that exposed the
remote host to the other network became possible and things like email/ftp
As I said, MIT did the same sorts of things with Chaos and I think went
farther than we did early on to be honest. I also I think Stanford had
something similar, but I never knew the folks involved.
Also for the sake of argument, what about the UUCP network? It did not
support remote login, but it did support remote file transfer, email and
remote execution of jobs? It was bi-directional, al biet since routing was
explicit, was much harder to use than the ARPAnet protocols. My question
is, when hosts like ucbvax, decvax, or some of the other later CSNet hosts
'bridged' - does that count as an internetwork?
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