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Weekend Gedankenexperiment - The Kill Switch

On February 5, 2011 at 18:11 dhc2 at dcrocker.net (Dave CROCKER) wrote:
 > On 2/5/2011 6:43 AM, Fred Baker wrote:
 > > On Feb 4, 2011, at 9:49 PM, Hayden Katzenellenbogen wrote:
 > >> Not sure if it has been said already but wasn't one of the key point for
 > >> the creation of the internet to create and infrastructure that would
 > >> survive in the case of all out war and massive destruction. (strategic
 > >> nuclear strikes)
 > >
 > > Urban legend, although widely believed. Someone probably made the observation.
 > Maybe not quite an UL...
 >     <http://www.rand.org/about/history/baran.html>
 > On the average, The Rand Corp is extremely careful about what it publishes, yet 
 > here it is, repeating the claim.

I agree with Dave, I think this idea that it's an urban legend has now
become an urban legend.

If you focus it down very sharply like this:

     DARPA specified (or, perhaps, the project was sold to DARPA with
     a promise...) that the network being designed in the late 1960s
     should be resistant to a nuclear attack.

That's probably an urban legend, who knows, it's probably not all that

But was it observed over and over from the early on that a packet
network, versus the then predominant technology of virtual (or even
real) circuit networks, would be resistant to damage of all sorts?


Another early motivation which isn't often mentioned in these
discussions was the sharing of supercomputer resources.

Supercomputers generally cost tens of millions of dollars back then,
approaching $100 million if you took the infrastructure into account.
I worked on a $100M supercomputer proposal as it evolved into 50 tons
of chilled water on the roof to shoring up the roof to hold that much
water, to running a private gigawatt power line from the local utility
thru Boston...etc.

And the sort of people who needed access to those supercomputers were
spread across the country (and world of course.) It was becoming a
matter of whether to move the researchers, not very practical (how
many finite element analysis experts do you really need at one
university?), or buy each of them a supercomputer (kind of expensive),
or try to hook them up remotely.

At first dial-up seemed plausible but data visualization, graphical
access, became more and more important even in the late 1970s and
early 80s. Researchers were shipping large cartons of magtape so they
could use local computers to generate graphical results of their
computations. It was unwieldy to be kind.

The internet was a good answer to that problem, and that vision of
"high-speed" (for the era) remote access certainly factored into
proposals such as the JVNC-era proposals, NSFnet, etc.

        -Barry Shein

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