History Of Computer Network
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History Of Computer Network
Based on over 80 interviews of entrepreneurs, engineers, executives, and government regulators, this website chronicles the stories of early startups in the fields of data communications, local area networking, and internetworking. A collection of first-person accounts, market data, and historical narrative, The History of Computer Communications is an excellent source of information for students and professors of computer science, business, and history, as well as anyone interested in the compelling stories of the entrepreneurs that laid the foundations for our globally connected world.
This history follows the origins of computer networks, as the world moved from a telecommunication system based on analogue circuit connections, to a digital, globally distributed network of networks. The questions this research attempts to answer include:
In contrast to the de-regulation that gave birth the data communications market, the local area networking market evolved out of the technical innovation of many key engineers like Gordon Bell of DEC, Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder, Robert Metcalfe, token ring innovator Dave Farber, and startup founders including Ralph Ungermann, Charlie Bass, Judith Estrin, Bill Carrico and many others. The testimonies of these pioneers illustrate the challenges of bringing to market new technologies before a large market for them existed, and the tenacity they needed to manifest their visions for radically changing the future of computing.
The history culminates with two important 1988 tradeshows where vendors and government sponsored agencies touted the future of internetworking products. At the time, the internetworking market was only a fraction of what it would become, but the origin stories of startups like Retix, Wellfleet and Cisco are early examples of the high stakes model of venture-backed successes and failures in what would become a global tech industry.
The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information. Computers in the '60s were large and immobile and in order to make use of information stored in any one computer, one had to either travel to the site of the computer or have magnetic computer tapes sent through the conventional postal system.
Another catalyst in the formation of the Internet was the heating up of the Cold War. The Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik satellite spurred the U.S. Defense Department to consider ways information could still be disseminated even after a nuclear attack. This eventually led to the formation of the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the network that ultimately evolved into what we now know as the Internet. ARPANET was a great success but membership was limited to certain academic and research organizations who had contracts with the Defense Department. In response to this, other networks were created to provide information sharing.
January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Prior to this, the various computer networks did not have a standard way to communicate with each other. A new communications protocol was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This allowed different kinds of computers on different networks to "talk" to each other. ARPANET and the Defense Data Network officially changed to the TCP/IP standard on January 1, 1983, hence the birth of the Internet. All networks could now be connected by a universal language.
The image above is a scale model of the UNIVAC I (the name stood for Universal Automatic Computer) which was delivered to the Census Bureau in 1951. It weighed some 16,000 pounds, used 5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per second. It was the first American commercial computer, as well as the first computer designed for business use. (Business computers like the UNIVAC processed data more slowly than the IAS-type machines, but were designed for