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320 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1996
[Paul] Baran's second big idea was still more revolutionary: Fracture the messages too. By dividing each message into parts, you could flood the network with what he called "message blocks," all racing over different paths to their destination. Upon their arrival, a receiving computer would reassemble the message bits into readable form. (pp. 59-60)
The job of the lower layer was simply to move generic unidentified bits, regardless of what the bits might define: a file, an interactive session between people at two terminals, a graphical image, or any other conceivable form of digital data. Analogously, some water out of the tap is used for making coffee, some for washing dishes, [...] but the pipe and the faucet don't care; they convey the water regardless. The host-to-host protocol was to perform essentially the same function in the infrastructure of the network. (pp. 147-148)
There was disagreement over what should go on the left hand side of the [@] symbol [in an E-mail address] and what should go on the right. But before that, there was the debate over whether it should even be used as a delimiter... (p. 199)
RFC 680, [Jon Postel] said, was as standard as mail ever got. "It is nice that many mail-reading programs will accept mail that does not conform to the standard," he said, "but that does not justify mail-sending programs' violation of the standard." If the standard is inadequate, he added, any proposals to change it are welcome. (p. 200)
“As computer communication systems become more powerful, more humane, more forgiving and above all, cheaper, they will become ubiquitous.”—Paul Baran and Dave Farber
Rumors had persisted for years that the ARPANET had been built to protect national security in the face of a nuclear attack… Taylor knew the ARPANET and its progeny, the Internet, had nothing to do with supporting or surviving war—never did.
It might be possible to connect computers in a network redundantly, so that if one line went down, a message could take another path.
Proclamations of officialness didn’t further the Net nearly so much as throwing technology out onto the Net to see what worked. And when something worked, it was adopted.
“There was something amazingly enticing about programming,” he [Vint Cerf] said. “You created your own universe and you were the master of it. The computer would do anything you programmed it to do. It was this unbelievable sandbox in which every grain of sand was under your control.”
I knew some loose facts from before. I studied computer science around 1990, so we had a link to one of the NSF sponsored networks. I knew about ARPA's early network drive. I had read The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution in which is a chapter devoted to the development of the internet. But there are tons of information I didn't know.
There's a couple of misguided editorial choices, though:
* Right in the middle of the book the details on the construction and deployment of the IMP were several pages too long, so it start to get a bit tedious. Sometimes the research for a book turns out so well that you got tons of material and it's hard to restrain from using it all.
*There's is an important amount of telling about the technological difficulties in network design, with a bit of theoretical background. But there are no charts, formulas or anything to really hook a reader with a real technical background. So I'm afrait the authors end up boring both the non technical and the technical readers.
Anyway, this is still a very interesting story. Even as a tale about technology development as a concept. What kind of people it takes to achieve a technology leap? What kind of management? Is there room for government involvement?
I picture telling this story to a digital native:
-There was a time when there was no thing like the internet.
-Really?... But sure the computer manufacturers naturally pushed for it?
-Nope... In fact, computer manufacturers of the day wanted nothing with it. For them it could mean lower computer sell figures.
-How on earth can internet meant less computers?... Anyway, but sure the telecom companies saw a great business niche?
-Nope... They were also against it. Even lobbied against it at backed off from the early interconnections.
-Wow! But I understant the universities were the internet pioneers...
-Nope. In fact, at the time the universities were only seeking for larger computers, the interconnecting thing meant nothing to them.
-So how internet came to be?