On November 7, the Computer History Museum and the Web History Center will present a special celebration of an historic demonstration that led to the Internet we know and use today. The event commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first TCP-based transmission between three dissimilar networks—widely regarded as the first true Internet connection. The 1977 demonstration was also a major milestone in packet radio, the technology that foreshadowed WiFi and other types of digital wireless networks.
While many people trace the Internet's origins to the ARPANET of the late 1960s, in fact the word "internet" means joining different types of individual networks together. This kind of internetworking made its formal debut with the three-network transmission that occurred on November 22, 1977.
A panel presentation will feature recollections and perspectives from seven computer-industry pioneers and luminaries who participated in the historical event (their affiliation at the time is listed here):
Gina Smith, New York Times best-selling author of iWoz and a well-known technology and science journalist, will moderate the panel.
“This is a special celebration of an historic demonstration that helped create the Internet of today,” said Marc Weber, co-founder of the Web History Center. “The Web History Center is honored to mark this critical milestone in the development of the modern Internet and wireless networking.”
In the fall of 1977, an unmarked step van filled with futuristic equipment, engineers, and sometimes fully uniformed generals quietly cruised the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area. Only an oddly shaped antenna gave any hint of its purpose. The key event occurred on November 22, when data flowed seamlessly from the van to a gateway at SRI in Menlo Park, Calif. and eventually to a host at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles via London, England, across three types of networks: packet radio, satellite, and the ARPANET. The packet radio network, being the first mobile digital radio network, also foreshadowed WiFi and other kinds of wireless access.
In addition to the SRI van, which served as a mobile research laboratory, a broad set of technologies played an important role in the 1977 event:
SRI’s restored packet radio van from which the internetworked transmission originated will be open to registered event attendees for tours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The panel presentation begins at 7:00 p.m.
The event, which is co-sponsored by Cisco Systems, SRI International, and Rockwell Collins, is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; online registration is available at http://www.computerhistory.org/events/index.php?id=1191351626.
The Web History Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with offices at the Computer History Museum and at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, and representatives in three European countries. Founding institutional members include Stanford University Libraries, the Internet Archive, the Computer History Museum, the Charles Babbage institute, and eight others. Formed in March 2006, its charters are to collect at-risk historical material including oral histories, to serve as a facilitating organization for Web and related net and hypertext history as a field, and to encourage public and educational access to that history. Founding sponsors include CommerceNet and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. For more information, visit www.webhistory.org.