Computer History Museum and Web History Center Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Internet Milestone

Mountain View, California  |  November 01, 2007

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):

  • Vinton Cerf, DARPA
  • Jim Garrett, Collins Radio Company
  • Irwin Jacobs, Linkabit
  • Robert Kahn, DARPA
  • Donald Nielson, SRI International
  • Paal Spilling, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment
  • Virginia Strazisar Travers, BBN

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:

  • Packet Radio: Built by Collins Radio Corporation (now Rockwell Collins)
  • Terminal Interface Unit and TCP Client: Built by SRI International; contains a modified Telnet terminal handler and one of the first versions of TCP, written largely at Stanford University and completed at SRI
  • Gateways: Designed and implemented by BBN for connecting the ARPANET to both the Packet Radio and Satellite Networks
  • TCP Server: In a DEC TENEX host located at University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute
  • Packet Satellite Network: Implemented by Linkabit Corporation, BBN, and others between England, Sweden, and the United States
  • Packet Radio Network: Designed and implemented by BBN, Collins Radio, SRI, and University of California, Los Angeles, with system integration and technical direction by SRI
  • ARPANET: First major packet-switched network consisting of landlines in the U.S. with overseas nodes in Norway and England

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

About the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a 25-year history as part of the former Boston Computer Museum. CHM preserves and presents the artifacts and stories of the information age and is dedicated to exploring the social impact of computing. CHM's diverse collection of computing-related artifacts is the largest and most significant in the world. CHM brings computing history to life through an acclaimed speaker series, dynamic website, and onsite tours and exhibits. Current exhibits include "Mastering the Game: A History of Computer Chess," "Innovation in the Valley," and "Visible Storage," featuring 600 key objects from the collection. A signature "Timeline of Computing History" exhibit will open in October 2009. For open hours and more information, please visit or call 650.810.1010. Admission is free.

About the Web History Center

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

Press Contacts:

Marc Weber
Web History Center
(415) 282-6868

PR Team
Computer History Museum
(650) 810-1059


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