Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy 20th Birthday to the Modern Internet

In 1985 the National Science Foundation (NSF) started funding supercomputer centers at five locations in the United States:

- The John von Neumann Center at Princeton University,
- The San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California at San

- The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
- The Cornell Theory Center at Cornell University,
- The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Westinghouse Electric Company

These supercomputers needed to be connected so, also in 1985, the NSF started to build out NSFNET. NSFNET was a national network that linked up the supercomputers to academic networks around the country so researchers not located on one of the supercomputer campuses could use them at no cost. The NSFNET network was built using two models:

- The Computer Science Network (CSNET) model, another NSF project started in 1980 that linked Computer Science departments across the United States;
- The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which was desiigned and used by ARPA of the United States Department of Defense,

The original NSFNET backbone ran at 56 Kbps - that's 56 thousand bits per second!!

It didn't take long before more bandwidth was needed - requests for access and use of the supercomputers exploded along with traffic on NSFNET. On July 2, 1988 a rather significant email went out from network engineer Hans-Werner Braun to NSFNET users:

The NSFNET Backbone has reached a state where we would like to more officially let operational traffic on.

NSFNET had been upgraded to T-1 bandwidth - 1.544 Mbps per second. Here's a nice quote from an NSF press release titled The Day the World Changed:

Though its story is somewhat overlooked by history, NSFNET is generally accepted as the progenitor of the modern Internet as we know it today--a massive, global network that has made our world smaller and changed our lives in countless ways. And it all took off after that simple e-mail 20 years ago today.

2o years ago today the modern Internet was born - think it will it ever stop growing?

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