back to article 30 years ago, at flip of a switch, the internet as we know it WAS BORN

Thirty years ago this week the modern internet became operational as the US military flipped the switch on TCP/IP, but the move to the protocol stack was nearly killed at birth. The deadline was 1 January, 1983: after this, any of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network's (ARPANET) 400 hosts that were still clinging to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And it's been down hill ever since.

  2. the-it-slayer

    That depends...

    On how you view it. IPv4 has been well used and now becoming abused with no spare allocations of addresses left. NAT again saved it's bacon in the last 20 years. IPv6 should save the internet from crashing down on its head, but the adoption is just too slow and won't speed up until companies/ISPs get to a crunch point where the current infrastructure becomes untenable.


  3. koolholio

    Re: That depends...

    What you would actually find is some of the hoarders have given up some of their IPv4 allocations, since 6to4 exists...

    NAT didnt have anything to do with saving IPv4 at GTLD level? :-/

    But I do agree, until it becomes utterly broken, people wont go fixing it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many people in IT networking do not understand the interactions of bandwidth and round trip latency - together with TCP-IP windows, delayed ACK strategies, out-of-sequence packets. Never mind Kahn, Nagel, and Van Jacobson's flow control algorithms.

  5. asdf Silver badge

    well because

    Networking can be damn complicated which is why competent specialists are worth the big bucks. No expert myself but I can tell you at least on my home router Kahn, Nagel, and Van Jacobson's codel (in form of fq_codel) absolutely destroys pfifo_fast under any kind of load. pfifo_fast should have died years ago or at least not be the linux default which it still is (TOS byte really, what is is this 1997?). Whats sad is it took us so long to get such a wonderfully simple (from end users view) and effective algorithm. What is also pathetic is now little money and expertise are actually being put into TCP/IP technology today. Where are Cisco and all the other big boys (Google has helped some but not enough) to help fight the bufferbloat crises? Its largely being tackled by a small number of very smart and very dedicated hobbyists who really could use some support.

  6. asdf Silver badge

    Re: well because

    Wow why the downvotes? I assume its because I tried to hype the network guys some. I sure hope it isn't because their are still pfifo_fast fans out there (yuck). Nah its probably because half the people reading this work for Cisco or something.

  7. Robin Bradshaw

    I think the real story here is that Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn published their paper, A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection as a PDF in 1974. That really is ahead of the curve :)

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Sign in to get this article?

    Fuck you, ACM.

  9. Eddie Edwards

    Re: Sign in to get this article?

    Try here:

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. corestore

    "The fix was first applied as a client-side patch to PCs by sysadmins..."

    PCs? With sysadmins? On ARPANET? In the early 1980s?


  12. jake Silver badge


    Yep. Earlier, even, if you were in the wrong place & time :-)

    My first ARPA connection was a dumb terminal in my dorm in 1975ish. At home, I had a PDP-11 based Heath H11A personal computer that I dialed into the ARPANET with in late 1979. Following that, I had an always connected, somewhat larger BSD based DEC system under Bryant street in Palo Alto in early 1982, controlled from home by the H11A. Later, in 1985, I had an AT&T PC7300 "UnixPC" at home, permanently connected to the DEC box which was configured as what we would now call a stateful firewall.

    The dorm in question was at Berkeley, the home was in Palo Alto's Johnson Park neighborhood, a couple city blocks from the Bryant Street CO ... I was young, naive, and doing research into networking and OS design for a couple of my first degrees at the time ...

    Last time I was in Palo Alto (Thanksgiving), the ten-pair solid core bell wire that I pulled between home & the CO in 1982 for permanent BARRNet access was still in place, as was the two pair line I pulled in 1985 for the upcoming T1 capability into NSFNet via BARRNet. Using a TDR from my end, a small 5x8 foot closet under Bryant Street (99 year lease, $1/yr, I have my own electricity meter, they provide HVAC, halon, etc), indicates that the complete run is actually still there. Seems they can't generate a remove order for wire that doesn't exist in the system ;-) Amazing what you can get away with in a reflective vest, hard hat, a white van full of well used linesman's tools, and an official looking clipboard ...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @JAKE Re: @corestore

    Cool story.


  14. jake Silver badge

    @AC07:51 (was: Re: @JAKE @corestore)

    "Wiki & the vernacular are often at odds."

    It's a mantra. Learn it, live it, love it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @JAKE Re: @AC07:51 (was: @JAKE @corestore)

    Say it ain't so!

  16. b166er

    Isn't multicast supposed to fix the congestion problem sometime soon?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No, that was 15 years ago

    I don't know what they're going to do since the MBone never really took off.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    The internet was born 30 years ago.

    The internet as we know it was born in March 1994, when AOL spewed its users out of its walled garden onto Usenet.

  19. IglooDude

    Re: Actually...

    So October 29th of 1969, when the first ARPA node (at UCLA) was connected to the second ARPA node (at Stanford Research Institute) would be the internet's conception? This anthropomorphising is starting to get confusing...

  20. Midnight

    Re: Actually...

    I think you meant "The internet as we know it was born on September 182, 1993, when AOL spewed all its users out of its walled garden onto Usenet".

  21. jake Silver badge

    Re: Actually...

    That's just Usenet, and it was September of 1993, not March of 1994. AOL had email, ftp and other Internet services earlier than that. Not much earlier, but earlier. Search on "Eternal September" for more.

    The Internet as we know it was born when the Delphi BBS managed to allow USAian consumer access to TheIinternet[tm] (whatever that is) in early-mid 1992. I can't remember the exact date. Everybody blames AOL, but it was Delphi that started consumer Internet use. The folks who ran BIX are still kicking themselves for not following suit post-haste. I could tell you how I know that, but then I'd have to kill you ;-)

  22. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Re: Actually...

    The internet as we know it was born on September 182, 1993,

    That must be the longest September on record.

  23. jake Silver badge

    @Ole Juul (was: Re: Actually... )

    For some of us, Ole Juul, it still is.

  24. ShelLuser
    Thumb Up

    Its the Internet, but not as we know it...

    I think the story headline holds true for most El Reg readers but unfortunately don't think it holds true for the "Internet masses".

    For me the Internet "essence" (to give it a name) has always been the fascination for that "awesome global network". And all CLI mind you. In the beginning it was using telnet to gain access to "digital cities" which were somewhat fun. Mostly Gopher based stuff, but still..

    Later it was using Windows' netsock and Netscape (the other alternative 'Mosaic' wasn't that much fun). For me all using Win/OS2 and later (when I finally understood more about the way it worked) I even got OS/2 online. That was really nice.

    But for me the real fun started when I finally got a good grasp of this "Unix" thing; I got sent out to a Sun Solaris course (which was the first Unix environment I fully learned, understood and grasped) and it didn't take me long to figure out that "Internet == Unix".

    So when I started using Linux (ironically I only started using it to keep my Solaris knowledge fresh, man, did that take a change!) I also soon started messing with Linux to get my Internet access going at home. And that's where the real fun began.

    For my parents the Internet started when I used to spent hours in the evening online (all using dial-up) but because I was using Linux I simply "shared" my connection with them as well. That was nice!

    And then eventually we got ADSL, I "hacked" the modem / router to do bridging so that it wasn't the modem but my Linux box which would get the public IP address, that eventually led to hosting some websites on my own PC, setting up a FreeS/WAN IP/SEC network with some of my IRC friends (Epic / Splitfire script FTW for me). That led to learning how DNS /really/ worked (root zones) and all of a sudden I could wake up on a nice Saturday morning, get an e-mail telling me about this new cool thing called "irssi" and would simply go to (iirc, its been years): which put me on a US Linux box hosted by a good friend of mine :-)

    I honestly don't remember the domain names we came up with. Something ending in ".irc" that's for sure 8-)

    "If we have this vpn thing, why not try setup a tunnel to get lan data across? You know; GRE packets or some other global unused protocol"

    Some friends even routed their netbios data over it (I didn't use Windows at all back then) so they could simply copy/paste stuff to each other.

    That is Internet for me. But for the common masses? I don't think so...

    And can you really blame them? Back then we hacked Linux to copy/paste our X509 keys, passwords, etc. all to setup the VPN. Nowadays I have a DrayTek modem/router on both my end as well as my parents end (both online using cable) and setting up the VPN only requires a few mouse clicks and some common understanding of what you're doing.

    Opening up Netbios used to be some iptables hacking now its merely enabling an option.

    How many people use Linux to really "hack" and setup a cool global network of their own using the Internet? Without using some kind of wizard I mean ;-)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Its the Internet, but not as we know it...


  26. jake Silver badge

    @AC14:20 (was: Re: Its the Internet, but not as we know it...)

    You say that as if it's a bad thing, AC. Perhaps this isn't the forum for you?

  27. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    And there was me...

    ... thinking it was Al Gore...


    Re: And there was me...

    Someone has to play the role of the Duke of Milan. Otherwise stuff doesn't get built for lack of funding.

  29. jake Silver badge

    @Dodgy Geezer (was: Re: And there was me...)

    Al Gore WAS the dude who fought on Capitol Hill to allow the commercialization of TheInternet[tm] (whatever that is). Make all the ignorant jokes you like, but reality is reality.

  30. FormerKowloonTonger

    Re: @Dodgy Geezer (was: And there was me...)


    "Vice President and Information Superhighway" via Captain....sssswwoooooshhh! Gooooogle.

  31. blapping

    why do you keep bringing your parents into it?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    30 years of delivering porn to nerds.

    Vint Cerf - we salute you!

  33. jake Silver badge

    Trust me, AC13:18

    Nerds were swapping porn using TehIntrawebTubes long before FlagDay ... Search on FidoNet & BBS technology for more.

    (Again, I apologize for the ASCII BJ shell prompt at Tressider, Vint ;-)

  34. BossHog

    The Internet always existed...

    It just had zero nodes.

  35. Maverick

    Re: The Internet always existed...

    The internet actually isn’t your network, it’s Chuck’s (he just lets you use it).

  36. Anonymous IV

    Re: The Internet always existed...

    "It just had zero nodes."

    Hence the old joke starting: "My internet's got no nodes..."

  37. rictay

    We invent what we need

    "...without TCP/IP we wouldn’t have the internet as we know it..." Not true. I was working in the computer/telecomms industries at the time (1980s) and there was a big effort in "convergence" of the two technologies. Also a big drive towards OSI - "Open Systems Interconnectivity" where computers of differing manufacturers could 'talk' with one another. The Internet was in the very air we breathed, and if we didn't have TCP/IP then somebody else would have invented TCP/IP instead - we invent what we need.

  38. asdf Silver badge

    Re: We invent what we need

    Yeah we would have had IPX which was hacked to be world routable instead <shiver>. We dodged a bullet.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: We invent what we need

    " Also a big drive towards OSI - "Open Systems Interconnectivity" where computers of differing manufacturers could 'talk' with one another."

    In the late 1980s an OSI technical sub-committee meeting of the Big Twelve started by defining its mission of proving "inter-operability". We came up with - "the ability for computers to communicate successfully ...and do useful work". Then the committee chairwoman told us that another OSI committee was also debating the definition - and after 18 months were still no closer to a conclusion.

    In recent years whenever TCP-IP connections closed in an ambiguous way it was always a reminder that OSI Transport had been much better at saying "what", "who" and "why".

    One rarely hears Jack Houldsworth's pioneering name mentioned these days.

  40. keith_w

    Re: We invent what we need

    yeah - with 32 bits of network address AND 32 bits of host addresses.

  41. asdf Silver badge

    Re: We invent what we need

    You hit the nail on the head. OSI was one giant clusterf__k design by committee vendor masturbatory fest just like the UNIX wars of the time. 7 separate distinct layers is great for Taco Bell burritos but hardly necessary for networking.

  42. koolholio

    What about the forgotten protocols

    E.g. UDP, ATM and other such framing etc.

  43. keith_w

    Re: What about the forgotten protocols

    UDP ain't forgotten

  44. bill 27

    Re: What about the forgotten protocols

    I'm sorry, my thoughts got lost and I'm in a BIND.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Jacobson devised a congestion-avoidance algorithm to lower a computer's network data transfer speed and settle on a stable but slower connection rather than blindly flooding the network with packets."

    Best of luck trying to do that today, 4 years in court arguing the MS, Apple, Google, etc over who owns which bit of what part of which stack.

    It's was less "can do" back then and more "will do" in the good old days!

  46. bed
    IT Angle

    Here in the UK...

    Here in the UK, academia had also being playing with networks in the 1980s with the Joint Academic Network (JANET) using X.25 telecom links and a set of computer network protocols called “Coloured Books”. The name originated with each protocol being identified by the colour of the cover of its specification document. Confusingly, perhaps, the JANET naming convention was, then, the reverse of the Internet;, for example. TCP/IP and Internet naming conventions started to be adopted in the late 1980, requiring various gateways, and was fully adopted after 1992. The joys of a 64K kilostream link connection to JANET and the Internet. The innocence; no Access Control Lists on routers, telnet and ftp into anything from anywhere until the script kiddies came along and made network security a career.

  47. koolholio

    Re: Here in the UK...

    are you thinking of the DNS specification there? which is a seperate RFC.

    Phreakers also came a long long time before the script kiddies?

  48. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Re: Here in the UK...

    Ah yes, my very first fully-qualified email address: ;)

  49. koolholio

    Old school

    Revive the X.25 and LAPF / LAPM articles, add in some BGP, then rethink the linking fundamentals!

  50. Not also known as SC Silver badge

    Barbed Wire fences

    Someone once told me that TCP, unlike IPX, could be used to send signals over barbed wire fences (or chicken wire) because it was so resillliant. Does any one know if this is true?


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