User:ThomasW/Notes whenwizardstayuplate

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Hafner, Katie (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet, New York, Simon & Schuster


A Model 33 Teletype terminal, resembling a metal desk with a large noisy typewriter embedded in it, was linked to a computer at the University of California in Berkeley. And another Teletype terminal, a Model 35, was dedicated to a computer in Santa Monica, California, called, cryptically enough, the AN/FSQ 32XD1A, nicknamed the Q-32, a hulking machine built by IBM for the Strategic Air Command Page 7


The ARPA idea began with a man who was neither scientist nor soldier, but soap salesman.At fifty two, Neil McElroy was a newcomer to the defense establishment. He had never worked in government, had never lived in Washington, and had no military experience except in the national guard. For thirty-two years, he had climbed the corporate ladder at Procter & Gamble, the giant soap manufacturer in Cincinnati. Page 8

Eisenhower hadn’t wanted a seasoned military expert heading the Pentagon; he was one himself. The president distrusted the military-industrial complex and the fiefdoms of the armed services. His attitude toward them sometimes bordered on contempt. By contrast, he loved the scientific community. He found scientists inspiring—their ideas, their culture, their values, and their value to the country—and he surrounded himself with the nation’s best scientific minds. Eisenhower was the first president to host a White House dinner specifically to single out the scientific and engineering communities as guests of honor, just as the Kennedys would later play host to artists and musicians. Hundreds of prominent American scientists directly served the Eisenhower administration on various panels. He referred to them proudly as “my scientists.” Ike “liked to think of himself as one of us,” observed Detlev W. Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences. Two prominent scientists once had breakfast with the president, and as they were leaving Eisenhower remarked that the Republican National Committee was complaining that scientists close to the him were not out “whooping it up” sufficiently for the Republican Party. ”Don’t you know, Mr. President?” replied one of the men with a smile. “All scientists are Democrats.” “I don’t believe it,” Eisenhower shot back. “But anyway, I like scientists for their sciencs and not for their politics.” Page 9

Eisenhower also affirmed “the need for single control in some of our most advanced development projects,” then delivered his coup de grâce to the generals: “Another requirement of military organization is a clear subordination of the military services to the duly constituted civilian authority. This control must be real; not merely on the surface.” Page 12

At the Pentagon, Robert S. McNamara, the new secretary of defense, led the shift away from the philosophy of “massive retaliation” in America’s strategic posture, and toward a strategy of “flexible response” to international threats to American supremacy. Science was the New Frontier. Page 14

In 1953, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), already the country’s largest manufacturer of time clocks as well as electromechnical tabulating equipment, jumped into the business of making large electronic computers. These were business machines of the future. The IBM machines weren’t necessarily better than the Univac (the successor to the ENIAC), but IBM’s sales staff became legendary, and before too long sales of IBM’s machines had surpassed those of the Univac. Page 15

To satisfy that requirement, Lincoln first took on Whirlwind, a computer project at MIT, and then developed a successor project called the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, or SAGE.Based on a large IBM computer, SAGE was so mammoth that its operators and technicians literally walked inside the machine. Page 19

interdependency of humans and computers working in unison as a single system. For instance, in a battle scenario, human operators without computers would be unable to calculate and analyze threats quickly enough to counter an attack. Conversely, computers working alone would be unable to make crucial decisions. Page 20

Perhaps the incident that most piqued Lick’s interest in computers and their potential as interactive instruments was an encounter he had in the 1950s with a smart, opinionated young engineer at Lincoln Labs named Wesley Clark. Clark was a young researcher working on the TX-2 machine, the state of the art in digital computation and the successor to a computer called the TX-0. Clark had built the TX-0 with Ken Olsen before Olsen left to start Digital Equipment Corporation. Page 20

For another, the operating system, which would standardize programming for the machine, had yet to be written.One thing the TX-2 did do very well was display information on video screens. That made it one of the earliest machines for interactive graphics work. It was this feature that helped Clark demonstrate for Lick the main ideas of interactive use. Page 21

The idea on which Lick’s worldview pivoted was that technological progress would save humanity. The political process was a favorite example of his. In a McLuhanesque view of the power of electronic media, Lick saw a future in which, thanks in large part to the reach of computers, most citizens would be “informed about, and interested in, and involved in, the process of government.” He imagined what he called “home computer consoles” and television sets linked together in a massive network. “The political process,” he wrote, “would essentially be a giant teleconference, and a campaign would Page 21


Licklider wrote, “is that in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled . . . tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” Page22


There seemed to be no hope of curtailing the purchase of a whole variety of machines. And the chances seemed slim to nonexistent that the computing world would gravitate anytime soon to a set of uniform operating standards. Research sponsors like ARPA would just have to find some other way of overcoming the industry’s incompatibility problems. If the network idea worked, Taylor told Herzfeld, it would be possible for computers from different manufacturers to connect, and the problem of choosing computers would be greatly diminished. Herzfeld was so taken with that possibility that those arguments alone might have been enough to convince him. But there was another advantage, centering on the question of reliability. It might be possible to connect computers in a network redundantly, so that if one line went down, a message could take another path. Page 27

Then, in 1793, the first tidings were exchanged using semaphores—pivoting vanes on a tower that resembled a person holding signal flags in outstretched arms.By the mid-1800s telegraph networks were relying on electricity, and Western Union Telegraph Company had begun blanketing the United States with a network of wires for transmitting messages in the form of electric pulses. Page 32

Hush-A-Phone, a plastic mouthpiece cover designed to permit a caller to speak into a telephone without being overheard. Page 33


It wasn’t until 1968, when the FCC permitted the use of the Carterfone—a device for connecting private two-way radios with the telephone system—that AT&T’s unrelenting grip on the nation’s telecommunications system loosened. Not surprisingly, then, in the early 1960s, when ARPA began exploring an entirely new way of transmitting information, AT&T wanted no part of it. Page 33

Unlike analog systems, digital technologies essentially convert information of all kinds, including sound and image, to a set of 1s and 0s. Digitized information can be stored efficiently and replicated an unlimited number of times within the circuits of a digital device, reproducing the data with almost perfect accuracy. In a communications context, information that is digitally encoded can be passed from one switch to the next with much less degradation than in analog transmission. Page 37


There was just one major difference in their approaches. The motivation that led Davies to conceive of a packet-switching network had nothing to do with the military concerns that had driven Baran. Davies simply wanted to create a new public communications network. He wanted to exploit the technical strengths he saw in digital computers and switches, to bring about highly responsive, highly interactive computing over long distances. Such a network would have greater speed and efficiency than existing systems. Davies was concerned that circuit-switched networks were poorly matched to the requirements of interacting computers. The irregular, bursty characteristics of computer generated data traffic did not fit well

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Davies’ choice of the word “packet” was very deliberate. “I thought it was important to have a new word for one of the short pieces of data which traveled separately,” he explained. “This would make it easier to talk about them.” There were plenty of other possibilities—block, unit, section, segment, frame. “I hit on the word packet,” he said, “in the sense of small package.” Before settling on the word, he asked two linguists from a research team in his lab to confirm that there were cognates in other languages. When they reported back that it was a good choice, he fixed on it. Packet-switching. It was precise, economic, and very British. And it was far easier on the ear than Baran’s “distributed adaptive message block switching.” Page43


The presence of an accessible computer inspired a change in the company. Everyone began thinking up things that could be done with it. One BBN scientist, Jordan Baruch, decided hospitals could use computers to keep more accurate information on patients, so he set out to computerize the record handling at Massachusetts General Hospital. Lick and others began exploring ways in which computers could transform libraries. But computers in the early 1960s were still too underpowered to do much. Page 55

Like virtually all computers of its era, the Honeywell machine had no disk—no hard drive, no floppy (floppies hadn’t been invented yet). It had a core memory—a dense matrix of hair-thin copper wires and magnetized ferrite rings, or cores, each about the size of a mustard seed. The total size of the memory ordered (12k) was miniscule by today’s standards. The amount of memory in a desktop computer circa mid-1990s, if it consisted of ferrite cores, would take up an area roughly the size of a football field.One interesting advantage of core memory is its nonvolatile nature. If you turned the. Page70

A small circle of friends at BBN had gotten hooked on Dungeons and Dragons, an elaborate fantasy role-playing game in which one player invents a setting and populates it with monsters and puzzles, and the other players then make their way through that setting. The entire game exists only on paper and in the minds of the players.Dave Walden got his introduction to the game one night in 1975, when Eric Roberts, a student from a class he was teaching at Harvard, took him to a D&D session. Walden immediately rounded up a group of friends from theARPANETteam for continued sessions. Roberts created the Mirkwood Tales, an elaborate version of Dungeons and Dragons set in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The game stretched on for the better part of a year and was played mostly on Walden’s living room floor. One of the regulars was Will Crowther. Where the other dozen players chose names like Zandar, Klarf, or Groan for their characters, Crowther’s was simply Willie, a stealthy thief. Page 134


When Adventure was done, Woods created a guest account on the computer at the Stanford AI Lab to let people play, and swarms of guests logged in. Adventure spread like hula hoops, as people sent the program to one another over the network. Because Crowther had written it in FORTRAN, it could be adapted to many different computers with relative ease. Both Crowther and Woods encouraged programmers to pirate the game and included their e-mail addresses for anyone looking for help installing, playing, or copying the game.People grew bleary-eyed searching for treasure into the small hours of the morning. ”I’ve long ago lost count of the programmers who’ve told me that the experience that got them started using computers was playing Adventure,” Woods said. The game inspired hundreds of knockoffs, which eventually spawned an entire industry. Page 135

The discussion about the Quasar robot continued on and off for a couple of years until in early 1979, Einar Stefferud, the MsgGroup’s moderator, and Dave Farber, who had been lurking on the sidelines of the commentary, sent a note of caution to the MsgGroup. “We are asking for potential problems,” they warned, “when we criticize the Quasar robot.” Using U.S. Government facilities to cast aspersions on a corporation, they said, could backfire on the ARPA research community. They urged their peers to impose careful self-censorship, to report only facts of technical interest to the community. Not everyone agreed, and with that the MsgGroup got embroiled in a soul-searching exchange. Page 137

The satellite network was dubbedSATNET . Researchers in the United States were joined by British and Norwegian computer scientists, and before long satellite links were established to Italy and Germany as well. For a while, SATNET did well. In time, however, the phone company upgraded its transatlantic lines from copper to high-speed fiber-optic cable, eliminating the need for the more complicated SATNETlink. Page144

“Standards should be discovered, not decreed,” said one computer scientist in the TCP/IP faction. Seldom has it worked any other way. Page 166