Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy birthday NSFNet

A day late, but at least my heart is in the right place. It's really hard to imagine what networking was like before The National Science Foundation rolled out the NSFNet: lots of different networks (BITnet, USEnet) running lots of different protocols (SNA, DECnet, UUCP). NSF made two really important decisions:
  1. Standardizing on TCP/IP meant that any computer could hook up to NSFnet. This was important to the universities, which had pretty much ever old sort of computer ever made.
  2. While it was modeled on the DoD's ARPAnet, NSF let pretty much anyone - education, government, or private companies - use their backbone. In essence, it created the Internet.
All snark aside, Al Gore was actually pretty instrumental in pushing funding for this. NSFnet was all T-1, and they weren't cheap. While we think it's dog slow today (at least if you have broadband), it was pretty smoking fast at the time. Just as a reference point, 4 years after NSFnet came online, 12 other engineers and I shared a 32 kbps Frame Relay link, and thought we were the coolest network kids in the neighborhood.

Of course, nobody thought about security at the time. And of course, it only took 4 months for someone to show that this was A Bad Thing.

All of this was back when my Network-fu was strong, like Chris. Back when my email went to Dockmaster. I sound like such an old fart.

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