The Network Before the Internet

Illustration for article titled The Network Before the Internet

The network started to breathe in the 70's. Above, the first ethernet cable, found in PARC's labs by Boing Boing Gadgets. Dag Spicer, numero uno Curator at the Computer History Museum, tells us more:

John Shoch and Jon Hupp at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center discovered the computer "worm," a short program that searches a network for idle processors. Initially designed to provide more efficient use of computers and for testing, the worm had the unintended effect of invading networked computers, creating a security threat.

Shoch took the term "worm" from the book "The Shockwave Rider," by John Brunner, in which an omnipotent "tapeworm" program runs loose through a network of computers. Brunner wrote: "No, Mr. Sullivan, we can´t stop it! There´s never been a worm with that tough a head or that long a tail! It´s building itself, don´t you understand? Already it´s passed a billion bits and it´s still growing. It´s the exact inverse of a phage - whatever it takes in, it adds to itself instead of wiping... Yes, sir! I´m quite aware that a worm of that type is theoretically impossible! But the fact stands, he´s done it, and now it´s so goddamn comprehensive that it can´t be killed. Not short of demolishing the net!" (247, Ballantine Books, 1975).

USENET established. USENET was invented as a means for providing mail and file transfers using a communications standard known as UUCP. It was developed as a joint project by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by graduate students Tom Truscott, Jim Ellis, and Steve Bellovin. USENET enabled its users to post messages and files that could be accessed and archived. It would go on to become one of the main areas for large-scale interaction for interest groups through the 1990s.


The first Multi-User Domain (or Dungeon), MUD1, is goes on-line. Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, two students at the University of Essex, write a program that allows many people to play against each other on-line. MUDs become popular with college students as a means of adventure gaming and for socializing. By 1984, there are more than 100 active MUDs and variants around the world.

Dag Spicer is CHM's "Chief Content Officer," and is responsible for creating the intellectual frameworks and interpretive schema of the Museum's various programs and exhibitions. He also leads the Museum's strategic direction relating to its collection of computer artifacts, films, documents, software and ephemera—the largest collection of computers and related materials in the world.

Gizmodo '79 is a week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analog age gave way to the digital, and most of our favorite toys were just being born.

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