Monday, October 01, 2007

Credit Sputnik for the Development of the Internet, Not Al Gore

October 4, 1957 marks a significant time in technological history. It was this date fifty years ago that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was 23 inches in diameter, weighed 183 pounds, and took about an hour and a half to orbit the Earth.

As a technical achievement, Sputnik changed everything.

One of the U.S responses to Sputnik was the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in February of 1958 in a supplemental military authorization for the Air Force (Public Law 85-325, H.R. 9739). One of the initial purposes of ARPA was to research new technologies that may have been considered too risky for private industry to investigate.

In 1969, ARPA created the ARPAnet as a tool to transfer research transfer between computers across systems. ARPAnet was the predecessor to the Internet.

They designed a host-host protocol known as the Network Control Program (NCP) that allowed for the exchange of information between geographically separated computers. They also envisioned a hierarchy of protocols including Telnet and FTP built on top of NCP. Also established was the Request for Comments (RFC) open documentation that encouraged "notes may be produced at any site by anybody and included in this series."

In Who's Who in the Internet, Biographies of IAB, IESG, and IRSG Members, (RFC 1336) Robert Braden is quoted:
"One important reason it worked, I believe, is that there were a lot of very bright people all working more or less in the same direction, led by some very wise people in the funding agency. The result was to create a community of network researchers who believed strongly that collaboration is more powerful than competition among researchers. I don't think any other model would have gotten us where we are today."
There may be a subtle lesson here for libraries and library system vendors regarding community and collaboration...

Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Norma said...

Sputnik is why I transferred to the University of Illinois (to study Russian), and eventually to grad school in library science.