Internet history

Home > Archives>

May 2005 Newsletter


Welcome to the Internet History Newsletter, brought to you by the website. In this edition:

=> MAJOR SITE REVAMP - Your feedback and comments



=> THE HISTORY OF INTERDOC - and a few minor corrections

=> Subscribe/unsubscribe details

MAJOR SITE REVAMP AND RETHINK - what you've been telling us!

Last month we announced the availability on line of a lot of new material at, including Ian Peter's History of the Internet. We have had a lot of feedback, including having a few minor errors and inconsistencies pointed out. It's just like having an editorial panel! Thanks for all the comments, here are a couple we really liked.

"Nicely done...and I do know something about the subject. The only think missing from the early history is Steve Lukasik's role".

Tony Rutkowski

"I was in the Pentagon, working in the War Room when we were using a large room full of vacumn tube adders and multiplier type computers EARLY 60S. My first computer was a heathkit breadbox and then I got the Commodore PET and later the 2001. Got on the InterNET in the early to mid-80s. Have been on the net since the early 80s. I'm an old timer (ham in 55 and Internet before it was a household name..) Used PC-Pursuit to connect to FidoNets also and had a BBS of my own then. It was fun. I'm 67 now".

Hank Roth


We followed up our major site revamp last month with a new major article that has caused some controversy. Entitled "So, who really did invent the Internet", the article has been posted on several sites and lists, and drawn a range of responses.

Read on at
. In this article we conclude:

* There are a number of valid claims to origins of the Internet.
* Although an original date and place might be obtainable for the first networked transmission that could be called an Internet, the result would need by definition to include more than one party or network, and is unlikely to be a satisfactory or useful conclusion.
* Not only US projects were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
* Not only government funded US research programs were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
* Not only telcos and the commercial sector were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
* Neither Arpanet nor TCP/IP is present in all valid theories.

We conclude that any claim by a nation, project, person, or team of individuals, or participants in any single event to "the beginnings of the Internet" is wrong. Further, any claim that the validity or legitimacy of any structure or arrangement can be justified as Internet governance purely because it arose from one of these events is false.

And finally "Nor should this article undermine the significant contributions of a number of individuals to claims as "fathers of the Internet". Most of these individuals, particularly those who are most prominent, are at pains to point out the crucial involvement of others - however, the institutions they represent are often less careful in ensuring that widespread involvement of individuals from commercial and government funded sources in a number of countries are ultimately to be thanked for the origins of the Internet. If this paper does no more than clarify that the Internet really has no owner and no single place of origin, it will have served well."

Here is some of the feedback we have received to date.

"Very interesting and well-balanced work, Ian. As someone who worked nearly 40 years for the US Air Force, much of the time in digital long-haul networks I of course feel a little 'US' centric *smile*.
You are the first writer/researcher I have come across who even begins to acknowledge the role the Telcos played in developing systems that became (in some way) the Internet. And the contributions of requirements/money of the DoD should not be minimized.

You've inspired me to read/research further, thank you for your contributions".

Dave Starr

"Ian's right in that the invention of the internet should not necessarily be dated to the invention of packet switching or IP and TCP.

I personally suggest that one of the magic ingredients which made the internet is what I call its cost contract. In other words, a billing invention rather than a technological one.

The internet cost contract is "I pay for my line to the midpoint, you pay for yours, and we don't account for the individual packets." I pay my half, you pay yours.

This remarkable billing arrangement gave the illusion that the internet was free. People were paying for it but you could treat it like it was largely free. Other systems, including the X.25
network, and of course the PSTN, tended to have usage based accounting".

Brad Templeton

"In some circles, a myth about the badness of X.25 has grown more or less unchallenged. Like most myths, it is spread by those with no firsthand experience. The truth is that the Internet was built in most places with lines leased from companies which were every bit as centralized as and often identical to the providers of
X.25 connections. It is not the bottom three layers of the OSI model that makes or breaks internetworking, it is what you put on top of it and how you make a culture to deal with and access it".

Bjørn Vermo

"I share your perspective completely about the multiple origins of the Internet and tend to hone to the TCP/IP protocol one".

Brian Martin Murphy, Assistant Professor, Communications Studies, Niagara University

(and what Seth Johnson refers to as the inevitable end to end principle article) "From the History of Science, we know that big ideas never spring from just one source (story line). Mr. Peter's work acknowledges this by commenting on an interesting juxtaposition of several origin stories.

However, there is a fundamental missing piece, reflected as a misapprehension in some of the comments he cites, which is fundamental to The Internet as we know it.

The critical point missed is that in all of the "internet progenitors" that actually contributed substantial "DNA" to Today's Internet all fostered an environment where the creativity was at the *edge* of the network, not *inside* the network, per se.

No, any comprehensive theory for "how the Internet came to be"
must take into account this very fundamental decentralization and the innovative forces it unleashes".

Mike O'Dell

"Great piece"

Rick Shenkman, Editor, History News Network

Tell a friend about the Internet History newsletter!
The simple way to subscribe is to

No need to add a name or a header or anything - we will get the message!



First Monday has published an excellent article on the History of Interdoc (you can access it from
). Interdoc was one of the early international NGO networks, and an important contributor to the early Internet.
Well worth a read.

Our only problem with the article is a small one. Once again, it looks for a single point of origin for NGO networking, and attributes to other networks such as APC (Association for Progressive Communications) an origin arising from Interdoc.

However, once again there are multiple origins. As someone present at the meeting described where Interdoc and APC are supposed to have merged, I would certainly read the events a little differently.

APC definitely had independent origins, and was well established with international networking before many of its members had heard of Interdoc. The Holland meeting in 1989 at Epe (referred to as 1990 and Amsterdam in the article) was not the beginnings of APC- APC began several years early in 1987 and independent of any influence or involvement of Interdoc.

But it's interesting to observe here how history is written. As there is with mainstream Internet history, there have been institutions and individuals keen to stress there own roles at the expense of others. That has led to some wrong claims being propagated without proper examination. Even in the world of NGO networking for peace and human rights, there have certainly been efforts to rewrite history. This article is not one of them - it's a great article and a good contribution to Internet history, but it does draw some of its assumed history from earlier attempts to rewrite history for personal purposes.


And that's it for this month - we encourage you to read our new article at
, link it to your site, and give us more feedback!

All the best,

Ian Peter

This newsletter was brought to you by the Internet History Project, a not for profit effort dedicated to exploring the various ingredients which came together to create the Internet Phenomena. For more information, visit

We welcome your feedback! Drop us a note at


Subscribe here!


Privacy | © The Internet History Project 2004.