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Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet [Paperback]

Katie Hafner
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 21 1998
Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.

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From Amazon

Considering that the history of the Internet is perhaps better documented internally than any other technological construct, it is remarkable how shadowy its origins have been to most people, including die-hard Net-denizens!

At last, Hafner and Lyon have written a well-researched story of the origins of the Internet substantiated by extensive interviews with its creators who delve into many interesting details such as the controversy surrounding the adoption of our now beloved "@" sign as the separator of usernames and machine addresses. Essential reading for anyone interested in the past -- and the future -- of the Net specifically, and telecommunications generally. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Hafner, coauthor of Cyberpunk, and Lyon, assistant to the president of the University of Texas, here unveil the Sputnik-era beginnings of the Internet, the groundbreaking scientific work that created it and the often eccentric, brilliant scientists and engineers responsible. Originally funded during the Eisenhower administration by IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) within the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), ARPANET, the Internet's predecessor, was devised as a way to share far-flung U.S. computer resources at a time when computers were wildly expensive, room-sized bohemoths unable to communicate with any other. The husband-and-wife writing team profile the computer engineering firm of Bolt Baranek and Newman, which produced the original prototypes for ARPANET, and they profile the men (there were virtually no women) and an alphabet soup of agencies, universities and software that made the Internet possible. And while the book attempts to debunk the conventional notion that ARPANET was devised primarily as a communications link that could survive nuclear war (essentially it was not), pioneer developers like Paul Baran (who, along, with British Scientist Donald Davies devised the Internet's innovative packet-switching message technology) recognized the importance of an indestructible message medium in an age edgy over the prospects of global nuclear destruction. The book is excellent at enshrining little known but crucial scientist/administrators like Bob Taylor, Larry Roberts and Joseph Licklider, many of whom laid the groundwork for the computer science industry.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Bob Taylor usually drove to work, thirty minutes through the rolling countryside northeast of Washington, over the Potomac River to the Pentagon. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on the history of the internet June 7 2004
This was an excellent account of how the internet was created and how both ARPA and distributed networking has shaped what we use now everyday.. This book provided an excellent account of what the founders of the internet had to deal with in order to design what we have today..
This is a great read and provides a great reference for all who use and depend on the internet...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro. to the Internet, Aug. 4 2003
I'm reading a series of technology-history books at the moment, this one, 'The Triumph of Ethernet' and 'how the Web was born'. This is definitely the place to start - a clear, fast paced tale of the various characters behind networked computers in late 1960's and 70's. Essentially this book describes the origin of human computer interfacing which became networking theory in the North East United States in the late 1950's and '60s.
The first computer network was called ARPANET, an outcome of inspired technology-development policy from ARPA -the Advanced Research Projects Agency, a part of the Defense Dept. The story is laid out chronologically without too much techspeak, and brings up a number of questions.
One question that seemed clearer to me at the end of the book was that ARPANET was the first mover towards internetworked computers, but from the story it is clear that it was a series of hardware computers which acted as 'routers' of information and that the heartbeat of the internet, as we have come to know it, is the communications protocol [called TCP/IP, specified by Vint Cerf, among others] which allowed the various messages to be interpreted by the different computers. TCP/IP and Cerf are almost incidental to this book, which is a pity.
Other topics covered are the initiation and development of E-mail and how the non-hierarchical, informal communications process among academics came to be the spirit of communications in the internet as a whole - something which is not altogether obvious from its origins in the Defense Dept. For me, the other big revelation was the speed of the adoption of the internet (even in days before the World Wide Web) and how the originators of the ARPANET were happy to allow it to be made obsolete by technological development.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MOST EXCELLENT FOR NON-WONKS Aug. 1 2003
Format:School & Library Binding
Lots of information is conveyed with excellent editing making this book a very fast read. But AT&T's 6-year opposition to distributed processing is as appropriately treated -- without comment -- as the telegram sent by Senator Edward Kennedy's office to Boston-based BBN Corportation when the latter landed ARPA's contract for the Interface Message Processor: "Congratulations on your contract to build the Interfaith Message Processor."
This book's a beauty.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Histories and Myths July 3 2003
A superb history of the Internet, dispelling many a myth, such as "The Internet was designed in order to survive nuclear war." As a policy wonk pondering Internet policy, this book is must read material. It is difficult to truly understand today's policy conflicts, such as the DNS wars, unless one has adequate reference to the origins of the Net and the history of US Government support. This is not something that magically emerged from the ether but rather was a deliberate USG project dating back decades. An excellent history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great story Sept. 21 2002
This book provides excellent documentation about the origins of the Internet. The authors conducted hundreds of interviews, which they combined with facts gleamed from thousands of pages of archived materials dating back to the very beginnings of the Net. I've been teaching courses about the Internet for several years, and so I was already familiar with the general timeline of who did what and when. What was fascinating to me about this book was that the authors made it possible to get to know the personalities behind the names and faces. They discussed the motivations of these leaders, the challenges they faced, and the tremendous amount of cooperation that they engaged in. The early part of the book was especially engaging, when the authors discuss the early motivations for setting up ARPANET through the construction of the first 2 nodes. As the Net begins to grow, adding more nodes monthly, Hafner and Lyon must cut back on the level of detail they provide about the main players because so much happens so fast. At that point, my eyes glazed over a little, but overall, I found the book incredibly exciting, and a very important contribution to the history of the Net.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, but decent July 16 2002
It's an OK book, but the bureaucratic jostling should have been left out and I wish they'd have included more about the early culture of the internet, as Steven Levy did in "Hackers" (though on a different subject). When they did, I found it quite interesting. Levy's work was also much more readable; this book reads like it was overedited. That said, it's not bad, per se, and is the most informative read I've had so far on the pre-WWW internet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars �Wizardry� is an apt term Jan. 13 2002
"Wizardry" is an apt term to describe the work of the many who laid the foundation for what we now know as the Internet. Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon weave together the talents, personalities, idiosyncrasies, obstacles, and triumphs into a compelling and -- given the complexity of the Internet's development -- intelligible history. Hafner and Lyon tell of the work of engineers and researchers of Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), a Cambridge-based computer company backed by the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which ultimately connected computers across the country.
Readers of this book are spared excessive technical jargon and are instead are kept amused by the many lighthearted moments in the midst of perfectionism and high pressure to produce. This book gave me the context for understanding the hard work behind and rationale for distributed networks, packet-switching, and TCP/IP. I was intrigued by the "accidental" start of E-mail, which is one networking function I cannot do without. I was also inspired by the teamwork, passion and work ethic displayed by those involved, particularly because their intense focus often flew in the face of many detractors and disinterested parties who failed to appreciate the possibilities and usefulness of a distributed network.
The authors also describe the open culture that resulted from the collaborative work, which we see today. In contrast, the reluctance of BBN to release the source codes of the Interface Message Processors (IMP) was a harbinger of the intellectual property issues that would emerge in decades to follow.
So many players were involved in the creation of the Internet, that I found myself needing to back track to keep each person and his (all were men) contribution straight. Not a problem, though. The information in this book was fascinating. I found myself wanting to take my time to absorb as many of the details as possible.
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