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5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
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...
Published on Sept. 21 2002 by Erika Mitchell

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3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, but decent
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,...
Published on July 16 2002 by Joseph S. Grossberg


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4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro. to the Internet,, Aug. 4 2003
By 
Hugh Claffey (Co. Kildare Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. No one mentioned in this book seemed to want to (or know how to) commericialize the technology which they were working so feverishly to implement.
For those of a technical persuasion there are plenty of references to the various papers which moved the various technologies forward. This book is a great first taste for those who want to dip into the subject, gives a realistic description of the 'wizards' who had the weird and wacky ideas which we now rely on , and the text includes enough 'beef' to indicate how to dig deeper into the detail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, Sept. 21 2002
By 
Erika Mitchell (E. Calais, VT USA) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars �Wizardry� is an apt term, Jan. 13 2002
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"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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5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional recording, April 19 2001
By 
Eugene N. Miya (Moffett Field, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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A visual record, and a very similar book, is the documentary: Nerds 2.0.1 by Stephen Segaller who credits Katie's book. Both of these books give an excellent, if a tiny bit incomplete feel for what the ARPAnet was like. Minor typographic errors make me want to rate it 4.5, but I'm not allowed a fraction, and giving Katie the benefit of rounding, and I am a tough editor, she gets 5 stars.
If you do not have a chance to thumb through this book in a store or a library, this book is not a technical book; there are no really technical observations. This book will not tell you how to send email but will tell the story of the @-sign (not easily available on some foreign keyboards). There are no photos or maps (see Segaller's book for those but buy both). The value of Katie's book is the perspective of the computer communications community. I was there as a college freshman, and Katie has really captured much of the sense (as it can be written); specifically the frustration, but also the excitement of the early net. I really think the world needs a working ARPAnet (running NCP, not TCP/IP) to give a feel for what this was all like. The Net changed my perspective on life (I was one of those who pulled all nighters), and this book will give some of the sense of why all those on the early net did those.
The treatment on the Usenet and on the Bitnet are a tiny bit thin. I can think of 1-2 people who really deserved mention in the book [Frank Kuo @SRI and U. of HI being one], these are minor slights which are the limitations of paper. The chronology and the resources are as I remember them from my time during that period (1973-1975) of exposure.
My biases: I know Katie and he ex-, and helped promote by posting to Usenet the announcement for this book and her earlier Cyberpunks book. When this book came out, I was stunned how her writing captured the experience from a person on the sideline. I find myself now working with many of people in this book. The ARPAnet was precisely the kind of experience people send their children to college to experience. It's too bad that more people could not have similar exposures.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Internet is older than you thought, Jan. 20 2001
This is an excellent book for all those who would guess that Bolt, Beranek and Newman is a law firm. It may sound like one, but it isn't. BBN - now a subsidiary of GTE/Verizon - is a company which is most intimately tied to the birth of what is nowadays known as the internet. And if the BBN's marketing guys would have been half as good as their engineers, we would probably hear a lot more about BBN today and less about, say, Cisco.
In a clear and highly readable style, Hafner and Lyon have covered the history of the packet switching networks with encyclopedic breadth. You'll learn both about the early theoretical fathers of packet switching, like Paul Baran and Donald Davies; you have the people in the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) like Joseph Licklider, Bob Taylor or Larry Roberts, who not only had a grand view of computer networking or obtained the necessary governmental funding, but were also able to specify their wishes precisely enough that the engineers were able to build the network based on their plans. And finally, there is Frank Heart's team at BBN, guys who actually built the darn thing.
The subtitle - The origins of the internet - is well chosen. Most of the book focuses on the years 1968-1972, from Roberts' draft proposal, to the 1972 international conference on computer communication. Other development, either earlier or later, is covered only fragmentary. There are other interesting stories, like the origins of USENET, internet news exchange service, but they are not the scope of this book.
The book leaves a pleasant impression that the authors actually understand the necessary technical background of the topic they are writing about. Some diagrams might help further, but I am sure that numerous metaphors used in the book will also alone help the casual reader to understand the idea of packet switching. Chapter notes and bibliography section deserve special praise, and the subject index comes in handy, too. Overall, a very satisfying book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling History of the Internet's Origin, Jan. 3 2001
By 
Fred "Technology is your friend." (CHAPEL HILL, NC, United States) - See all my reviews
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This book gives you the complete story behind the conception and birth of the internet. The story focuses on the work done by BBN to pioneer and develop all of the protocols and designs that are the internet. The book does a good job of laying the foundation of where the state of computing was when these initial developments were being made and what outside social and economic trends effected and encouraged the internet's development. The authors do a very good job of focusing on the personalities, anecdotes and larger issues without getting bogged down in minutiae. At 265 pages, the book is packed and makes for a very quick read. The writing style of Ms. Hafner and Mr. Lyon is outstanding, which greatly increases the quality of the book.
There are some very interesting aspects of the development that are related. I was very interested in the origins of BBN, their background in acoustics, and the zeal with which they pursued the original DARPA contract. Of equal interest was the method in which the teams were managed, and the way that the development was not pursued with large teams and brute force, but rather with smaller teams that were headed by the best possible people and given all of the resources that they needed. The creation of the internet is an awe-inspiring event, and the text offers several subtle management lessons that are too important to be overlooked. The book also does a splendid job of showing some of the theory that was used in the development of the necessary software and how the developers did such a good job of bridging theory and practical engineering development. In this light the book does a much better job discussing theory than two other recent books on the history of the Computer, "Engines of the Mind" by Shurkin and "Computer" by Campbell-Kelly and Aspray. These are just some of the interesting stories told, the whole text is packed cover to cover with similar stories.
I highly recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quite good--fills a need that was there, May 28 2000
By 
B. PERKINS (Denton, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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When I started working at an ISP (Internet Service Provider), I did a lot of reading to bring myself up to speed on a variety of subjects. Whether the book's topic was routing, software, or even AOL, the first three paragraphs were always, "A Brief History of the Internet." Inevitably there was too little information, too general to be of any use.
Well, _Wizards_ does a great job with its subject matter. Pioneering names like Frank Heart, Vint Cerf, and J. C. R. Licklider all come to life. The book does cover some technical ground, but all on a very palatable level. Two things made the book so enjoyable: first, the authors do a good job of describing the brilliance of the Internet's creators. I was amazed that the basic concepts of networking were developed in a day and age when it took entire rooms to house the computing power of today's calculators. Second, the book does a good job not getting bogged down in the details. Instead, Hafner and Lyon concentrate on the people behind the ARPANET's creation, their quirks, collaborations and occasional conflicts; there's a lot of humour captured along the way. This wouldn't be the sole book I'd recommend as a purely technical history of the Internet; however, as a history of the underlying forces that brought the Net into being, such as BBN, the Dept. of Defense, and so many universities, I can't think of another book that's anywhere near as descriptive. Or interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grad students create Internet, Feb. 26 2000
By A Customer
_Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet_ by Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon
This book could have easily been titled "Graduate students created the Internet" or "The Military-Industrial Complex pays off".
As a computer person who started in the last days of keypunch cards and experienced the joys of TSO first hand, I found it extremely interesting to read about the things that even I took for granted in those long ago days (only 2 decades ago). I had never really thought about the fact that things like FTP, TSO, SMTP, TCP and IP all had to be thought up and coded by someone! I worked on a DEC PDP-11 - but never really gave any thought to the evolution that transpired between number 1 and10. This book tells it all, in sometimes excruciating detail. It follows every lowly graduate student step by step to the brilliant, but not inevitable, solutions to all of the basic data transmission puzzles. It describes clearly and for the most part entertainingly the development of the technologies that underpin everything I (and I would suspect most people) now take for granted when we "surf the web". While I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of which geek was doing what in which computer center on what federally funded project - the book does an excellent job of documenting the origins of the internet, just as the title promises. My only quibble is the authors say they will debunk the idea that the Internet was invented to route around communication outages resulting from nuclear war - but by the end of the book I personally was convinced that this was indeed one of the principals guiding many of the programmers and network designers. As I read of the early pentagon projects that were the primordial soup from which the Internet evolved one thought kept occurring -- the serendipitous coming together of technically brilliant men (and they almost all were) with piles of relatively unrestricted funds that could be used in amazingly non-bureaucratic pursuits -- was a set of circumstances as unlikely to ever occur as the first signs of carbon-based life were. During the late 50's to late 60's the right combination of people, brain power, enthusiasm, energy and money all converged - and could have just as easily never happened. The world today might be an incredibly different place if just a few elements had varied. I am glad this book has been written to document what took place while most of the participants could still provide primary source material.
Another book that should be read as a companion piece to this one - is _Extra Life: coming of age in cyberspace_ by David S. Bennahum. His book documents a similar brief flowering of anarchic creative computer exploration - in what he calls the "Atari generation". The same intense involvement and brilliant technical thinking described in _Wizards_ is also central to the story told in _Extra Life_. Whether graduate students, or high school geeks - a very similar culture and orientation is recounted. It is one that values brilliant thinking (a good hack) and adheres to the commandments Bennahum enumerates: computers will make the world better, programmers have a duty to share information, programs should be improved by everyone, exploration is good, computer knowledge not looks or origin make you important. When discussing the "commandments" Bennahum draws an explicit connection between the times described in _Wizards_: "Few of us knew where they came from or that we'd hijacked an attitude from hackers, hobbyists, and hippies who discovered computers in the late 60's and early 70's, and that in turn these computers had been created by iconoclastic, freakish engineers and grad students before them. [...]Those who met these older masters would discover something more about computers, something deeper, rooted in decades of endeavor [...] an understanding of how these machines were passed from one generation to the next until, having mutated along the way through luck and coincidence, the computer flowered and matured ..." (pp.77-78)
_Where Wizards Stay Up Late_ is a fine and thorough history of those "freakish engineers" and _Extra Life_ is a very entertaining tale of the world that those early computer and network inventions delivered to the (still mostly male!) geeks of the Atari generation. Bennahum concludes with a statement that could just as easily be applied to the era documented by Hafner and Lyon: "To know the machine as we did, so intimately, is to forever change the way we experience our machine mediated world." These books that document how we have come to live in that world are interesting in and of themselves now, and will perhaps some day be looked upon as seminal historical documentation from a time of transition to a technological future we cannot even imagine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It leaves out the hype but tells a coherent history, July 13 1999
By 
Mark Meyer (Buffalo, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This is one of the best books on the history of the Internet I have found. It doesn't make incredibly grandiose and silly statements and it is written in a very clear, straightforward manner. Focusing largely on the early days of the Internet, especially BBN's role in creating the original ARPANET, this book is a pleasant blend of character portraits and technical material, though it is somewhat light on the technical apsects. Still it spent less time than other computer history books on hiring and firing and other rather boring junk.
My only gripe with this book is that it peters out right about 1990 and flies over the modern Internet with too little detail. Perhaps that story is best told in a follow-up book.
I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book., Oct. 23 2001
By A Customer
I'm a software engineer who has recently become interested in the history of computing. I thought this book was well written. The personalities of the primary players in the invention of the computer network are brought to life. It's interesting to see how little has changed with programmer personalities since the early days. The development of the ARPAnet is covered in good detail. The chapters dealing with the subsequent evolution of the ARPAnet into the Internet and the growth of the Internet are less detailed but still interesting. It had the right blend of technical detail and human detail to make me happy, but I suspect less technical people might find parts of it boring.
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