Top positive review
Great intro. to the Internet,
on August 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. 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.