- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade; 1 edition (January 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684812010
- ISBN-13: 978-0684812014
- Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 2.7 cm
- Shipping Weight: 612 g
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #713,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Where Wizards Stay Up Late Hardcover – Jan 1996
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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.
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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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