back to article Are you coming to the party dressed as an IMP? ARPANET @ 50

It is 50 years today since the first message was sent on the ARPANET, a precursor of the internet as we know it today. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) can trace its roots back to 1962 and MIT computer scientist Joseph Licklider's "Galactic Network" concept. Around the same time, Leonard Kleinrock, also …

  1. Alan J. Wylie

    Hobbes' Internet Timeline

    Another source of links to historic reading material: Hobbes' Internet Timeline

  2. Ragarath

    All hail our Internet designing overlords for they granted us many wonders.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. Can we get our money* back?

      * data.

      1. jake Silver badge

        I'm fairly certain that the Internet designers had nothing to do with those five ... not until after they were worth billions, anyway. Those are all marketing companies, not engineering companies.

  3. ArrZarr Silver badge

    Part of me deeply regrets being too young (and in entirely the wrong place) to see what was going on in the world of computing at this time, the construction and design of these vast systems that were sufficiently well designed so that even today they're still working* despite the enormously higher scale and volume that was envisaged at the time.

    It must have been an amazing place watching the future get built in front of your eyes, greybeards.

    *IPv4 still did a damn good job

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re IPv4

      IPv4 was a work of genius. Everythnig since then looks like a student project exercise.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Re IPv4

        No argument there, The amount of legwork IPv4 has done in the past 40ish years is absurd and the reason that it's ended up insufficient for the present only serves to highlight the sheer scale of what the internet has become, which I assume was quite literally unimaginable back when the system was designed.

    2. Alister

      It must have been an amazing place watching the future get built in front of your eyes, greybeards.

      It used to be fun.

      1. stiine Silver badge

        re: fun

        Yep, now I have tennis elbow on one side and callouses on the other...

        1. Long John Brass

          Re: re: fun

          It puts the lotion on its skin?

      2. jake Silver badge

        It was fun, agreed. However, we had absolutely zero idea that the future was being built. If we had known, we would have made a few changes, like, oh, I don't know, maybe security for a start. And privacy would have been up there.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          I'm still waiting for that memoir from you, jake! I think Dr Syntax and Kiwi have things I'd like to know more about, too :-)

          1. jake Silver badge

            I rather suspect that Gathercole would be a better read than any of those you list.

            Mine is being written. I don't know if I'll be able to publish it in my lifetime ... my brother (a land-shark) says that I can probably get releases from the living, but the estates of the deceased might have issues in some cases.

        2. Dagg Silver badge

          security and privacy True, so true. We were so young, naive and trusting in those days.

          Hacking was just what you did to get a bit of rough and ready code running...

  4. Alan J. Wylie

    ICANN blog post by Dr. Leonard Kleinrock

    Dr. Kleinrock was mentioned in the article, ICANN has just posted a blog written by him: The First Message Transmission

  5. Alister

    The first two letters sent that day were 'L' and 'O' – what should the third have been?

    'L' of course.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Thumb Up


    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      L O G full would have been my guess ? I was feeding quarters into pinball machines back then.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Nothing. A pop-up advert should have interrupted it.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Followed by an A, no doubt.

    5. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Sorry to be boring, but it says it right there in the article, once they got it working the full message was login.

      Of course, if we include the lo from before the failure, then the first three letters that were transmitted were indeed lol.

      1. jake Silver badge

        What's this you say?

        Are you suggesting that Kinks weren't an early and integral part of TehIntraWebTubes? Say it ain't so!

  6. hmv

    Dressing as an IMP

    I may be fat, but I'm not _that_ big!

  7. Mike 16

    Dim Memory

    I recall talking to one of these pioneers after he gave a talk on ARPANet history, and getting a bit more info about that message. Yes, this is hearsay and an unreliable memory at work.

    As he told it, the issue was that (at least) one of the nodes involved had concocted the network interface to the OS with a slightly modified serial-port driver. There was apparently some sort of race condition in that driver, that had never been noticed, because the window of vulnerability was so short that it could not be hit with a max data rate of 9600bps (or whatever), but when the network interface had inhaled and digested a whole packet and then hit it with a slug of characters in rapid succession, "Bad Things Happened" (tm)

    Stuff like that (from mods not anticipated by the original coders) has always been with us. Finding and fixing it in just a few days impressed me.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Dim Memory

      And many younger people don't realise that the interfaces and actual connections in those days were all serial (no LANs, ethernets, token rings, etc) and (almost) all synchronous. (I am fairly sure about that last part -- there was certainly almost no async data comms at the time I started working on this in 1979).

      And I would be surprised if it was any faster than 300bps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: faster than 300bps

        The Hobbs timeline shows 56kbs in 1970. So I wonder what was used in 1969?

        56kbs sounds like it could have been some sort of ISDN. Which when I used it, usually didn't give me the full 64 kbs it could have had but was always better than my 56kbs modem did. And I had a second line so could get double speed when big downloads started up.

        But looking up ISDN, it looks like it came out in 1978.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: faster than 300bps

          The first links were dedicated digital telco circuits known as Switched56. They ran over T1 lines, but were not the same as ISDN.

          1. swm

            Re: faster than 300bps

            Actually the links were 64kbits for 11 of the 12 circuits on a T1 but the 12th circuit had the least significant bit "stolen" for synchronization. So only 56 kbits were safe and it took quite a while before we got 8 bit clean circuits.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: faster than 300bps

            Those Switched-56 lines were popular for a long time. I had one for a remote office in Ohio in the mid-1990s. I don't remember if the local telco didn't offer ISDN at that location, or if Switched-56 was cheaper.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: faster than 300bps

              Probably not cheaper, but most likely a long-term lease. In the 1970s through the mid '80s $TELCO sailsdroids were selling 20 and 30 and even 50 year leases on Switched56. I know one company in Silly Con Valley that still has almost 6 years left on a 50 year lease ... it "only" costs them about twelve hundred bucks a month. It is unused. I don't think they even own the necessary termination equipment anymore.

              I know several other people who are locked into paying for low bandwidth ISDN. A couple are still paying for 2B+D; they got suckered into a "low cost" 30 year contract in early '90s and $TELCO won't let them off the hook ...

      2. swm

        Re: Dim Memory

        The IMPs communicated with each other but the interface between the IMPs and a local computer was a bit serial interface with a specification. Each client had to build their own interface to the IMP. This was the day when machines had all kinds of bit lengths (12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 36 etc.) and the ARPANET protocol was designed to line up words if the communicating machines were of the same word length and all of the bits were preserved if they were not.

  8. Graham Cobb Silver badge

    History is written by the winners

    I do not, in any way, want to minimise the contribution, genius and insights of the Arpanet pioneers, but we shouldn't forget that there were soon several competing computer network technologies being created at around the same time. Major corporate players like IBM and DEC and the PTTs (through CCITT) were working on different packet switched data communications networks through the 1970's.

    These eventually lost out to (the evolution of) the Arpanet protocols, that we now call TCP/IP, although parts of those were adopted into it (such as Ethernet, IP V6 addressing, IS-IS Routing).

    1. Andrew Commons

      Re: History is written by the winners

      In the late 1990s DECnet inter-networks were as big as IP inter-networks. I had DECnet on Macs as well as microVAXes and Ultrix workstations, it was widespread and pretty easy to use.

      If DEC had not crashed and burned it could have been a very different world.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: History is written by the winners

        Boeing's internal network was larger than the fledgling "Internet" until roughly 1986; IBM's internal network was larger until roughly 1989. Ford's internal network was larger until roughly 1991.

    2. Alan J. Wylie

      Re: History is written by the winners

      When I was in Cambridge in the early 80's, everyone was talking about the Cambridge Ring

  9. Midnight

    So it wasn't until we saw the "gin" that we knew the network was working.

    That sounds about right.

  10. drzardoz

    A good book for a long weekend

    "Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet" by Katie Hafner. Amazon has it in stock and maybe your local bookstore does as well.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember my uni setting up a huge satellite dish in the early 80's so that they could tie into this rapidly growing institutional network.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    I wouldn't be so sure ... for there be alternate routes and roots to follow

    The ARPANET itself was finally decommissioned in 1990.

    All Astute Military Presences would have ARPANET recommissioned rather than decommissioned, methinks.

    I suppose that takes All into Skunkworks Territory on Virtual Terrain with Real Spooky Surreal IntelAIgent Stuff Freely Available to Present and Entertain All with CHAOS ..... Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems.

    Or do you disagree and deny yourself the perfect opportunity to exclaim your objection and articulate the evidence for the reasoning? Surely such halts Progress at every stop/disagreement, which is not at all accommodating whenever reasons are unknown.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I wouldn't be so sure ... for there be alternate routes and roots to follow

      But amfm, ARPANET was wrapped up because the .mil never really used it. They have their own command and control infrastructure outside the global TCP/IP network. Shirley a martian of your learned background and ability knows this?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Another Titanic SNAFU Disaster for AIMasterly Virtual Exploitation/Remote Worldly Execution

        But amfm, ARPANET was wrapped up because the .mil never really used it. They have their own command and control infrastructure outside the global TCP/IP network. Shirley a martian of your learned background and ability knows this? ... jake

        Howdy, jake,

        Sounds to me very much like their own command and control infrastructure outside the global TCP/IP network is an ARPANET recommissioned.

        Such has constantly proven itself thoroughly incapable of global infrastructure command and control though ......... so a monumental program/project fail.

  13. Rasslin ' in the mud

    Algore must be fuming

    The self-anointed "Inventor of the Internet" received not one mention.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Algore must be fuming

      That old ignorant saw again?

      Al Gore actually did push the Bill through Congress that liberated NSFnet to commercial use, thus allowing our ignorant commentardary here on ElReg. Please, look it up before regurgitating crap. And I don't even like Al Gore!

      HTH, HAND.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The conversation would have gone...

    UCLA> L.O.

    SRI> L.O.

    UCLA> R.U.B.C.

    SRI> S.V.R.B.C.



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