October 29, 1969: Happy 40th Birthday to a Radical Idea!

Bill Duvall, SRI computer room. Late 1960s

On the evening of October 29, 1969 the first data travelled between two nodes of the ARPANET, a key ancestor of the Internet. Even more important, this was one of the first big trials of a then-radical idea: Networking computers to each other. The men who symbolically turned the key on the connected world we know today were two young programmers, Charley Kline at UCLA and Bill Duvall at SRI in Northern California, using special equipment made by BBN in Cambridge, Massachussetts.

The development of the ARPANET, which had no commercial application at the time, underscores the power of coordinated basic research and the importance of that research to our society. In the 1960s, computers were not interconnected and most were not even interactive. A few research groups were looking at the potential of networked computing and how distributed systems might be used as information repositories and collaboration tools, but they were hampered by a huge obstacle: they lacked a network to weave their projects together.

— Bill Duvall


The First ARPANET Communication — Bill Duvall and Charles Kline.

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Additional Content

Internet History Program

CHM’s Internet History Program preserves materials on the history of computer networking, including the Web, the Internet, and the ideas that led up to them. Launched in 2009 by founding curator Marc Weber, this is one of the first programs of its kind at a major historical institution. The scope includes both technical history and impact on society. You can help the program identify materials world wide in need of preservation including software, screenshots, and oral histories.

ABOUT MARC WEBER

Read all posts by Marc Weber

Marc is founder and curator of the CHM’s Internet History Program and developed the Web, Networking, and Mobile galleries of the Museum's permanent exhibit. He pioneered Web history as a topic starting in 1995, with crucial help from the Web's main inventor Sir Tim Berners Lee and early colleagues. He co-founded two of the first ...

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