Artifact Details


SRI Mobile Van

Catalog Number



Physical object


The van was created as part of DARPA's PRNET project, which developed the world's first mobile ad hoc network. It was a mobile packet radio laboratory that housed one of the PRNET radio nodes, to simulate the needs of in-the-field military to connect to the network. As DARPA further wished connect the disparate computers at its various contractors, and indeed globally, there was a push to test internetworking - connecting different communications protocols via the Internet protocol suite. The van played a unique role in the very first demonstration of the Internet.

The first two-network TCP/IP transmission was between the van and ARPANET on August 27, 1976; the van was parked next to Rossotti's (now the Alpine Inn), a well-known Portola Valley, California biker bar, and wires were run to one of the picnic tables. The location was chosen as to be far enough from SRI in Menlo Park, California to be "remote" but close enough to have good radio contact.

This first true Internet transmission occurred on November 22, 1977, when SRI originated the first connection between three disparate networks. Data flowed seamlessly through the mobile van at SRI in Menlo Park, California and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles via London, England -- across three types of networks: packet radio, satellite, and the ARPANET.

The van was also the site of the first experiments (primarily by Earl Craighill and Tom Magill) with Voice over IP through ARPA's Network Speech Compression Program around 1977 to 1978. They focused on how to compress speech such that it still sounded "natural" and arrived in a timely manner. The phone in the van was a Mickey Mouse phone.





Stanford Research Institute (SRI)

Place Manufactured


Identifying Numbers

Model number SRI
Serial number none




Gift of SRI International

Lot Number