Networking Takes Off

Interface Message Processor (IMP)

This large box was the interface between the ARPANET (a predecessor to the Internet) and a computer connected to the network. This $82,200 IMP was one of the first made. The Honeywell 516 minicomputer inside has only 12,000 words of memory.

ARPANET: Networking Takes Off

In the late 1960s, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) adopted packet switching for its ARPANET computer network. Although Larry Roberts at MIT had run trials for ARPA, this was the first large-scale experiment in general-purpose computer networking. It evolved as part of a fertile collaboration among government, academia, and industry.

But soon ARPANET wasn’t alone. If it weren’t for ARPANET’s massive funding from the Defense Department, Britain’s NPL network, or France’s Cyclades network, might have overtaken it.

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NPL switch box

These handmade “buttons and lights” switch boxes connected terminals to the NPL network developed by packet-switching pioneer Donald Davies. NPL was a competitor to ARPANET.

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Larry Roberts, ARPANET architect

Roberts had conducted seminal networking experiments at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, but enjoyed his work and initially resisted Bob Taylor’s offer to develop ARPANET.

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UCLA Network Measurement Center (NMC)

Network analysis pioneer Len Kleinrock’s group studied how data moved over the new network. Student Steve Crocker started the RFC process, and Vint Cerf later helped pioneer the Internet.

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Robert Taylor, ARPA computing director

Taylor started the ARPANET project and hired networking pioneer Larry Roberts to implement it. He later ran the Xerox PARC group that developed the Alto and Ethernet.

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BBN’s IMP and Network Operations Center team

Frank Heart (center, with tie) and his group of programmers and engineers won the contract to develop the ARPANET IMPs, and to be the first network administrators.

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Network Information Center (NIC)

Hypertext pioneer Doug Engelbart (right) started the NIC at the Stanford Research Institute. It was a library as well as the repository of data the network needed to run.

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First Connections

Learn more about the first connection between two computers on the ARPANET on October 29, 1969.