Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The 30th anniversary of the transition of the ARPANET to TCP/IP -- the birthday of the Internet?

Pre-network packet switching -- routing
telegrams by tearing paper tape

New Years day marked the 30th anniversary of the transition of the ARPANET to the TCP/IP communication protocols, a day many consider the birthday of the Internet. Let's look back to see why that date was an important milestone.

The ARPANET, the first large, operational, packet-switched network, was funded by The Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defence (ARPA, later DARPA) and it went online October 29, 1969. The ARPANET, which began as untested research, grew and evolved and was declared "operational" in 1975.

The ARPANET was a success, but all the connected machines used the same communication protocol -- it was like a nationwide LAN. But DOD had other networks using different protocols, so they funded the development of an inter-networking protocol to enable these dissimilar networks to communicate. The design for that protocol, the transmission control program (TCP, later split into two layers, TCP/IP), was published in a paper by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn in 1974.

TCP/IP was implemented and tested and, on January 1, 1983, the ARPANET was transitioned to TCP/IP. Was that the birthday of the Internet?
One might argue that the Internet began with the vision of pioneers like Vannevar Bush, JCR Licklider and Doug Engelbart, Paul Baran's RAND reports, early packet switching experiments, the start of the ARPANET, the first tests of TCP/IP, the diffusion of TCP/IP with NSFNet, etc., but the first large scale inter-network began with the deployment of TCP/IP on the ARPANET and TCP/IP (and Ethernet in the LAN) remain the basis of today's Internet.

Here are a few links you might want to follow if you want more on the 30th anniversary: