Category Archives: Where Wizards Stay Up late

Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 for Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Chapter 7:

In this chapter, the concept e-mail has be explored and executed in the ARPANET. Initially, the ARPANET was designed for resource sharing, but scientists still explored the possibility of sending messages through ARPANET. The first electronic-mail delivery was sent in 1972 using a protocol CPYNET hack by the scientist Tomlinson. However by expanding it, created major compilations which forced scientist to create a standardized protocol for sending and receiving email. In 1977, a proposed format for ARPA Network was created. Then with a functional e-mail program, interestingly, sparked a debate on what should be said on the ARPA net. There a few scientists that started flame wars through the ARPANET causing controversy in the MSGroup and ironically made MSGroup the first virtual community.

Chapter 8:

In this chapter,  the scientists were discussing the medium over which was traveled. Bob Taylor and Norm Abramson thought if it may be possible to transmit data packets over a wireless. The first prototype of this implementation is ALOHANET which was constructed at the University of Hawaii. This also lead to the possiblety of having a smaller portable computer sites which was  devised by Roberts and Kahn. The result was disappointing due to the slow speed of the packing switching, but it still intrigued many scientists.  Another radical idea was to create network between the server networks (ARPANET, PRNET and SATNET) together. It would lead to  creation of the TCP protocol and thus the Internet. ARPANET disconnected in the late 80’s. As it became obsolete, it spawned even more networks, e-mail innovation and the creation of Ethernet.

Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 for Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Chapter 5:

In this chapter, Larry Roberts had conceived the Network Measurement Center. This was an organization that was responsible for performance testing and analysis. Its goal was to push the limits of the ARPA network for it  work at its highest performance. Also the scientists were building the interface which is the combination of hardware and software for the Sigma-7 and the IMP. Later on the NWG or the Network Working Group discussed how protocols were used and were utilized. This was very difficult for this group because they were not sure how and what the computers should communicate about. Finally the IMP shipped to UCLA to be installed. The first ARPA network was created and the packet-switching was a success.

Chapter 6:

This first network was connect but, it only consisted of four nodes in the west coast. The scientists ultimate goal was not complete yet. Their desire was to connect to east coast well where MIT was located. But there progressed was hindered by the Vietnam War and their budget had decreased overtime. Despite the distractions, the scientists progressed has not totally stalled. The scientists have improving the performance of the network by troubleshooting and creating traffic. By  1970, there was a second cross-country link that connected MIT and University of Utah. But travel of sending equipment back and forth was difficult and tedious. The ARPA network may have work well on their respected coasts, but communication between the west coast and east coast was still unstable. In the fall of 1971, over 675,000 a day were being sent. Slowly but surely the ARPA has become more stable. It will soon evolve even further in a couple of years.

Chapter 3 and 4 of Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Chapter 3:

In this chapter, it begins discussing actually building the computer. They were initially given $25K and the scientist started to higher ivy school dropouts. The idea was to start their own research  facility  were students and computer scientist come together to create the IMP. The scientists made a goal to make the network to be fast and “transparent” as possible. They also had to make a proposal to BBN to make receive more money for their research.

Chapter 4:

The scientists have been getting enough funding to build four IMPs, despite the doubts of the phone companies. It seems these scientist have great confidence in themselves that their goal will be achieved.  In this chapter, the scientist began coding the assembly language into the computer. The scientists discussed to Washington of how the ARPANET would send packages from one computer to another. Also they dealt with numerous troubleshooting  and debugging of the IMP.  Finally by the end of the chapter, had built one functional IMP and it was about ready to be shipped out.

Early Computer Gaming and the Open Net

Into the Mouth of Cave Madness

Into the Mouth of Cave Madness

One bit from Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon’s Where Wizards Stay Up Late I found particularly interesting was a section of the chapter on E-Mail titled “Adventure and Quasar: The Open Net and Free Speech.” It featured Will Crowther, who was one of my favorite characters from this history of the internet. Earlier in the book he’s described as a brilliant computer programmer who had some eccentric working habits:

Crowther was quiet, easy to work with, and when it came to writing code, he was downright inspiring. He was also [Severio] Ornstein’s good friend and rock-climbing companion. Crowther seemed to concentrate best while hanging from door frames by his fingertips, doing chin-ups. And he was known for his mathematical doodling. While others passed the time at lengthy meetings by drawing squiggles and curlicues, Crowther filled his page with a thicket of differential equations. (98)*

And once he was done “hanging” around the office focusing his ideas, he would sit down and code for intensive intervals What’s not to love about Crowther? His code was described as “the leanest anyone who had worked with him had ever seen.” He worked alongside Dave Walden programming the packet processing for ARPANET. In 150 lines of code they had figured out the kernel that would launch the internet (100). I love this stuff, so already Crowther seemed pretty awesome to me. But when you marry that to the fact that in 1975/76, while going through a divorce, he used his recent passion for Dungeons and Dragons to program an interactive fiction game called “Colossal Cave Adventure” to connect with his young kids sublimates him to another level ;)

Crowther was an ardent cave explorere, and his wife Pat had achieved renown among cavers for having been part of a small group that discovered the first known link beteen the Mommoth and Flint Ridge caves in Kentucky….Crowther was the cartographer for the Cave Research Foundation. he used his off-hours to plot intricate subterranean maps on a BBN computer. In early 1976 Will and Pat divorced. Looking for something he could do with his two small children , he hit upon an idea that united Will the Programmer with Willie the imaginary theif: a simplified, computer version of Dungeons and Dragons called Adventure. (206)

Goblin Caverns

A Cave Map from Dungeons and Dragons

This story seems like the convergence point of modern nerd culture in so many ways. Programming, Dungeons and Dragons, and spelunking. According to Crowther he wrote the game over the course of a few weekends, played it a bit with his kids and colleagues and then left it paritally finished as his spirit was increasingly tapped by the divorce. Nonetheless, others found it and distibuted it and the game started filtering through the networked community. Crowther was approached by Don Woods, a Stanford graduate student in Articial Intelligence, and asked if he could refine the game to which Crowther was more than happy agree.

When Woods had finished his contributions to Adventure, “he created a guest account on the computer at the Stanford AI Lab to let people play, and swarms of people logged in. Adventuture spread like hula hoops, as people sent the program to one another over the network” (207). What I liked about this whole story was how the authors tie the passion people had for this game, which inspired a whole generation of games like the Atari 2600 Adventure as well as the interactive fiction game Zork, to the features of an open network . The open collaboration and free distribution of Adventure captured an ethos that helped this game flourish, and it was made possible because of the open network that was the internet:

Adventure demonstrated the appeal of an open networking culture. And the emphasis on openness grew with time. There were few closed doors on the network, and a free-spirit prevailed in people’s attitudes about who could come and go through them, and for what purposes….ARPANET was official federal government property, but network mail was being used for all manner of daily conversation. (208)

It’s not surprising that E-Mail was the killer app of the early interet because it provided a sense of community in early network culture. It’s also not surprising that the passion driving some of the best demonstrations of open sharing in the early network came in the form of a computer game—an immersive experience based on a port of a popular role playing game that people were pasionate about. It’s funny how much this history paralles so much of how internet culture still operates.

For a more detailed look the cultural history of Adventure take a look at Dennis Jerz’s article in the Digital Humanities Quarterly “Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave: Examining Will Crowther’s Original ‘Adventure’ in Code and in Kentucky.” I think this topic would make an interesting investigation for a group of students in The Internet Course. I can see it now, “the cultural history  off network gaming!” I’m just full of ideas on the bava this weekend for all the work the students could do :)

* All citations are from the 1996 hardback Where Wizards Stay Up Late printed by Simon & Schuster.

Network Randoms

EmreI’m just about finished with Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon’s 1998 1996 history of the creation of the internet Where Wizards Stay Up Late. I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly, and while I was familiar with much of the general history presented, it’s the details and anecdotes that I find truly compelling. For example, in the first week or two of The Internet Course the term hacking came up as one of those protean terms that has various meanings depending on the context.

What’s more, in early tech culture hacking was associated with innovative approachs to a programming challenge rather than nefarious behaviour attributed to cyber criminals. Hafner and Lyons talk a bit about this when discussing how email, the application which would help popularize the internet, was a hack.

Using the ARPANET as a sophistiacted mail system was simply a good hack. In those days [the early 70s] hacking had nothing to do with malicious or destructive behavior; a good hack was a creative or inspired bit of programming. The best hackers were professionals. Meddlesome and malicious network users, which were virtually none at the outset, were first referred to as “network randoms” or “net randoms” or just plain “randoms.” It would be another decade before hacking would be given a bad name.

I love the early terminology of hackers as “randoms,” it seems much more gentle in its criticism. Whereas hacker paints a much starker image reminiscent of Jason Vorhees with a butcher knife machete :) I’m hoping a few students from The Internet Course investigate the cultural history of the term Hacker over the past fifty years or so. The term has recently been regaining its original connotation of inspired re-thinking of traditional problems. At the same time it’s also a term which is liberally employed when suggesting technology can fix any and all of our social ills.

There are a quite a few gems like this in this book, and I’m gonna try and blog them before they slip away.

IMPs of Internet History at UCLA


On Wednesday I saw this tweet from Miriam Posner announcing that one of the pioneer developers of the internet, Leonard Kleinrock, was going to lead her students on a tour of the site at UCLA where the internet came to life.

I was immediately intrigued because I’m co-teaching a course on the internet this semester, and I just read all about the conceptualization and development of the ARPANET during the 1960s. Kleinrock’s name was constantly mentioned thoughout the 1998 1996 history Where Wizards Stay Up Late. He was an enginnering professor at UCLA and his colleague and good friend Larry Roberts, director of ARPA in 1969 and principal architect of ARPANET, was influenced by his work analyzing communication networks and tracing the problem of data flow in networks. Kleinrock received a contract from ARPA to setup the Network Measurement Center which in 1969 would be the home of the first Interface Message Processor (IMP) —one of four machine that started the internet.

Kleinrock and the IMP at UCLA

What’s so cool is that Miriam not only shared the fact so that I could get excited and share this with my class, but she took pictures of Kleinrock with the IMP UCLA’s Boelter Hall that made the first connection with Doug Engelbart’s Stanford Research Insititute. In the following image you can can see Kleinrock explaining how the IMPs at UCLA, SRI, UCSB, and U of Utah connected four distinct computers amongst these institutions.

Kleinrock explaining IMPs and ARPANET

The beginnings of a technical infrastructure that has fundamentally changed the way the world communicates in 50 short years. The reading I’ve been doing on the history of the internet has been a most enjoyable rabbit hole to fall down. As we’ve switched focus in the Internet Course from the history to the technical details of how the internet works, I’ve been tripping out on the emergence of the window through which most of the world would come to know the internet: the world wide web.

I was actually at UCLA in 1994 when I first browsed the web, and I remember the Computer Science student (his name was Andre) who got us all hooked up to the web and showed us the ropes. At one point he noted that the internet “started at UCLA.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time, but I thought it was pretty awesome when I actually saw what it translated to in terms of warez sites :)  I  worked at Audio Visual Services in the basement of Campbell Hall (room B-125 to be exact) which is on the other side of campus from where the internet was turned on in Boelter Hall, but it’s my own small piece of personal history with the internet that Kleinrock helped make possible.

I have to be honest that I have a certain amount of irresponsible nostalgia for those days more generally, and the early web in particular. And that nostalgia is only fueled by tour-de-force posts like this one written by Alan Levine about his edtech adventures at Maricopa during the early 1990s. Not only that, Cogdog’s recollections of the early 1990s demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that he truly is the edtech archivist par excellence!

I love this stuff, and I can’t thank Miriam enough for sharing the experience. It reinforces that understanding the web’s history remains vital to its future. And, coincidentally, it provided a unique opportunity to illustrate to several faculty I was showing Twitter how such networking tools open up a world of possibilities for augmenting the academic experience.

TIC104: Learning from Internet History

pdp-10This week in The Internet Course we started discussing the topics the class has been researching, summarizing, and conceptualizing for the first three weeks. Five students made up a panel that talked about the History of the Internet from J.C.R. Licklider and the development of ARPANET through Web 3.0—if there even is such a thing. It’s an interesting moment to talk about the history of the web when it’s creator, Tim Berners-Lee, is calling for us to reclaim the web from corporate monopolies and nationalized centralization (maybe that’s Web 3.0).

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 3.05.40 PM

On Tuesday evening the students did an excellent job of framing the establishment of ARPANET. They introduced some of the foundational elements undergirding its emergence. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis article that helped an entire industry re-imagine itself as more than building calculation devices, the establishment of computer time-sharing, and the invention of packet-switching networks (invented by both Paul Baran and Doanld Davies separately during the 1960s). They also covered the various applications for which the internet was imagined: as a re-imagination of the postal service (Donald Davies, National Physics Lab, UK); a decentralized communciations network that could trigger a counter-strike in the event of nucelar attack (Paul Baran, Rand Corporation); and the rather pragmatic need to have various machines talk to one another over a network (Bob Taylor, ARPA).

The fact that the internet was born from several distinct thinkers during the 1960s at roughly the same time is fascianting, and even better is they all converged and collaborated at the end of the decade to focus on accomplishing the herculean engineering feat of building a the beginnign of the internet: ARPANET. It’s a remarkable story, and ehen we teach this course again I’ll recommend making sections of the 1998 1996 history Where the Wizards Stay Up Late required reading (thanks Alan). The panel did the early history of the Internet justice, which was very cool given they based the discussion entirely on their own research and resources. What’s more, Lauren Brumfield ended with a provactive question that led to some excellent discussion: was the internet the greatest invention of the 20th century? Suggesting other possibilities to cosnider: the car, the theory of relativity, the airplane, the atom bomb, etc.

On Thursday the panel was reconvened  to discuss the history of the internet from the 1970s onward. We covered quite a bit during class, but one of the issues we ran into is I hijacked the panel. Facilitating a panel does not mean taking it over ;) We seeded a few questions and subjects worth covering in an email before class, but when I pushed the questions back to them and there was anuncomfortable silence for even a minute I took over. I knew I was doing it, at the same time it was hard to stop. The push to make sure we “cover the history” seemed somehow more important that facilitating a discussion in the course which, done well, would be far more generative. How long have I been doing this? You’d think I would know better.

Paul and I have been working hard this year to restructure our courses to focus around students regualrly sharing what they’ve learned by running the sessions fairly regularly. It worked quite well in the True Crime course last semester. At the same time, it’s still hard for me to let go. I find it so easy to slip back into the role of taking control and framing the history for them, partially from excitement and partially from a necessary discomfort I want to resist. I struggled with that on Thursday night when we discussed the various internet protocols that emerged during the 70s and 80s, as well the various stages of the web, i.e. Web 1.0, 2.0, and the ellusive 3.0.

So, rather than crying over spilt milk, we asked the class at the end of the session how we can make the panel approach better. What’s awesome is they let us know. Here are there tips that we are incorporating for next week when the “How It Works” panel discuss the technical infrastructure of the Internet:

  • Provide specifics about the topic we want covered in the panel
  • Provide a space (such as a Google Doc) where panelists can share some thoughts/ideas  they want to cover
  • Make sure the panelists share their discussion questionwith the class to invoke broader participation (publish those discussion questions for everyone before the panel)
  • Stop intervening! Let it flow, we can always cover issues that are missed as the class proceeds, make it about discovery not coverage (I kinda intuited this one :) )

I’m happy with this, and I think it’s solid advice. I love the way we are running this course, and I have to let go a bit and have faith that experiments in a course like this are valuable and necessary. That said, I’d love here from anyone enrolled in the course who has more advice or feels differently abotu any of it. Teaching is the greatest thing in the world, but it can sure be hard sometimes.