Where were you when a “radical idea” was born?

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on October 29, 2009

Something very radical happened four decades ago, and this contributor was a part of it due to her location at the time – UCLA – and her roots growing up in Menlo Park.  She doesn’t remember what was doing that day, but somewhere across campus (she didn’t hang with the geeks), graduate student Charley Kline sat in front of a computer terminal screen and typed the word,  “LOGIN. ” The command went through interface computers built by Cambridge’s BBN Technologies  on its way to Kline’s counterpart Bill Duvall, a programmer at SRI International (then known as Stanford Research Institute) in Menlo Park.

According to the SRI website, the first letters, ‘LO’, came through to the SRI machine before the system crashed. The minor setback would be fixed quickly, the connection restored,and the very first data had been sent between two nodes of the ARPANET, a key precursor to the Internet.

“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,” said SRI programmer Duvall in a statement about historic milestone.  “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.”

Today is the 40th anniversary of that radical idea put into action. Both Duvall and Kline recall the events of October 29, 1969 in a video made available by the Computer History Museum.

As for this contributor, she’s now the one typing into a computer – making this post, not history.

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