What If Wednesday: 29 October 1969. The First Internet Message Is Sent.

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And Cool Gus wonders what if it wasn’t?

On 29 October, 1969, a student at UCLA, Charley Kline, tried to transmit a message to a computer at Stanford over ARPANET, the precursor to the modern Internet. He managed to get the letters I and o sent before it crashed, thus foreshadowing all our future experiences on the Internet.

They rebooted, and about an hour later (pretty much still takes that long), he managed to send the entire massive message:

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And thus the Internet was born.

What’s key about this was that computers and systems were at a crossroads in 1969. Many were advocating focusing on bigger machines in central positions that people would have to go to in order to access. The concept of linking machines wasn’t in favor with companies such as IBM.

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The 32-BIT Sigma 7 computer, with a 128 Max kwords memory, was used to send this message. Suffice it to say your current “smartphone” far outpowers this device. But everything has to start somewhere.

Off to the right is a Sigma 9. Yeah. Put that on your desk. And have the guy standing over your shoulder, because you need him too.

I remember taking ‘computing’ at West Point. Back in the days when men were men, and we ate rocks for breakfast, chased goats for fun, and learned how to program using symbols on paper and some other stuff (I specced and dumped all that– fellow Long Gray Line people will get the term) and then we brought that to guys like the one in the picture, in white lab coats, who did punch cards and then would tell us to come back for the results in an eon or so. I’m still waiting on a program. I think most of the programs were designed to find new rocks. Or goats.

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BTW, as an aside, a cadet in our company, G-1, from the class of 1982 (who got over, because they got real food in the mess hall and didn’t have to eat rocks but they don’t know that because we were old Corps in ’81 and we suffered in silence), was named the first female Dean at West Point this summer and I want to give her a shout out, hey Cindy, aka General Jebb. Congratulations.

That’s history, right there.

And the cadets now are spoiled, because they have laptops and something called the Internet, with something called Wifi, and they don’t have to type their Social Sciences Papers (which was the dread) on real typewriters and use whiteout and– wait a second! Cindy was head of Social Sciences for some years. So they gave the job to the person who tormented cadets the most. So the Corps hasn’t. Carry on! I think it would be cool if they turned off the Wifi at the Academy every so often, just to mess with the cadets. I’m sure Cindy could do that. Like the week the “Soc” paper is due.

To the present cadets at West Point, I could tell you some stories about Cindy. Used to hang out with her and Lindy and Lori in party central. How they would have keggers in their room and– sigh, actually, she used to study all the time and hang out with her future hubby, who was a football player, and really deserves to make history. Because she earned it. The old-fashioned way. Eating rocks.

29 October 1969. The day the Internet was born.

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Originally published at www.writeitforward.com on July 13, 2016.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to www.bobmayer.com

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