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Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of NSFnet, Internet Origins

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the wizards-always-stay-up-late dept.

The Internet 39

The NYT and news.com have up an article looking back at the NSFnet's influence on the development of the internet. From the National Science Foundation's gamble came the TCP/IP standard we know and love today; when NSFnet was shut down in 1996 it was apparently connecting some 6 million computers. The piece also talks about the (sometimes tense) relationship between private and commercial interests. "The Internet 'was an alien concept to the communication industry when it began growing.' While there was no risk for MCI, which was then an upstart trying to gain ground on AT&T, that was not true of IBM. The company played a crucial role in the development of the Internet, and it did so despite the fact that the new network was a direct competitive threat to its multibillion-dollar communications networking business, based on a competing standard known as Systems Network Architecture, or SNA."

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whut (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639823)

who?

Re:whut (0, Offtopic)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639905)

Al Gore. ;)

Re:whut (0, Redundant)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640255)

It seems we have to update our Al Gore jokes. Apparently he did play a crucial role! [slashdot.org]

Re:whut (1)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21648763)

hahah.. You Redundant, me OT.. something tells me that mod didn't RTFA.. and perhaps doesn't know anything about the history of the Internet.. oh well.

i must admit, I laughed when Al Gore claimed that he was responsible for the development of the internet.. but i also did some research.. While it's not true that he's responsible (certainly, he didn't develop TCP/IP, and wasn't directly involved in ARPAnet) he did actually help it along a bit.

not that i thin that alone warrants some kind of nobel prize or anything..

USA! USA! USA! USA! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21640221)


USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

I know those europeons have invented something useful recently but what that may be I have not seen (I do not consider world wars useful !!)

Re:USA! USA! USA! USA! (4, Informative)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640267)

I know those europeons have invented something useful recently but what that may be I have not seen.
How about the World Wide Web?

Re:USA! USA! USA! USA! (1)

andi75 (84413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640405)

Mod parent up. If it wasn't for the nice people at CERN we'd still be using gopher.

Re:USA! USA! USA! USA! (2, Informative)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640511)

Gopher was nice. No popups. ;)

Re:USA! USA! USA! USA! (1)

CeramicNuts (265664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21642987)

If it wasn't for NCSA and Mosaic the web would have died.

Re:USA! USA! USA! USA! (1)

Ironlenny (1181971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21652421)

Everyone knows that the World Wide Web is a passing fad.

Without them things could have been very different (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639911)

Remember the OSI [wikipedia.org] protocol. How would the internet have turned out if this had been the major player? We would have probably followed the model to have separate presentation and application layer. This might have meant that we had the semantic web from day 1 rather than HTTP and browsers. It might also have meant that the world wide web and popular use of the Internet was years later, or even that company controlled networks (like the original AOL) had dominance.

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (5, Interesting)

neutrino38 (1037806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639965)

Without reigniting the OSI / IETF war, I tend to agree with the post above. TCP/IP is a good thing because it has been the default protocol unifier but still need to be fixed to become the UNIFIED protocol.

1- keepalive : IBM's SNA has an efficient keepalive mechanism. TCP has one but I never saw it working properly.

2- unified session based protocol : for banking and transctional applications, sessions is a must. In the Web world, we 'emulate' this using coockies or other feeble replacement. SIP would be a good candidate but one has to see SIP to be embedded in browsers and used in conjucntion to HTTP outside the telephony world.

3- bandwidth management and media transport: RSVP has never been implemented on a large scale. IP falls short to ATM in that matter. What the Internet World needs to acknowledge is that not every application can sit on a connectionless protocol (IP) drop the stupid dogma of being the stupid network. What we need is virtual circuits (VC) over IP that in turn open virtual circuits over layer 2 protocols

4- Private vs public network - IP V4 took the assumption that every IP address was ment to be public (the famous end to end networking dogma). The use of NAT and private addresses has been seen as a hack. We now know that private network are here to stay and the example of the SS7 signaling where private network and the way to interconnect them together are normalized provide a clear way. I am not sure that IP V6 learned the lessons.

Emmanuel

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (4, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640033)

4- Private vs public network - IP V4 took the assumption that every IP address was ment to be public (the famous end to end networking dogma). The use of NAT and private addresses has been seen as a hack. We now know that private network are here to stay and the example of the SS7 signaling where private network and the way to interconnect them together are normalized provide a clear way. I am not sure that IP V6 learned the lessons.

I really don't think that the idea of every computer having a unique public address as something bad. When I first started my university studies I attended a university where every machine on their network had a public IP address, and this was not a problem as the university also had all the machines firewalled off with different rules depending on what type of machine it was; most Windows boxes could only be pinged from the public internet while most Solaris and the few Linux boxes they had could be accessed using SSH and had a few other services accessible when connecting from certain subnets (such as the off-campus student apartments that were connected to the university but used a commercial ISP's IP addresses).

That said, I'm one of those graybeards who got to experience the "real" internet prior to widespread adoption of NAT and I really miss it, nowadays there are self-proclaimed experts running around saying IPv6 is horribly insecure because it does away with NAT and without NAT you can't have firewalls(!)..

/Mikael

Mod parent up. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21640307)

I cheat and use NAT to secure networks too, but he's right. The internet would be a better place if security models were built on best practices and not convenience, or laziness.

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640305)

Rightly tuned tcp keepalive works quite nice.

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (2, Interesting)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640355)

How about dropping the "everything is just glorified telnet" approach? What should a network do?
1: Identify a user;
2:Identify a machine;
3: Send a file (FTP, SMTP, HTTP);
4: Stream data continuously (Radio, Chat, IM).
Why is it we have 25 protocols which all implement a combination of the above 4?

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (1)

gtwilliams (738565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640713)

What we need is virtual circuits (VC) over IP that in turn open virtual circuits over layer 2 protocols
What we have is MPLS.

Re: Let's not forget also the TCP/IP unfixed flaws (5, Informative)

myvirtualid (851756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641431)

1- keepalive : IBM's SNA has an efficient keepalive mechanism. TCP has one but I never saw it working properly.

Uh, no? Please do correct me if I'm wrong, but keepalives are not at all part of the TCP/IP "church". In fact, keepalives are outside the TCP state machine, and I've seen some really interesting behaviors caused by poor implementations of this poor idea.

Poor idea? Well, yes: One of the points of TCP is to be able to survive temporary or intermittent "disappearance" of the underlying network. Keepalives expose these failures, breaking the TCP model.

For more on keepalive badness, please refer to section 4.2.3.6 of RFC 1122 (HTML) [faqs.org] ; to RFC 2525 (HTML) [faqs.org] , which documents a number of known problems with the implementation of TCP keepalives; and to http://tcp-impl.grc.nasa.gov/tcp-impl/list/archive/0367.html [nasa.gov] for more on why TCP keepalives are a bad idea (and not even implemented the same way on all systems!).

Some of the bad behavior I've seen? This one is cool....

Server and client, both on HP-UX 6.5 (yeah, I know...). Both ends have sockets set to use keepalives (remember the old ISODE code? Used keepalives over TCP to mimic an X.25 analog that wasn't necessary in a TCP network! deep sigh). Every morning, recycle the server via cron. But server won't come back up, claims socket is in use.

Problem? Server shuts down, tells kernel to close socket. Kernel on server tells client that it is closing, both drop into wait state. Socket will close when client sends its close message. BUT! During the wait state, one end (doesn't matter which) sends the other an ACK. WTF? A keepalive.

Due to a bug in how the HP-UX 6.5 networking libraries handled the TCP state machine violation (an ACK at this point is illegal), the close sequence is forgotten, and the two machines exchange ACKs until one is rebooted. Servver's port is never released by kernel, therefore server cannot come back up. Until client machine or server machine (doesn't matter which) is rebooted.

Sigh. Two days with a network analyzer and a lot of WTF, this can't be moments. IIRC, they fixed this in 7.0, broke it briefly later, but fixed it for good in 8.0 and above.

And don't even get me started on the fact that TCP keepalives are still the default in OpenSSH, despite known security concerns with having a keepalive outside the security envelope, and therefore injectable by an attacker.

Why read this article?? (5, Informative)

gskouby (61416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639941)

Why read the article when you can get the information first hand? http://www.nsfnet-legacy.org/ [nsfnet-legacy.org]
Check out the archived videos - this should be required viewing for everybody.

Re:Why read this article?? (-1, Troll)

nrgy (835451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640025)

Read the article?

Please explain to me just what this "Read the article" thing is you speak of? And what is that underlined text thingy you posted? For some reason it breaks my mouse and turns it into a little hand with its finger pointing.

Re:Why read this article?? (0, Offtopic)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640345)

Don't listen to him. He's just a troll trying to disrupt our /. discussion. Whatever you do, don't encourage him, because then he might start doing even more disruptive things, like bringing facts into the discussion.

Re:Why read this article?? (1, Funny)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640141)

Why read the article..?
Your kindly heart must be new here.

Re:Why read this article?? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640169)

Its amazing to think that what was then considered "the Internet" (as opposed to individual networks at NCSA, NSF etc etc) was able to be controlled from one place.

These days the Internet is so large that no one person or organization can control it (despite attempts to do so by many different groups)

Re:Why read this article?? (1)

gskouby (61416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641815)

I need to say I didn't mean any disrespect to the author of the article as, well, he is one of the people who actually participated in the Revolution and can be seen on the videos I linked to. Not to mention he is a great author with some very [amazon.com] interesting [amazon.com] books. [amazon.com] . I recommend the Dormouse - very enlightening.

pr0n (3, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640051)

The NYT and news.com have up an article looking back at the NSFnet's influence on the development of the internet.

It's great and all, but not nearly as large as NSFWnet's influence on the development of the internet.

I propose (0, Offtopic)

rm999 (775449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640107)

That the first person who makes a predictable Al Gore joke be taken out and shot ;)

NSFNET marked major changes (2, Informative)

iritant (156271) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640127)

One major change the article fails to recognize was the shift from control of the Internet from the U.S. military to NSF. People forget, but the military could and did exercise its power to control the ARPANET. My own alma mater had its connection yanked because someone tweaked a general. Talk about AUPs!

In addition, NSFNET required a new tiered routing architecture. Regionals connected many different end systems together through an IGP (either IGRP, RIP, or later on OSPF) and then those regionals connected via EGP and later BGP. The ARPANET was relatively flat in comparison. The regional model provided impetus to develop mechanisms that are very similar to what we have today.

Re:NSFNET marked major changes (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21642037)

The ARPANET was already 17 Years old when NSFNET went online in 1986?

in 1995

the Internet had 36 Million users when the NSFNET closed and offloaded it's 6 million users ...

CIX Commercial Internet Exchange more important (3, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21649857)

The Commercial Internet Exchange [wikipedia.org] was probably more important. It was originally set up in 1991 as a peering point between PSINet, UUNET and CERFnet, with help from people including John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, and it had two important principles
  • No Government AUP - Until then, it wasn't legal to use the internet except for government-sponsored projects, though in practice that was interpreted very loosely, with lots of deliberate avoidance of knowledge (especially about Usenet, and especially especially about alt.* :-). You could send email by UUCP, but if you wanted to use SMTP, and talk about business, you had to be very careful to make sure your packets didn't hit the Internet anywhere on your bang paths. You could use Fidonet, though that generally required paying per message or paid accounts, but you also couldn't use Amateur Radio packet networks, which also had a no-commercial-use AUP.
  • No Settlements - Unlike the Phone Company business, where every phone call included sharing the price of the call between the carriers who handled both ends and anything in the middle, and therefore complicated everything with billing software, CIX was just "connect up, share the interconnect costs, and deal with your billing yourself." While the peering market has evolved since then, and some carriers buy transit from others, and many carriers will only peer with each other if they've got some balance in their traffic ratios, and some carriers _wish_ they could charge the end users on other networks for using "their" network, and some leftover-monopoly networks still try to charge by the KB/MB/GB delivered, the basic pricing approach on the net is flat-rate, without complex billing arrangements affecting applications or connections across networks.

Al Gore meme update required (3, Informative)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640219)

FTA, surprising information that slashdotters need to know:

In the 2000 election, Al Gore [...] was derided by opponents who claimed that he had said he "created" the Internet. But many of the scientists, engineers and technology executives who gathered here to celebrate the Web's birth say he played a crucial role in its development, and they expressed bitterness that his vision had been so discredited.

Gore had been instrumental in introducing legislation, beginning in 1988, to finance what he originally called a "national data highway."

[...]

"He is a hero in this field," said Lawrence H. Landweber, a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin who in 1980 made the pioneering decision to use the basic TCP/IP Internet protocol
Looks like we have to update our Al Gore jokes.

Re:Al Gore meme update required (0, Offtopic)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640527)

Nah, you just have to tell two Bush jokes to make up for it.

Re:Al Gore meme update required (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641163)

In all seriousness, we've all known (or at least most of us have) for quite sometime that Al Gore was instrumental in introducing legislation in 1988 to finance and open up the Internet as we know it today. Where the jokes really originated from was the idea that he 'created the Internet'. We all know that the Internet was created probably well before Al Gore ever got into political life. What some of us may not know is that until two things fell into place, NSFNet and the widespread adoption of the BSD TCP/IP stack, the Internet we know and love today wouldn't exist. Part of what Al Gore did was to be instrumental in sending major funding to NSFNet, which would cause the Internet to grow exponentially, which, in turn, caused the spread of that BSD TCP/IP stack. Politics isn't about any one man, it's a team effort, but Al Gore was certainly a star player.

Re:Al Gore meme update required (2, Informative)

ivanski (89701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21643485)

Not surprising information for any slashdotter who had been, you know, paying attention.

Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn's letter to Declan McCullagh defending Gore, who was primarily responsible for spreading the "invented the internet" meme via articles in Wired, dates from 2000 and is here:

http://www.politechbot.com/p-01394.html [politechbot.com]

(as much as the internet can the invention of anyone, it's the invention of Cerf and Kahn, who invented TCP/IP).

As they say, a lie can go around the world and back while the truth is lacing up its boots. McCullagh, whose libertarian sympathies were never much of a secret, never apologized for his role in smearing Gore. He's now chief political correspondent for CNET.

Al cant defend himself today (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#21644783)

To busy giving the Nobel prize speech, and getting $800K.

Re:Al cant defend himself today (1)

drlloyd11 (458569) | more than 6 years ago | (#21652803)

800k or what Haliburton calls "pocket change".

Wait till you see Bushs "fees"

Re:Al Gore meme update required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21645299)

But many of the scientists, engineers and technology executives who gathered here to celebrate the Web's birth say he played a crucial role in its development, and they expressed bitterness that his vision had been so discredited.

So should we believe the scientists whose work is funded by oil companies and Fox News?

SNA (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640245)

:= "Simply Not Available". Horrible polling system from the Interrupts that Time Forgot.

I for one (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640285)

Will miss those hours examining a datascope trace with the aid of an LU6.2 manual. What's the fun when you just connect TCP/IP devices to a LAN with DHCP and it just works!

Obligatory Pr0n reference (1)

therufus (677843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640333)

"And who'd have thought the network we used to share our pr0n would end up being used by billions of people all over the world... ...to share their pr0n"

Such vision!
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