In one week and change, we’ll hit the 30th anniversary of the invention of the Internet. To be honest, there’s some squabbling about just when the Net was born; the creation stories are as diffuse as the thing itself. But most choose Jan. 1, 1983, because that’s when a score of isolated computer systems in and out of the academic-military group ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) agreed to link up using electronic rules that still underpin the Internet today. And so a bunch of disparate groups — like the University of San Diego, NASA, HEPnet (for high-energy physicists), EUnet (the old European network) and workers at Xerox — got to talk amongst themselves.
This cyber barn-raising had a local angle. It was partly overseen by the Cambridge engineering firm of Bolt, Beranek, and Newman and to make the deadline, systems admin guys pulled all-nighters on New Year’s Eve. In geek terms, they switched the communications protocol, or language, from Network Control Protocol to Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. One guy even made souvenir buttons: “I survived the TCP/IP Transition.” (Zazzle.com sells replicas for a bit over two bucks.)