Friday, 27 June 2014

25 years of the internet in Australia

Australia’s been connected to the internet for twentyfive years now.
I of course don’t remember this, as I wasn’t here - I was working in a university computer centre in the UK, and in 1989 it was still all DECNet and Coloured books protocols.

(The UK had invented its own set of networking protocols, and connection to the rest of the world was either via complex email address translations or strange non interactive ftp incantations - something that I was a dab hand at - sending files to India via usenet etc…)

A couple of years later (I’ll say 1991, but actually I can’t remember) there was Project Shoestring which was a pilot migration to TCP/IP which recognised that Coloured Books was not going to make it globally and we’d better all move to TCP/IP - something that made the Unix people very happy (and Macintosh users - they could use Eudora for email and send each other BinHex encoded attachments).

Now we still used to run a student advisory service - this was a hangover from the days of batch programming but essentially what it was that one of the programming team sat in a booth and answered user queries as to why their batch job had gone stupid.

I was officially an analyst programmer which meant I had to do advisory even though I was singularly useless at it - rather than Fortran coding I knew about network transfers, document formats and these pesky new things called desktop computers. My principal contribution to human happiness at the time was explaining to US exchange students was how to email their girlfriend/boyfriend at or their mum or dad who had a compuserve account.

Anyway, one day shortly after we started a TCP/IP service, a visiting Australian academic turned up asking if we could help her access her email - she had thought to bring the numeric address of the mail server, so I fired up a VT100 emulator, connected to a terminal server, typed c tcp {server ip address}, and after a few seconds a login banner appeared, typed out at what looked like 300baud, she logged in and fired up elm to read her mail.

Clumsy for sure, but there it was, a connection across the planet …
Written with StackEdit.

No comments: