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INWG and the Conception of the Internet: An Eyewitness Account
January-March 2011 (vol. 33 no. 1)
pp. 66-71

The ARPANET, which came to life near the end of 1969, had grown to 29 nodes by August 1972. Other packet research projects were underway in Britain and France. Several national post, telephone, and telegraph (PTT) organizations were beginning to consider building national common-user data networks using packet-switching technology. These included the British Post Office's Experimental Packet Switched System (EPSS), RCP (French PTT), and a small experimental packet-switched network (PSN) built by the Norwegian PTT during 1971 to 1972 and used for experiments for three months. The people responsible for all these networks converged on the first International Conference on Computer Communication held in Washington D.C. during October 1972. With a push from Larry Roberts of DARPA, a group of network designers met to talk about how all these networks could be interconnected. On 24 October, these designers met to form what they called the International Packet Network Working Group (INWG).

1. Filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to become licensed as a common carrier.
2. K. Hafner & M. Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Simon & Schuster, 1996, pp. 176–186.
3. D. Barber (EIN, UK), B. Barker (BBN, US), V. Cerf (Stanford University, US), W. Clipsham (UK), D. Davies (NPL, UK), R. Despres (PTT, F), V. Detwiler (UBC, CA), F. Heart (BBN, US), A. McKenzie (BBN, US), L. Pouzin (IRIA, F), O. Riml (Bell-Northern Research, CA), K. Samuelson (Stockholm University), K., Sandum, B. Sexton (NPL, UK), P. Shanks (Post Office, UK), C.D. Shepard (Dept. of Communications, CA), J. Tucker, (Logica, UK), and B. Wessler (ARPA, US).
4. , This was before online documentation; INWG notes were distributed on paper. To preserve the historical record and make it available to the public, I donated my almost-complete set of INWG notes to the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1996 when I retired. I used that collection to research this article.
5. CCITT stands for International Consultative Committee on Telephone and Telegraph. This is an arm of the United Nations and the coordinating body of telecommunications companies. In most countries telephone and data communications are provided by a government monopoly, and therefore governments are members of CCITT; in the US the State Department is the official member body. A few international technical organizations—for example, the International Standards Organization—are also members.
6. Specifically noted were the Walden Message-Switching Protocol, ARPA H-H Protocol, NPL High-Level Protocol, CYCLADES Protocol, and EPSS Protocol.
7. "E.g. flow control; error detection and handling; retransmission and acknowledgment mechanisms; ways to determine current state of process at 'other' end of the conversation; message sequencing; synchronization; addressing problems."
8. E. Aupperle, V. Cerf, B. Kahn, A. McKenzie, R. Metcalfe, R. Scantlebury, D. Walden, and H. Zimmermann.
9. The reference to "international nodes" reflects the unstated view that each network would be national in scope, with the implication that each nation would have one (or at most a few) networks. This was certainly the CCITT worldview.
10. They specifically mention that "G. Grossman and G. LeLann made contributions after that meeting."
11. University College London, Bolt Beranek and Newman, and Stanford University.
12. INWG 74, "Internetwork Host-to-Host Protocol.
13. R. Tomlinson well known as the creator of network email, in INWG Protocol note 2 (a separate series of INWG notes), Sept. 1974.
14. Also published in ACM SIGCOMM's Computer Comm. Rev., vol. 6, no. 1, 1976.
15. Ironically, in response to a question about changing the Internet architecture at his Turing Lecture in Aug. 2005, Bob said "changing that is much more difficult now, with all of those investments, than it would have been 20 or 30 years ago when basically it was just a big research experiment." http://www.acm.org/sigcomm/sigcomm2005webcast.html
16. RFC 760, also published as Internet Experiment Note (IEN) 128, available online at http://www.faqs.orgrfcs.
17. I became chair after D. Barber and C. Sunshine followed me as chair.
18. It clearly would not have made any difference to the CCITT's adoption of X.25 in Aug. 1976.
19. J. Day, Patterns in Network Architecture, Prentice Hall, 2007, pp. 355–358.
20. J. Abbate,, "Privatizing the Internet: Competing Visions and Chaotic Events, 1987–1995," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 32, no. 1, 2010, pp. 10–22.
21. In the face of widespread misunderstanding, and mistrust, of his vision by almost everyone, including me.
22. Senator Gore created and introduced the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991 (HPCA), which was instrumental in the NSF efforts to make the Internet available "everywhere."
23. Unix was created by K. Thompson, D. Ritchie, M.D. Mcllroy, and J. Ossanna at Bell Labs.
24. The Berkeley System Distribution (BSD) version of Unix was heavily supported by DARPA.
25. Hypertext was probably invented independently by T. Nelson, at Brown University and D. Englebart at Stanford Research Inst., but Berners-Lee deserves credit for developing a network-based version.
26. Invented by D. Englebart, championed by Xerox PARC, and popularized by the Apple Macintosh.
27. Mosaic, developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications at the Univ. of Illinois funded by the Gore Bill.
28. AltaVista, developed by Louis Monier and Michael Burrows at Digital Equipment Corporation's Western Research Laboratory.

Index Terms:
History of computing, post, telephone, and telegraph (PTT) organizations, ARPANET, DARPA, INWG
Citation:
Alexander McKenzie, "INWG and the Conception of the Internet: An Eyewitness Account," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 66-71, Jan.-March 2011, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2011.9
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