Today’s generation cannot imagine a time when the Internet did not exist. But there was a “beginning”, initiated by the appearance in late 1969 of the ARPANET, the first large-scale, heterogeneous, multi-purpose computer network.
However, this heralded event was preceded by a developing vision for global information communication by early thinkers who foresaw aspects of today’s globally-connected world. But this vision had to wait for technology to catch up.
Perhaps the first system that actually provided global electronic connectivity with instantaneous communication occurred with the invention and intercontinental deployment of the telegraph network. This took place in the mid-nineteenth century and was a turning point in world history. One can argue that it served as an inspiration for even broader visions to come as well as a harbinger of some elements of the Internet we enjoy today.
One of the earliest direct expressions of the vision imagined that “It will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere.” Further, that “…an inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch will enable its bearer to…” deliver “…any picture, character, drawing or print … from...
At the Internet Hall of Fame, we encounter a lot of history, and many of the milestones that led to the development of the modern Internet are already familiar to many of us: the genesis of the ARPANET, the implementation of the standard network protocol TCP/IP, the growth of LANs (Large Area Networks), the invention of DNS (the Domain Name System), and the adoption of American legislation that funded U.S. Internet expansion—which helped fuel global network access—to name just a few.
But given our familiarity with these milestones, we started wondering: are there important historical aspects of the network’s origins and development that we're missing? What about Internet history should we know more about?
We posed these questions to some of the Internet Hall of Fame’s inductees, and the responses we received were both varied and fascinating. Over the next six weeks we will share these with you in a three-part series authored by three inductees who provided their insights: Leonard Kleinrock highlights several visionaries who anticipated Internet technology; Elizabeth Feinler focuses on the standards-setting practices that help keep the Internet open and free (did you know anyone ...
Mahabir Pun shares his personal story in a short documentary created by Ericsson’s Networked Society campaign. In the piece, Pun talks about the importance of having a “strong education,” and how, for him, it was unattainable because he lived in a rural Nepal village. Because of this experience, Pun made it his mission to connect Nepalese villages to the Internet, ensuring that his people would have the opportunity to get a good education. To date, he has networked 175 villages through his organization, the Nepal Wireless Networking Project.
The Internet Hall of Fame recently checked in with Nepalese Internet pioneer Mahabir Pun on the effort to rebuild the country’s Internet infrastructure in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the region in April. Pun was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014 for bringing Internet connectivity to many remote Nepalese villages through his organization, the Nepal Wireless Networking Project, so he’s no stranger to the challenges of connecting Nepal to the rest of the world. Indeed, of the country’s 28 million people, about 17 million still don’t have Internet access—due not only to the earthquake, but to the remoteness and punishing topography of the Himalayan terrain.
In April, Pun reported that his foundation, himchal.org, was focused on raising money to rebuild village schools, libraries and computer labs and reestablish Internet connectivity, so area children could resume their education as quickly as possible. The Nepal Wireless Networking Project, in conjunction with several other organizations, has been working hard on this effort for the past several months. The following is an excerpt of our recent conversation with him on these efforts and the current situation in Nepal.
IHoF: Can you update us on your efforts to rebuild Nepal following the earthquake?
In a recent MSNBC piece, Kleinrock talks about how he never could have expected that the experiment known as “ARPAnet” would someday reach a billion users. He grapples with the issues of keeping the Internet open and free, and acknowledges that sometimes this can include some “pretty dark stuff.” However, he goes on to say how “essential” it is to maintain the Internet’s open history, but contends that these ideas must be managed.