[e2e] It's all my fault

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Thu May 17 17:55:35 PDT 2007

    > From: Vadim Antonov <avg at kotovnik.com>

    > There was no market for IP routers... why?

Because in the beginning (late 70's) there was no Internet to connect to.
There's no economic incentive for someone to go out and buy/install/use a
wide-area networking protocol when there's no wide-area network to connect
to. Until the government jump-started it by setting up the initial Internet,
there was no movement at all to an inter-organization network.

Local-area networking protocols did get designed and sold (e.g. Banyan,
Novell) for intra-organization use, but they weren't designed for
inter-organization use (as TCP/IP was, from the start - albeit not as well as
it ought to have been).

In fact, what private industry was doing at that point in time was 180
degrees out of phase with the goal of ubiquitous inter-organizational
networking, actually. Every computer company (IBM, DEC, etc) had their own
protocol family (SNA, DECNet, etc), and their idea was to lock their
customers in to their (incompatible) protocol family. Letting everyone talk
to everyone was absolutely not in their minds. Not only that, they didn't
even want everything speaking over an industry standard protocol (so that you
could easily add in boxes from vendor B, in a company which heretofore had
all boxes from company A).

Which is not to say we might not have gotten there eventually. But the
governments intervention definitely sped things up greatly.

    > the principle of storing and forwarding chunks of discrete data was in
    > commercial use long before Baran's work - it was common since Victorian
    > times in telegraph networks.

What about the postal system? That stores and forward discrete chunks too.

But I reject those predecessors as being that meaningful because what was
unique about Baran's work was that he came up with the idea of breaking up
user's messages into smaller pieces, and forwarding the pieces independently
- something nobody before him had thought of.

And if you think it's that obvious, try reading Kleinrock's contemporaneous
work on queing theory - it's all in terms of complete messages. Lots of great
ideas are "obvious" in hindsight.

    > May it be because there was no Intel with 8086 and no IBM with PCs, and
    > no Bill Gates with Windows, and no Apple?

Actually, the initial breakout of Internet growth occurred before all those
events. I started selling IP routers when basically everyone I sold to was
using time-sharing systems running on DEC hardware.

The PC and uSoft drove the later rapid growth, yes, but that was later.

    > In fact, the Internet was impossible without transistors and
    > minicomputers; and their availability is what make Internet possible.

Yeah, but they are so basic you could just as well make the same statement,
but replace "transistors and minicomputers" with "electricity and quantum

    > .. the market for "the Internet" was created not by availability of
    > TCP/IP networks, but by the lowly BBSes, e-mail, and USENET. Neither of
    > which depended on anything developed by DARPA-funded research.

An interesting list. Let's look at a few in more detail.

Intra-machine e-mail (the first form to appear) first appeared (as far as we
can tell) on SDC's Q32 and MIT's CTSS - both created with government funding.
Inter-machine e-mail appears to have originated with the ARPAnet.

USENET ran on Unix systems. Unix was heavily influenced by the time Thompson
and Richie spent working on the Multics project - another DARPA project.
(Although it turns out the strongest technical influence on Unix was actually
the earlier CTSS system, but that was also government funded.)

Not that it's all government: e.g. the personal computer, the heart of most
BBS'es, only took off after the creation of the micro-computer, the Intel
4004 being the first. (Although some BBS's existed before that, running on
mini-computers.) But to say government had no role is not correct.

    > Claiming the impossibility of the Internet without the contribution of
    > a particular research based on the ideas which were known for over a
    > hundred years and only waited availaibility of technology to get
    > implemented in automated form is, well, stretching the truth very
    > thinly.

I never said it was "impossibl[e]". I merely said that government funding had
a role in making it happen, and further (see above) probably made it happen a
lot faster than it would have otherwise.

Speaking of "a lot faster", it's interesting to look at history and see how
technological development/deployment speeds up during wartime - which is, of
course, all government funding. The US Civil War (which greatly accelerated
the deployment of telegraphs and railroads), World War I (the aeroplane),
World War II (modern electronics). Now there's an interesting conjunction:
war and technological development...

    > What *is* a well-established fact is that monopoly in every area of
    > human endeavour leads to stagnation.

I think most of us generally agree with you on that.

    > it is a vastly different network, too. With tons of band-aids and
    > workarounds and ugly hacks needed to keep it running despite
    > short-sighted decisions made by the original designers.

Again, I think most of us would agree that the original design had some
significant areas where is was not developed enough. (Why that happened is a
whole separate discussion.)

However, the important observation is that some of us think that innovations
like moving the path-selection out of the network core, and other similar
things, is a good way to get rid of some of those "band-aids and workarounds
and ugly hacks" - provided that we can make them economically viable, of


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