Charles Kline – a student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – wanted to send just these five letters to his friend William Duvall on the night of October 29, 1969. Duvall was sitting about 500km away at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). These two friends had their computers in front of them… Kline typed ‘L‘ in his machine. It was important for him to know whether Duvall had received the ‘L‘… hence, he dialled Duvall’s number… and, Duvall confirmed that he received the letter. Then, Kline typed ‘O‘… and, Duval received that, too… thereafter, a relaxed Kline typed ‘G‘… and, his system crashed!!!
By sending just two letters, Kline had triggered a Technological Revolution 50 years ago! The seeds of modern Internet communication lay in those two letters… ‘L‘ and ‘O‘. Nowadays, it is a smart way of communication between people across the globe. Those, who have wholeheartedly accepted the modern technology, enjoy the Internet service; and those, who are still out of this network, could not be considered as modern. The Internet has changed the fabric of the society, dramatically. When the historians would be writing about the evolution of human civilisation in future, they might divide our history into two eras: Pre-Internet and Post-Internet! It is of utmost importance to look back at the Revolution that marks its Golden Anniversary this year.
Charles Kline (L) & Bill Duvall (R)
One of the important aspects of evolution is communication! Unlike other creatures, humans have successfully adopted the technological development and have taken the communication to a new level. Earlier, Language was the main mode of communication through which humans used to express their emotions. Later, they discovered better modes of communication… such as scripts, telegraph, telephone, radio… and then, the Internet! It is quite a journey…
Critics say that Technology is the Child of War. Perhaps, they are right. When the scientists at European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) had confirmed the existence of ‘Higgs Boson‘ or ‘God Particle‘ – an elementary particle in the Standard Model of Particle Physics, produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs field – on July 4, 2012, the world of physics was overjoyed. However, some American Physicists were not at all happy, as the US could have achieved the success long ago. (Unfortunately!), the end of Cold War between the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union had jeopardised the American initiative…
The research on Particle Physics has always been a grandiose matter of thorough knowledge and related activities in almost each and every sector of it. Matter Microscope is an instrument that allows a particle to collide with others, thus, helping scientists see whether the collisions could give birth to smaller particles. It is necessary to release the particles in high speed in order to break them into smaller ones. So, Matter Microscope is a huge, as well as costly, instrument. The CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator that first started up on September 10, 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets. A number of European countries set up CERN after the Second World War had devastated the entire continent. The move was aimed at countering the US’ dominance in the study and researches on Particle Physics.
When the CERN discovered the God Particle in LHC, nearly 1000 scientists from 100 countries were working at the Geneva-based Nuclear Research Organisation. However, it may be mentioned that the US had decided to set up a LHC, three times larger and powerful than the CERN’s, long ago! The then US President (from 1981 to 1989), Ronald Reagan, had asked the scientists to build a Superconducting Supercollider. The US Government had spent USD 2 billion for the project, as a 22.5km tunnel was dug for this purpose. However, the project was cancelled in October 1993. Washington defended its decision, stating that the US had no need to prove its superiority as the Cold War ended with the fall of Soviet Union. Had the US not scrapped the project, the God Particle could have been born there!
The Cold War certainly triggered the death of Supercollider… however, it also gave birth to Internet! It was October 1957, when the Cold War was at its peak. The erstwhile Soviet Union launched ‘Sputnik 1‘, the first artificial Earth satellite, into an elliptical low Earth orbit on October 4, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere. The Soviet move stunned the US! According to experts, it was the ‘Shock of the Century‘ for Washington. Socialism had developed the scientific researches to this extent! The success of USSR irked the then US President Dwight David Eisenhower. In response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1, the Eisenhower Administration set up Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in January 1958. The ARPA’s main task was to formulate and execute research and development projects for expanding the frontiers of technology and science…
The US Defence Department sanctioned a lot of money in the 1960s for the Universities and Research Laboratories, so that they could purchase costly computers. Meanwhile, a new problem had surfaced! Those computers used to function in their own languages that they were programmed in… one failed to understand the others’ language. However, communication between two computers was necessary for conducting advanced research… and for that, the scientists required a network. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET, an early packet-switching network and the first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite, was developed under the direction of the Agency between 1967-69. The US Defence Department had to cut their budget for Ballistic Missile Research programme for setting up the ARPANET. As expected, the move disheartened the defence researchers. In order to convince them, the Defence Department explained that in case the Soviet targeted any particular American city with Ballistic Missiles, then the data stored in computers would be destroyed in that city, too. However, the network would allow the scientists to share those data with computers in other cities even before such an attack!
The use of Internet was not so popular in 1969. However, APRANET sowed the seeds of Internet by issuing a press release. On that day, Leonard Kleinrock, a Computer Scientist and former Professor of Computer Science at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, said: “As of now, computer networks are still in their infancy, but as they grow up and become more sophisticated, we will probably see the spread of ‘computer utilities’, which, like present electric and telephone utilities, will service individual homes and offices across the country.” And… what a perfect prediction!!!
Kleinrock and the first IMP
Roses, too, have thorns… in the modern world, Internet has played an important role in triggering the Arab Spring, apart from helping Edward Joseph Snowden reveal the real characters of politicians! Internet has many other contributions… such as rigging polls, curbing the Freedom of Speech, spreading fake news, etc. Initially, Kleinrock thought that Netizens would overcome those problems. In 2000, he admitted his mistake, stressing: “I did not foresee the pervasive impact of the Internet on so many people, and on so many aspects of society and humanity.”
Room No 3420, UCLA
The Room No 3420 of UCLA – from where Charles Kline had contacted with his friend William Duvall on October 29, 1969 – is a museum, now. It has been kept exactly as it was, five decades ago! Thousands of people visit the room every year to see the birthplace of Internet. Be it good or bad, an attempt was made to change the way the society functions from that room. Perhaps, the visitors remember American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astro-biologist, author, science populariser, and science communicator Carl Sagan’s unforgettable words: “Science is the Art of managing our Future!”
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