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18401Re: History of networking

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  • mejeep_ferret
    Sep 23, 2010
      --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Evan Koblentz" <evan@...> wrote:
      > Thinking aloud: unrelated to Ethernet, what really was the (ahem) "first" example of data moving between computers across a wire?

      I suspect folks have already replied with really good examples such as the SAGE remote site. I fear there's a value-call regarding data acquisition since remote sensors MAY have included some rudimentary computer or data handling (or advanced such as a Programmed Data Processor: PDP).

      Outside of lab or military work, most things were done off-line. Even into the 80s, many businesses and colleges still had huge rooms full of keypunch machines kept busy by keypunch operators (this is before "data entry" or "keyboarding"). I have a brochure from the late 50s describing accounting machines and there was one that duplicated paper tape over a phone. But that that networking? Perhaps: consider the first telegraphs. They clicked, but some worked unattended by moving a pen on a paper tape, thus the terms "mark" and "space" (still used to describe serial line status, as well as "break"). Just like the telephone (before Strowger's automatic dialer), people were "the switch", routing messages amid the otherwise disconnected telegraph loops (kinda like routing amid subnets). Ya, it was still human intervention and off-line processing but there were machines involved. Not always computing machines, though.

      > Or was "wireless networking" first, i.e. data being included in comms streams to spacecraft?

      I wonder if "IFF" (Identify Friend/Foe) counts? That was WW II vintage work, integrated into RADAR. When did RTTY begin and were there any evolutions between morse code and binary codes?

      Re-reading the original question: it seems to imply peer-to-peer sharing. That's unfair to hierarchical systems such as IBM's evolution of mainframes to terminal controllers to terminals which evolved into SNA. Even RJE (remote job entry) terminals dialed up into remote computers (in the 70s) and had some microcontroller handling the serial protocol and printer and card reader.

      Stretching the question a little, one could assert that mainframe I/O systems were small networks due to the "intelligence" built into all the controllers and devices.

      One thing I find frustrating is the industry's reluctance to link things directly to computers. Even in the 70s, I remember seeing lab equipment drawing onto chart recorders, which were then hand-digitized for computer work. Drafting was done by hand, then similarly scanned or digitized (usually not at all, kept offline). To bring this back home, Univac tried to make the leap from tabulating equipment to keying direct to tape, but that was just too much of a leap for most folks! I have IBM and Honeywell electronic keyboards with the awful keypunch layout, apparently intended to phase keypunch operators over to online data-entry. Until time-sharing was common, most tasks were offline out of necessity (batch processing), thus the delay of computer to computer direct unattended communications.

      -- jeffj
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