Saturday, November 16, 2013

BPN 1673: 25 years open Internet via Amsterdam

On November 17, 2013 it will be exactly 25 years since the former Mathematisch Centrum (Mathematical Centre), now Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam was linked up to the NSFnet, the network of the U.S. National Science Foundation. This connection gave the Netherlands and Europe access to the open Internet. It was the beginning of today's Internet for scientific institutes and universities and later for businesses and consumers.

Internet pioneers Jaap Akkerhuis, Daniel Karrenberg, Teus Hagen, and Piet Beertema (CWI) at Piet Beertema's farewell party at CWI on the occassion of his retirement on 16 September 2004. Source: CWI.

Until that date, the traffic of the precursor of internet was conducted via Internet ARPANET, the U.S. military network. This network was developed from 1969 and was shaped in 1975 when Vincent Cerf and Bob Khan for the first time used the term Internet in a lecture in which they described the TCP/IP protocol. The network was not only used for military purposes, but also research institutes and universities, which were allied to scientific research for the government. Through this network the Mathematisch Centrum made its first contact in 1982. Thanks to this contact the staff of the Mathematical Centre in contact with the Internet developments. When in 1985 for the first time the URL with the was attributed to the American company Symbolics Inc., the staff, including the system manager Piet Beertema, looked out to get the suffix .nl in place. On April 25, 1986 The Netherlands was the first country to have a country suffix assigned. Piet Beertema became the first registrar of the .nl suffix. Not that it was a lot of work, as in the first two years only 87 URLs were issued.

The e-mail about the first open transatlantic Internet connection between CWI and the United States . Source: Piet Beertema.

In 1986, the academic network of the military network informed and in the network of the National Science Foundation, NSFnet, accommodated. In 1988 this network was independent, primarily aiming at academic institutions. And in the same year on Sunday, November 17th, it was the day that the Mathematisch Centrum was connected to NSFnet. At 14:30h The Netherlands was the first country in Europe connected to the open Internet and registrar Piet Beertema received an e-mail stating that the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam was the first institution outside the US with official access to NSFnet.

The connection also meant that Europe had access to NSFnet through EUnet. With the connection not only The Netherlands got access, but also Europe got access to an academic computer network, which later evolved into the world and open Internet. This network was not checked by soldiers and military industry, but was open, which had consequences for future users, such as free use.

The link-up of the Mathematical Centre with NSFnet opened the way for internet traffic from The Netherlands and Europe. Even today a lot of internet traffic from Europe to NSFnet passes through the Amsterdam internet exchange (AMS-IE).

The CWI will commemorate this festive anniversary on Friday, November 22, 2013 at the Amsterdam Science Park. Here, a plaque will be unveiled at the place, where the Dutch and European Internet started 25 years ago.


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