Friday 14 November 2008
Diagram of RAL connection to Arpanet
Thirty-five years ago, on 14th November 1973 Peter Kirstein of UCL demonstrated at an IEE public lecture that the IBM computer at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (then RHEL) was connected through UCL to the ARPAnet in the USA. This was the first host computer outside the USA connected to the ARPAnet. By the end of 1973 there were still only 37 sites on the ARPAnet; in 1983, when the ARPAnet migrated to the Internet, there were still less than 1000 hosts; today there are estimated to be to over 570 million host computers on the Internet.
The IBM 370/195 at RAL was the largest computer in the UK when the proposal to link it to the ARPAnet was written in 1971, and became the most powerful computer available on the ARPAnet in 1973 when the link was achieved.
Prof Kirstein has said "People at RHEL and in the US were very confused. The RHEL staff had no way of telling that there was the whole ARPA sponsored research community able to use their machine on my account. The US users did not realise that there was no major Host actually at the UCL site. However, technically the connection was a great success."
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