The Internet: On its International Origins and Collaborative Vision a work In-Progress

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XI - The Vision
Spilling credits JCR Licklider with the vision that inspired the Internet developments. Spilling writes:
"Dr. Licklider, educated both in electrical engineering and

psychology, had the vision of 'an on-line community of people,' where

the computers should help people to communicate and provide support

for the human decision processes...."(Spilling, The Internet)(25)

The vision Licklider proposed was of an "intergalactic network". This was to be a human computer communications networking utility which would function like other utilities in that everyone would have access to it. However, this was to be global and to make it possible for governments, scientists and people around the world to communicate in a way that was unprecedented. Licklider's vision was of an on-line community of people. Computers would help humans to communicate with each other.

This vision inspired the early development of the Internet.(26) It is articulated in diverse forms through this formative period of the Internet's development. For example, an editorial in the ARPANET News in February, 1974 explains:

"Inherent in the concept of a resource sharing computer network is

the idea of a cooperative, collaborative working mode. This calls

for a very special 'place for people's heads' -- a special ability

to be cognizant of and concerned for the welfare of the whole. This

long-term objective and viewpoint requires a personal feeling of

responsibility for the welfare of the network instead of the

short-sightedness of acquisitive self-interest.... With the backing

of ARPA-IPT in this endeavor... the ARPANET shows every promise of

becoming the global tool for enhanced communication and

understanding between nations and their scientists and people that

was envisioned for it in its beginning."(27)
The ARPANET News editorial proposes that the ARPANET can be an international network. The researchers developing this worldwide networking system, though, recognized the need for something different from a centralized single network like the ARPANET. Networks like Cyclades in France, NPL in Great Britain, and the ARPANET in the US were under the control of different national governments and were developing in different technical ways suited to the needs of the political and administrative entities they belonged to. This was the problem posed for networking researchers of the early 1970s. An international collaboration made it possible to solve the problem of interconnecting dissimilar packet switching networks to make communication possible across their boundaries. Lundh also credits Engelbart with contributing to the vision of resource sharing.
While Licklider formulated the vision which inspired networking research, Lundh points to Kahn's role in providing an overall direction toward realizing this vision. Lundh writes that "more than anybody else Kahn was the person who formulated goals and guided development of the Internet technology during the most active development period." (Lundh, 16)
Kirstein concurs. He writes: "Others had much to do with protocol design and implementation detail, Kahn had the overall research goals and direction. He was personally responsible for formulating the programme, and for ensuring that they followed the right lines. Moreover, when other activities, like those of the PTTs

at the time, threatened some of the directions of the programme, it was Kahn who formulated activities that kept the programme on the right lines without alienating the PTTs too much. Thus when the British Post Office insisted on the use of IPSS (see earlier), Kahn asked BBN to organise things with relays at BBN in a way that would allow those channels to be used on the US side -- even though this had no real interest to him in true Internet research."(Kirstein, Email, October 8, 2002)

Kahn had worked on the BBN proposal to design the ARPANET. He was part of the BBN team to create the IMP subnetwork. He was the author of the original 1822 protocol specification for the interface between the IMPs and Hosts for the ARPANET. He also provided important leadership for the development of the Internet. In an article published in November, 1972, Kahn presents both human and computer interaction in information processing as a property of resource sharing networks. He writes:
"A principal motive underlying computer network development is to

provide a convenient and economic method for a wide variety of

resources to be shared. Such a network provides more than an

increased collection of hardware and software resources; it

affords the capability for computers as well as individuals to

interact in the exchange and processing of information."

(Kahn, “Resource Sharing”, 116)
Kahn describes how such networks encourage participation among users. This is a cooperative process that generates high levels of technical achievement. He writes:
"Computer networks provide a unique mechanism for increased

participation between individuals. Participation in research and

development using the distributed resources of a computer network

can lead to close cooperation between individuals who might

otherwise have little incentive to work together. This

interaction can further cross-fertilize the network community and

encourage even higher levels of achievement through technical

cooperation." (Kahn, “Resource Sharing”, 117)

In 1972, before the design of the TCP/IP protocol, Kahn proposed that "a communication system not preclude the possibility that separate... data networks may be accessed through it if all resources are to be mutually accessible." (Kahn, “Resource Sharing”, 120)(28)
The problem Kahn identified in his article on resource sharing networks is the need for a means to link the networks of different countries.(29)
Intimately tied to the problem of communicating across the boundaries of dissimilar packet switching networks, was the need to support a collaborative process to create a working protocol for an Internet. The requirements for this protocol were that it be as minimal as possible, asking only of the differing networks, what was necessary for internetworking communication. Also it was desirable to have the internetworking process implemented outside of the individual networks whenever possible (via gateways, which were later called routers). Then the networks, themselves, would require the least change, if there were to be a change in the protocol.
The TCP/IP protocol suite requires the agreement of the participating networks to certain gateway and operating system specifications in the host computers. Substantial collaborative scientific research and experimentation were required to develop the design and work out the implementation problems. Utilizing the SATNET research, IPTO and their research community, in collaboration with research groups in Norway and the UK, developed and then spread a robust and functional protocol design and implementation. Subsequently, German and Italian researchers joined the cooperative efforts. Meanwhile other researchers, particularly French researchers contributed in important ways. This created the basis for a global Internet.(30)
In his book The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig advocates preserving the Internet's unique architecture and culture.(31) He proposes that it is the end-to-end principle of networking architecture and shared code that are critical aspects of the Internet. The end-to-end principle requires that the network not be changed to accommodate the uses of individual entities. Instead such uses are to be implemented at the ends of the Internet. This is an important principle for the development of resource sharing in packet switching networks. This is not, however, sufficient to make an Internet a reality. Neither is the sharing of programming code, though this, too, is desirable for Internet development and a desirable networking goal. The critical aspect of the Internet's development is the ability to develop an architecture that asks as little as possible of the collaborating networks and that treats each network as a peer of the other, rather than subordinating any network to any other. This architecture, called by Kahn "open architecture", is the critical principle of the Internet.(32)
This architecture means that each network wanting to interconnect and to communicate does not have to ask any other network for permission to join. This is one characteristic that leads Lessig and others to call the Internet a "commons". Also Internet standards are freely available to all interested. Therefore, any network can implement the TCP/IP protocol suite as part of a host operating system and connect with a gateway to other networks. This "open architecture" of the Internet facilitates its ability to spread around the globe. Networks do not have to change their nature or ownership to become part of the global Internet. The Internet welcomes the technical and political diversity and provides for communication accommodating this diversity.(33) Communication among those with differences is a generative process. It is in the interaction of diverse ideas that new ideas emerge. (Michael Hauben, “The Net and the Netizen”, in Hauben and Hauben, Netizens)(34)

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The Internet: On its International Origins and Collaborative Vision a work In-Progress

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