Press Esc to close
Sunday 29 March 2015
News updated at 3:29 AM IST
Weather
Max: 34.5°C
Min : 19.9°C
In Bengaluru
Sunny day

An early tale of the Internet

John Markoff , Jan 7, 2013, NYT

Recently I interviewed Peter E Hart, an electrical engineer who was an early artificial intelligence researcher, about one of the first robots, a machine named Shakey that was designed at SRI International beginning in 1966.

SRI was one of the laboratories from which many personal computing and networking technologies were first developed.

The forerunner to today’s Internet, the ARPAnet, began with a first link between SRI and UCLA in 1969, and for years afterward only an elite group of engineers, scientists and students had any idea of what computer networking was.

After I left his office, Peter remembered an additional story about the early ARPAnet. With his permission, here is an e-mail he sent to me:

SRI International, where I was the director of the AI Center, was periodically visited by the US government auditors. One day I got a call from an internal contracts administrator telling me to expect such a visit– in other words, I was supposed to be on my best behaviour.

The government auditor soon appeared in my office, armed with a no-nonsense demeanour and a bulging briefcase. He pulled up a chair, pulled a file from his briefcase, and without preamble said in an authoritarian tone of voice, “Dr Hart, it says here that you’ve received 2,493,786,916 packets of bits. Is that correct?”

I certainly hadn’t expected that question, but I was on my best behaviour, so I politely replied, “Well, I’m not sure of the exact number, but that sounds about right.” He made a check mark on his file. He then asked, “Were adequate procedures set up to inspect the condition of these incoming packets?”

I was starting to get an inkling of where this was going. I thought there must be some error-detecting codes somewhere in the communication path, so I simply answered “Yes”. A second check mark. Next he asked, “And did all the packets arrive in good condition? Was there any corrosion or tarnish on any of the packets?”

At this point I was struggling to keep a straight face, but I truthfully answered, “No sir, there was no tarnish or corrosion on any of the packets we received.” One more check mark.

Another question: “And did you have adequate facilities available to store all of these packets?” I thought, hey, didn’t you see all those disk drives in the machine room across from my office? So I answered, “Yes.” He made a final check mark, stuffed the file back into his briefcase, thanked me and left. You can’t make this stuff up.


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Brand ambassador Pranitha subhash at Jewels exotica Akshaya Tritiya jewellery shopping...

Brand ambassador Pranitha subhash at Jewels exotica Akshaya Tritiya jewellery shopping...

Bollywood actor Katrina Kaif with her wax model at Madame Tussauds in London...

Bollywood actor Katrina Kaif with her wax model at Madame Tussauds in London...

Models at a fashion show at IIFT in Bengaluru on Friday night...

Models at a fashion show at IIFT in Bengaluru on Friday night...

People watch the PSLV-C27 take off carrying India's fourth navigational satellite in Sriharikota...

People watch the PSLV-C27 take off carrying India's fourth navigational satellite in Sriharikota...

A view of Vidhan Soudha which was powered off during the Earth hour in Bangalore...

A view of Vidhan Soudha which was powered off during the Earth hour in Bangalore...

Security persons recover articles after an encounter with the Maoists in Latehar...

Security persons recover articles after an encounter with the Maoists in Latehar...

Dancers perform during  procession to mark the Hindu festival of Ram Navami in New Delhi

Dancers perform during procession to mark the Hindu festival of Ram Navami in New Delhi

Youths participate in a rally during Northeast NSS Festival in Agartala on Saturday...

Youths participate in a rally during Northeast NSS Festival in Agartala on Saturday...

Artists dressed as Hindu gods on the occasion of Rama Navami festival in Bengaluru on Saturday...

Artists dressed as Hindu gods on the occasion of Rama Navami festival in Bengaluru on Saturday...

Artists performing ballet 'Durga Saptashati' in Bhopal on Friday evening...

Artists performing ballet 'Durga Saptashati' in Bhopal on Friday evening...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523