A Proliferation of Networks: 1980 - 1990

A Proliferation of Networks: 1980 - 1990

By the end of' the 1970s, about two hundred hosts were connected to the ARPAnet. By the end of the 1980s the number af hosts connected to the public Internet, a confederation of networks looking much like today's Internet, would reach a hundred thousand. The 1980s would be a time of remarkable growth.

Much of that growth resulted from many distinct efforts to create computer networks linking universities together. BITNET provided e-mail and file transfers among various universities in the Northeast. CSNET (computer science network) was formed to link university researchers who did not have access to ARPAnet. In 1986, NSFNET was created to provide access to NSF-sponsored supercomputing centers. Starting with an initial backbone speed of 56 kbps, NSFNET's backbone would be running at 1.5 Mbps by the end of the decade and would serve as a primary backbone linking regional networks.

In the ARPAnet community, many of the final pieces of today's Internet architecture were falling into place. January 1, 1983 saw the official deployment of TCP/IP as the new standard host protocol for ARPAnet (replacing the NCP protocol). The transition [RFC 801] from NCP to TCP/IP was a flag day event - all hosts were required to transfer over to TCP/IP as of that day. In the late 1980s, important extensions were made to TCP to implement host-based congestion control [Jacobson 1988]. The DNS, used to map between a human-readable Internet name (for example, gaia.cs.umass.edu) and its 32-bit IP address, was also developed [RFC 1034].

Paralleling this development of the ARPAnet (which was for the most part a US effort), in the early 1980s the French launched the MiniteI project, an ambitious plan to bring data networking into everyone's home. Sponsored by the French government, the Minitel system consisted of a public packet-switched network (based on the X.25 protocol suite), Minitel servers, and inexpensive terminals with built-in low-speed modems. The Minitel became a huge success in 1984 when the French government gave away a free Minitel terminal to each French household that wanted one. Minitel sites included free sites - such as a telephone directory site - as well as private sites, which collected a usage-based fee from each user. At its peak in the mid 1990s, it offered more than 20,000 services, ranging from home banking to specialized research databases, It was used by over 20 percent of France's population, generated more than $1 billion in revenue each year, and created 10,000 jobs. The Minitel was in a large proportion of French homes 10 years before most Americans had ever heard of the Internet.


minitel system, host, computer network

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