Monday, August 9, 2010


20 years Internet in Austria

Today we take ubiquitous Internet access for granted and feel lost when our network connection briefly drops. It wasn't always like that.

On August 10, 1990, Austria became connected to the Internet with a 64 Kbit/s leased line between Vienna University and CERN in Geneva. Having Internet connectivity at one university didn’t mean everything moved to the Internet immediately.

The first online service I had used was CompuServe in 1985 while visiting friends in the UK. Watching the characters and occasional block graphics slowly trickle in over an acoustic coupler at 300 baud transfer rate was exciting (and expensive for my host). Back home, the post and telecom’s BTX service and Mupid decoders promised a colorful world of online content at “high speed”, relatively speaking, but most of the online conversations still happened on FidoNet, which was the easiest way to get connected. “His Master’s Voice” and “Cuckoo’s Nest” were my favorite nodes. At university our VAX terminals in the labs continued to run on DECNet, as did the university administration system. We learned the ISO/OSI reference model and RPC over Ethernet, but no word of TCP/IP. At work my 3279 terminal eventually gave way to an IBM PS/2 with a 3270 network card, and some foresighted folks in our network group Advantis and in IBM Research started putting gateways in place to link the mostly SNA connected mainframes with the Internet. The BITFTP service Melinda Varian provided at Princeton University opened another window to the Internet world (belatedly, Melinda, thank you!)

Meanwhile Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau made the first proposal for a system they modestly called the World Wide Web in 1989, and further refined it in 1990.

I don’t recall when I got my first Internet e-mail address and access to the Internet gateways after signing agreements that I wouldn’t distribute commercial information over NSFNet and only use the Internet responsibly, but it was only in 1994 when I took notice of the first Website, the now defunct Trojan Room Coffee Machine at the University of Cambridge, and another year before I had my first homepage and my own domain. As many Websites those days would read, “Welcome to the Internet”.

Happy 20th anniversary to the Internet in Austria!

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