It’s rather pleasing to see that ‘link rot’ and dead connections have been part of the internet ever since the start. As shown in RFC-315 reporting on a week’s worth of server status reports in February 1972, as read by Darius Kazemi. Of course the underlying notion of the internet as distributed system is that if a node fails, the rest can continue to work. This was fundamental to ARPANET. What’s pleasing to me is the fact that such robustness was needed from the start, that over half of servers could be ‘dead’ and the network still be seen to exist. That intermittence was not just a theoretical requirement but an every day aspect in practice. Intermittence has been on my mind a lot in the past few weeks.

The first message was sent from one computer to another over ARPANET on October 29th at 22:30. ‘LO’ for Login, but then the computer crashed as Charley S Kline typed the G. Famous first words. Leonard Kleinrock describes the events that led to that first internet message in a blogpost.

I was born some 6 months after that first transmission, and first went online in november 1989, almost exactly 20 years after ‘LO’ chirped over the wires between computers.

Below is a photo of the logbook with the entry of the first internet message. And a cut-out of the message itself. Oddly enough there’s no freely re-usable photo of this historic document out there. Wikimedia has an image, which is only public domain in the USA, but still copyrighted everywhere else. The image below is by Andrew “FastLizard4” Adams, who took the photo 29 October 2011, the 42nd anniversary of the message when the Kleinrock Internet Heritage site was opened in Boelter Hall 3420 at UCLA, the room where it happened. He released it under a CC BY SA license, which therefore is also the license attached to the cut-out I made from it. Someone really should visit that place to take a picture and put it in the public domain or under CC0 globally (although the CC BY SA license of the image below is an acceptable one for Wikimedia too).

image by Andrew “FastLizard4” Adams, license CC BY SA

The first ARPANET message, image made by me zooming in on the original image above, and therefore also licensed CC BY SA

Mozilla fellow, artist and distributed web promoting coder Darius Kazemi has launched the 365 RFCs project. For each day of 2019 he will post and discuss a RFC, request for comment, of the Network Working Group. Starting with the very first RFC that was published in April 1969, 50 years ago, and continuing to RFC 365 (published in July 1972).

Darius writes “In honor of [the 50th] anniversary [of RFC1], I figured I would read one RFC each day of 2019, starting with RFC 1 and ending with RFC 365. I’ll offer brief commentary on each RFC. I’m interested in computer history and how organizations communicate so I think this should prove pretty interesting even though RFCs themselves can be legendarily dry reading (the occasional engineering humor RFC notwithstanding).

I think it’s good to bring the early internet (or arpanet) history to attention. This because I think having a basic understanding of how the internet works is a civic requirement for the 21st century. So add Kazemi’s project to your RSS reader (here’s the feed), and follow 3 years of internet history in 2019. (found via Frank Meeuwsen and Jeremy Keith)