As Leonard Kleinrock, UCLA professor and leader of the team that sent the first Internet transmission, notes, there were no cameras, no parades, no fanfare, and no deep meaningful message sent to mark the first Arapanet transmission between UCLA’s SDS Sigma and Stanford Research Institute’s SDS 940 on October 29, 1969 at 10:30pm. That two-node transmission marked the birth of the network that you’re reading this on now. The only evidence of that transmission is the record in the UCLA computer lab logbook:
First Success and First Failure
The first message was supposed to be “log in”, but their first success also spelled their first failure – the system crashed after the “L” and “O” were transmitted. That’s a far cry from today’s Internet, which mirrors Tesla’s predictions in the early 1900s of wristwatch-sized devices capable of transmitting text, images, and sound via a “world system.”
What was ground breaking in 1969 is the norm today. The Internet is the number one means of communication worldwide, squeezing out other communication vehicles like postal mail, newspapers and magazines, music distribution, education delivery, and video rental.
News Consumption – In 1965, 71% stated that they read the newspaper daily. By 2011, only 40% reported reading a newspaper yesterday, but 44% reported accessing news via the Internet (smartphones, email, social networks, etc.) yesterday.
Transmission Speed – In 1969, two letters crashed the Internet, last year PC Magazine’s fastest Internet speed winner clocked 1.22 Mbps, about 639,631 letters per second.
Mail Delivery – In 2010, the USPS delivered 150 billion pieces of mail, while over a 107 trillion emails were sent.
Employment – Last year the Internet created one job for every one job lost.
This year, 3420 Boelter Hall will be officially dedicated as the Kleinrock Internet Heritage Site and Archive to mark Kleinrock’s contributions to the project. The computer lab has even been restored to its 1969 charm.
Watch Kleinrock whiteboard how the first transmission took place: