The History and Future of Networking

The History and Future of Networking

September 2

Remember the part in “War Games” where Matthew Broderick used that telephone doo-hicky to break into that company and play games? That’s actually an early form of networking.

The first network was the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, affectionately known as ARPANET, which used packet switching, TCP/IP, modems and an early form of routers called Interface Message Processors.

It was a little hard finding evidence of issues with early networking, though ARPANET crashed in the midst of sending its first message, “login.” The “l” and “o” made it, but nothing else.

Beginning in the late 1990s, though, the popularity of the Internet sparked networking to grow exponentially, with different methods of connecting coming and going fairly quickly.

Early computer networks utilized telephone lines. One of the first examples of this was IBM’s SABRE reservation system that it set up for American Airlines. The lines connected some 2,000 terminals. Cables have evolved since then to include coax, twisted pair, fiber optic, and USB.

The Ethernet cable is the standard we all know and love, and it became that way because of Robert Metcalfe, a Harvard Ph.D. graduate working at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s. He developed the first working Ethernet prototype, a 2.94 Mbps CSMA/CD system that connected more than 100 workstations on a 1 kilometer cable.

He was also one heck of a salesman. He left PARC shortly thereafter to start his own company called 3Com and convinced his former company and others, including Intel, to adopt the Ethernet. It was also approved as an industry standard by IEEE in 1983.

So what’s the future of networking?

For now, there are differing opinions. Last year, VentureBeat wrote about the emergence of software-defined network, a business that could be making $35 billion by 2018. Here’s how the report described SDN: “At its most basic level, SDN creates a separation between the brains and the brawn of the network – the software that makes decisions and the hardware that carries out those decisions. This “decoupling” allows the network to centralize its intelligence, effectively pooling all information into a single location. The idea being that with a global view of the entire network, better decisions can be made about how exactly to handle communications.”

Wired had an interesting chronicle of networking history, which concluded with SDN and the cloud network-as-a-service.

Cable companies are making it so you can put your television anywhere you want in the room, not just where there is a cable outlet. And there are rumors that Apple is outfitting the iPhone 6 with the ability to charge its battery wirelessly.

Considering that more and more items we use everyday are going wireless, there is a pretty good chance that cables will go away  —eventually.

Photo credit: Hans via Pixabay