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Chapter 08 - Networking: Diffusion 1972-1979

8.14 In Perspective

A functioning Arpanet stimulated a decade of computer communication research and innovation. First came the need to change design choices built into Arpanet and to ready it for interconnection with a packet radio network. To do so meant both redesigning NCP, which provided neither end-to-end virtual circuits nor true datagram connectivity, and accommodating gateways between networks. Cerf and Kahn put forth a first effort in 1974 with their Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) paper.

The Europeans were not to be left behind. The CYCLADES network demonstrated that end-to-end virtual circuits could be fit with pure datagram message delivery. The organization of INWG and its transformation into IFIP WG 6.1 provided a forum where the myriad approaches to computer communications were debated. The presentation of TCP precipitated a flurry of design alternatives and the eventual parting of the two sides of the Atlantic and their desires for an overarching network architecture.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of computers in the United States motivated engineers to solve the problems of fast inter-computer communications, not over telephone circuits but over coaxial cables or twisted pair wires. First Farber birthed token ring and then Metcalfe fused the ideas of Arpanet and ALOHAnet into Ethernet. These local area networks required communication software different than TCP or even TCP version 2. XNS helped drive a new design of TCP, one that would become TCP/IP – where the end-to-end transport functionality would be divorced from network connectivity. This layered approached became a standard with the OSI Reference Model in 1979. Yet all of this activity left users swimming in confusion, prompting the NBS and MITRE to call for a workshop in early 1979 to make sense of it all. All too soon entrepreneurs would charge forward to seize the perceived opportunities in local area networking and, in the process, dislodge governments and their institutions from the driver’s seat.