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Chapter 09 - Networking: Emergence 1979-1981

9.7 The Symposium

Rosenthal and Meisner organized the Local Area Communications Network Symposium to be held at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston from May 7-9, into five formal sessions, panel discussions and twelve workshops. Presenters or session chairmen included: Metcalfe, Saltzer, Pogran, Hunt, Tobagi, Sunshine, Hopkins, Shoch and Cotton.4 To everyone’s surprise, an estimated four hundred people attended! For most, it was unbelievable event comparable in importance to the ICCC Arpanet Demonstration.


It was exciting. There was electricity in the air. People didn’t know what to make of what NBS and MITRE were really up to. You had some of the leaders – you had Bob Metcalfe saying: ‘The world’s going to be a better place. There’s a need for this stuff.’ It was just really exciting. The result of the conference was the kind of exposure that I was real excited about. I was able to put together a group called a ‘local area networking group’ at NBS.

Paul Brusil of MITRE:

Shortly after this, all of a sudden you start hearing companies’ names being announced and product intentions being announced. So it was almost a crystallization of the reality of the need for local networking.


I remember just being amazed at how many people were really interested in local area networks. I don’t know any researcher who secretly believes that what he’s doing is really important…


I was one of the session chairmen. Saltzer was one of my session participants and he and Ken Pogran presented a star token ring. I believe to this day that if I had grabbed him by the neck and dragged him and threw him into the Charles River that day there would be no IBM Token Ring today. Saltzer was consulting for IBM in those days. And I was consulting for IBM for two days. And, he won. And IBM chose token ring in early 1979, largely for political reasons, but, it was the star ring – it was Saltzer’s star ring, the derivative of the ring from Dave Farber’s network at Irvine. So that May was the end of the five month period that I was consulting for MIT.

Coming a little less than seven years after the Arpanet Demonstration of October 1972, the Symposium represented a defining moment in the emergence of local area networking. Soon flurries of company and product announcements added credence and substance to the promises of a technology that a few years earlier existed as just a dream of a few visionaries.

Even as the participants left Boston there was no clear consensus as to the best access method: Ethernet, token ring, or one of a growing number of alternatives. Equally, the protocols required to make networks functional were in their formative stage and being developed largely independent of the access methods. And there remained the great divide between those who believed local area networks were primarily for terminal-to-host traffic versus those who championed computer-to-computer traffic. Nonetheless, the exploding constellation of technologies and economic potential had reached the critical point and the funding and control of government agencies and large corporations no longer could hold the center or channel the flow of ideas and people. Entrepreneurs sensed the time had come to act. And those first to act gave confidence to others. Cumulatively they would give rise to a new market, Networking, to join Data Communications in defining computer communications.

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    Tobagi and Hunt presented a paper titled: “Performance Analysis of Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection.”(Fouad A. Tobagi and V. Bruce Hunt, “Performance Analysis of Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection, Computer Networks 4, North-Holland Publishing Co, 1980 pp. 245-259) Kleinrock and Tobagi first coined the expression Carrier Sense Mltiple Access, CSMA, in connection with two papers published in 1975. L. Kleinrock and F. A. Tobagi, Packet Switching in radio channels: Part I – Carrier Sense Multiple-Access modes and their throughput-delay characteristics, IEEE Trans. Commun., vol. Com-23, pp. 1400-1416, Dec. 1975 and F. A. Tobagi and L. Kleinrock, “Packet Switching in Radio Channels: Part II – The Hidden Terminal Problem in Carrier Sense Multiple-Access and the Busy-Tone Solution,” IEEE Trans. Commun., vol. Com-23, pp. 1417-1433, Dec 1975