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Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone. In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere gia Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone. In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.


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Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone. In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere gia Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone. In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.

30 review for Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    If you dislike publications such as People Magazine, you will not like this book. If you believe that a history book should be well organized along either thematic or chronological lines, you will not like this book. If you think that a book about the history of technology should include details about the evolution of that technology, you will not like this book. If you believe that every non-fiction book deserves a good copy editor who will eliminate pointless discursions, you will not like this b If you dislike publications such as People Magazine, you will not like this book. If you believe that a history book should be well organized along either thematic or chronological lines, you will not like this book. If you think that a book about the history of technology should include details about the evolution of that technology, you will not like this book. If you believe that every non-fiction book deserves a good copy editor who will eliminate pointless discursions, you will not like this book. Otherwise, there is an excellent chance that you will enjoy this book, as a nightly sedative, if nothing else.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brad Wheeler

    This book had one major problem to overcome going in: the story of the internet's origins just isn't all that interesting. It was kind of cool to see the origins of some of the networking protocols that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, and it filled in some gaps in my knowledge of computer history, but that was kind of it. There weren't many interesting personalities like in Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell, and the chronology got weird at p This book had one major problem to overcome going in: the story of the internet's origins just isn't all that interesting. It was kind of cool to see the origins of some of the networking protocols that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, and it filled in some gaps in my knowledge of computer history, but that was kind of it. There weren't many interesting personalities like in Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell, and the chronology got weird at points. It was easy to forget who did what. It wasn't horrible, for all that. It just wasn't particularly great either. My advice is, steer clear and buy a better book on the subject. Another note: I don't think this book suffered much for being written in the early nineties. So, kudos to the authors for making it timeless.

  3. 5 out of 5

    The story of the various interlocking aspects of the internet isn't readily understood by the average user of its technologies. In fact, it would probably be safe to assume that most users believe that the origins of the internet came about in the late 1990s. Even with the often misrepresented quote from then-Presidential candidate Al Gore, the underlying technologies that comprise the internet remain a solid mystery to the typical internet denizen. "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" provides a wide-a The story of the various interlocking aspects of the internet isn't readily understood by the average user of its technologies. In fact, it would probably be safe to assume that most users believe that the origins of the internet came about in the late 1990s. Even with the often misrepresented quote from then-Presidential candidate Al Gore, the underlying technologies that comprise the internet remain a solid mystery to the typical internet denizen. "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" provides a wide-arching overview of where the technologies of packet-switching and TCP/IP came from, as well as that of the collaborative mainstay of business today - Electronic Mail. Furthermore, the book chronicles how the Internet of today evolved from a collaborative research tool (ARPANET) under the control of a small office in the Pentagon (ARPA, and then DARPA) into the commercial entity it has become today. Stripped of a lot of the technical concepts, Hafner and Lyon bring the compelling story of the pioneers of this wonderful collaborative communications tool that has come to be so fully integrated into our daily lives today. The last two chapters -- "Email" and "A Rocket on Our Hands" -- as well as the final Epilogue make the effort of reading the entire storyline worthwhile. I gladly set this book next to "Fire in the Valley" and "What the Dormouse Said" as excellent historical treatises on the developments during the pioneering phases of today's technological revolution. Very well worth the read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Igor Gentil

    This book is to technologists what “On the Origin of Species” is to biology! Absolutely loved it!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laci

    Until now I only have picked up some bits and pieces of information about the beginnings of the 'net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late not only describes the entire genesis of the technology, and the people behind it, but also provides the political context and the general moods in society that gave it the initial spark. In other words, I knew there was an ARPA that did the ARPANET thing, but I never knew _why_ there was an ARPA or how it operated. Update: as a side note, there wasn't a whole bunch of Until now I only have picked up some bits and pieces of information about the beginnings of the 'net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late not only describes the entire genesis of the technology, and the people behind it, but also provides the political context and the general moods in society that gave it the initial spark. In other words, I knew there was an ARPA that did the ARPANET thing, but I never knew _why_ there was an ARPA or how it operated. Update: as a side note, there wasn't a whole bunch of material on similar projects outside of the US; most of them were just cursory mentions. It seems the research in the US came first and gained the most traction though, and I understand it's kinda out of scope for this book, so I'm not complaining.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sara Watson

    The book does a great job of detailing the impetus for connecting up the country’s major university computing centers together at a time when computing resources were scarce and machines were enormous. It also follows an interesting narrative thread as different stages of connectivity were reached, as hardware configuration problems continued, and as the need for standards emerged. I especially liked the discussion about the moment when TCP/IP split to cover the packets and the routing informati The book does a great job of detailing the impetus for connecting up the country’s major university computing centers together at a time when computing resources were scarce and machines were enormous. It also follows an interesting narrative thread as different stages of connectivity were reached, as hardware configuration problems continued, and as the need for standards emerged. I especially liked the discussion about the moment when TCP/IP split to cover the packets and the routing information separately to become the core protocol of the internet stack. I appreciated also details about just how much traffic was accounted for by email communication in the early days of the ARPANET for research communications. The book also does a good job of capturing the ideology and vision of “Lick’s priesthood,” exploring the frontier of human interaction with computers. And you get a good sense for the materiality of the early connections in sentences like this: “Armed with an oscilloscope, a wire-wrap gun, and an unwrap tool, Barker worked alone on the machine sixteen hours a day.” Being at the Berkman Center, I’ve heard parts of this early internet history story recounted many times, in many different ways. This version gave me a better sense of the characters involved and the conditions for getting them together to work on solving this initial resource connection challenge. And yet, it was difficult to follow each of the characters through the chapters and steps the development. I appreciated the description of the engineers’ approach to solving problems, but I was distracted by sentences like these: “Looking down into the bits, lesser engineers with larger egos might attempt to show off, to infuse the mechanism with art, to create some wonder of engineering, a gold inlaid, filigreed marvel of complexity. The inner strength of Heart’s team was its restraint, its maturity. This was no place for signature craftsmanship.” The book still did not manage to disavow me of my sense of the importance of the early internet's defense ties, even as the authors sought to debunk the myth of ARPANET’s role in the face of nuclear attack. Though the authors are careful to describe the anti-war sensibilities of the researchers involved (and the geeky Ω resistance pins they wore), I still can't help but see the complicity in the military industrial complex, and I would have liked to see more on this fraught relationship between defense research budgets and scientific research broadly in the US.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    A blurb on the back cover of this book taken from The Texas Observer reads as follows: "In all the dreck and dross of Internet books, here is a brilliant gem...remarkably well written." I happen to agree more with the blurb that comes before it, taken from The Los Angeles Times: "Important...meticulous...admirably straightforward." This book was certainly straightforward, in that it was competently written. The problem is that the story that it sets out to tell is dry as hell. Where Wizards Stay A blurb on the back cover of this book taken from The Texas Observer reads as follows: "In all the dreck and dross of Internet books, here is a brilliant gem...remarkably well written." I happen to agree more with the blurb that comes before it, taken from The Los Angeles Times: "Important...meticulous...admirably straightforward." This book was certainly straightforward, in that it was competently written. The problem is that the story that it sets out to tell is dry as hell. Where Wizards Stay Up Late starts out promisingly enough. The focus of the book is on the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) and what came to be known as the ARPANET. The authors do their subject justice in the first few chapters, which cover the evolution of network design as well as all of the obstacles that the ARPA[NET] researchers encountered - and their solutions, which we tend to take for granted today. Reading the first half of this book, I had a lot of "Well, duh, that was kind of obvious," moments in which I had to catch and remind myself that the solutions the ARPA researchers proposed in answer to the network conundrums they faced seem obvious today because they're now considered core principles of networking. Whereas back in the 60s and 70s, networking was a new and largely unproven frontier of computer science that was predominantly theoretical. Take, for example, the following passage: [Paul] Baran's second big idea was still more revolutionary: Fracture the messages too. By dividing each message into parts, you could flood the network with what he called "message blocks," all racing over different paths to their destination. Upon their arrival, a receiving computer would reassemble the message bits into readable form. (pp. 59-60) It was also fun to read about the origins of terminology we still use to this day: block, packet, header, link, routing table, etc. There's also mention of the then fledgling concept of network layers: The job of the lower layer was simply to move generic unidentified bits, regardless of what the bits might define: a file, an interactive session between people at two terminals, a graphical image, or any other conceivable form of digital data. Analogously, some water out of the tap is used for making coffee, some for washing dishes, [...] but the pipe and the faucet don't care; they convey the water regardless. The host-to-host protocol was to perform essentially the same function in the infrastructure of the network. (pp. 147-148) The above passage highlights another of the book's strengths: its analogies. As someone with a computer science background, I found that the authors did a great job of relating some of the more technical details to a general audience that wouldn't necessarily have a lot of conceptual knowledge about computer networks. But all good things must come to an end. The book exhausts this material about half-way through, at which point it switches its focus to the unexciting and uninspiring discussion of the implementation of standards. This includes the origin story of E-mail, which is completely and totally uninteresting. At this point the narrative grinds to an absolute halt and becomes a chore to read. Every once in a while you'll come across a charming tidbit, such as, There was disagreement over what should go on the left hand side of the [@] symbol [in an E-mail address] and what should go on the right. But before that, there was the debate over whether it should even be used as a delimiter... (p. 199) If, in reality, you didn't find that fact terribly exciting, then imagine the context in which it could possibly be that would make it stand out as "interesting". Hint: it's comprised of riveting anecdotes such as: RFC 680, [Jon Postel] said, was as standard as mail ever got. "It is nice that many mail-reading programs will accept mail that does not conform to the standard," he said, "but that does not justify mail-sending programs' violation of the standard." If the standard is inadequate, he added, any proposals to change it are welcome. (p. 200) Once the discourse moved on to standards for E-mail headers, I was done. I called it quits on this book exactly 2/3 of the way through. I'd recommend the first half for anyone interested in the history of network design; otherwise I would have to disagree with the aforementioned cover blurb - this one was dreck and dross. (2 1/2 stars)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    The first half is focused and exciting, full of delightful anecdotes. The second half slowly becomes weighed down under a welter of names and facts, perhaps reflecting the growing complexity of the Internet. Still, this is a worthwhile book for anyone interested wanting to understand the www, and surely nowadays that is everyone? Hafner/Lyon cover the origins of the idea of computer networks, timesharing, the development of ARPA and its funding of the ARPANET, the growth of a community, and prot The first half is focused and exciting, full of delightful anecdotes. The second half slowly becomes weighed down under a welter of names and facts, perhaps reflecting the growing complexity of the Internet. Still, this is a worthwhile book for anyone interested wanting to understand the www, and surely nowadays that is everyone? Hafner/Lyon cover the origins of the idea of computer networks, timesharing, the development of ARPA and its funding of the ARPANET, the growth of a community, and protocols such as FTP, TCP/IP, SMTP. I would have wanted to hear more about the World Wide Web which, only shows up in the epilogue. Oh, and what a dumb title.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Wilson

    This book was written from the perspective of the late (early?) 90s. It culminates with a party held by BBN to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first ARPA net node being switched on. Even then, there was a lot of disagreement about how and when things happened. There was jockeying for who got what credit. And particularly relevant today, to what extent was the internet a government project? As with most things, the actual history is more complex and nuanced than any soundbite can capture. Wh This book was written from the perspective of the late (early?) 90s. It culminates with a party held by BBN to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first ARPA net node being switched on. Even then, there was a lot of disagreement about how and when things happened. There was jockeying for who got what credit. And particularly relevant today, to what extent was the internet a government project? As with most things, the actual history is more complex and nuanced than any soundbite can capture. What I do think is clear though is the extent to which the internet was built on a culture of openness. The early process for establishing internet standards, RFCs (Request For Comments), speaks to the collaborative spirit of the people involved. Standards and technologies that had been tried on the actual internet often prevailed over more top-down, bureaucratic approaches; take TCP/IP vs. the OSI model as an example. I'm colored by the time we're living in of course, but the rhetoric around net neutrality strikes me as somewhat ironic. Repealing net neutrality policies are being spun as "deregulation," and this is true in twisted way. It's like a scuba diver lobbying to be freed from the strictures of his shark cage so he can enjoy unobstructed views of the sharks. The status quo of the internet, from its inception and on, has been "deregulated" in a deep technological sense; the sense that matters most online. The fact that we had to have legal restraint to permit that technological freedom to exist, is a good thing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    More like 3.5 stars, but I rounded generously. I found the beginning chapters quite exciting, but I eventually experienced information overload. There were so many people and places involved in the story, that I found it difficult to recall the importance of certain individuals and organizations. Some people, such as Paul Baran and Donald Davies (who independently discovered packet-switching), were fleshed out in sufficient detail for them and their accomplishments to be more memorable. But many More like 3.5 stars, but I rounded generously. I found the beginning chapters quite exciting, but I eventually experienced information overload. There were so many people and places involved in the story, that I found it difficult to recall the importance of certain individuals and organizations. Some people, such as Paul Baran and Donald Davies (who independently discovered packet-switching), were fleshed out in sufficient detail for them and their accomplishments to be more memorable. But many others simply seemed (at least to me) to be generic eccentric computer geniuses. Same goes for collectives, such as the IPTO and NWG. I was generous with the rating because I think the book was very ambitious. It sought to give a history of not only the technical side of the Internet's development, but also the human side. For that, it has my respect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    “As computer communication systems become more powerful, more humane, more forgiving and above all, cheaper, they will become ubiquitous.”—Paul Baran and Dave Farber This is an interesting book that doesn’t live up to its title. This may not, of course, be the fault of the authors. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet is really more about just ARPANET. While ARPANET was the first of the small-i internets, it was not the largest, nor was it where most of the wizards stayed up l “As computer communication systems become more powerful, more humane, more forgiving and above all, cheaper, they will become ubiquitous.”—Paul Baran and Dave Farber This is an interesting book that doesn’t live up to its title. This may not, of course, be the fault of the authors. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet is really more about just ARPANET. While ARPANET was the first of the small-i internets, it was not the largest, nor was it where most of the wizards stayed up late. TCP/IP was implemented outside of ARPANET; ARPANET switched to TCP/IP shortly before it was deactivated. As a result, some of the most interesting wizardry gets mentioned in less than a sentence, without any stories. Everyone wants their computer to be named Frodo, and so the domain name system was created, but we don’t get anything about how, or what that meant (at the University of San Diego, it meant naming labs after popes, or presidents, with the result that I had a computer named Cerebus). One of the most amazing results of late-night Wizardry were all the programs that were transferred across the early net, such as Will Crowther’s and Don Wood’s Adventure, and how D&D influenced such games. That’s mentioned, but not the significance of it, what it represented. The Web is mentioned; HTML is not, in a short paragraph that, in a book filled with names, does not mention the name of the “researcher at the CERN physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland”, nor the “couple of computer science students at the University of Illinois” writing Mosaic. Tim Berners-Lee does get mentioned, as does Marc Andreessen, a few pages later, but for not being invited to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first ARPANET node.“Andreessen wasn’t even born until 1972, after the first ARPANET nodes were installed”. This is probably because the book started as a chronicle of Bolt Beranek and Newman/BBN’s role in ARPANET, not the origins of the Internet. The casting of it as a history of the Internet is made even stranger by the emphasis in the prologue on Bob Taylor’s desire to correct an inaccuracy: Rumors had persisted for years that the ARPANET had been built to protect national security in the face of a nuclear attack… Taylor knew the ARPANET and its progeny, the Internet, had nothing to do with supporting or surviving war—never did. Taylor’s desire to set the record straight goes unmentioned for the rest of the book. Not only is there no vindication for Taylor, but the book itself sort of contradicts the prologue. Paul Baran at RAND designed packet-switching specifically with “survivability of communications systems under nuclear attack” in mind. It might be possible to connect computers in a network redundantly, so that if one line went down, a message could take another path. Baran shares credit with Donald Watts Davies for coming up with packet-switching; Davies was unconcerned with nuclear attacks, but Baran became an “informal consultant” and ARPANET was “a hybrid of the original ideas of Baran and Davies”. Most of the people involved, such as Larry Roberts, “were opposed to a centralized approach”. Even on the scaled-down initial four-node startup, dynamic routing was a critical part of the design. At best, it may simply be semantics, and at worst, a weird, pointless strawman. ARPANET wasn’t created the way it was in order to protect communications during a nuclear attack; but the design it used was created to allow communications during and following such an attack. We don’t build cars in order to crash them into other cars; but we do build them to withstand crashes—which is how I always heard the Internet/nuclear thesis put. The authors do puncture another myth, which is that before 1994 the Internet was non-commercial. As early as 1973, Case Western Reserve was selling time on their computers, made possible by their connection to the Internet. Part of the success of the early networks was that they were started up by academics and businessmen; this occasionally, if not often, conflicted with its ownership by the government. Email was nearly purely a grassroots phenomenon. John Vittal’s MSG conflicted with the official recommendations for email that included phrases such as “THIS IS NOT PERMITTED”; MSG won. Proclamations of officialness didn’t further the Net nearly so much as throwing technology out onto the Net to see what worked. And when something worked, it was adopted. Something I was unaware of is that President Carter, in 1979, supported a United States Post Office proposal to “offer a limited kind of electronic message service to the nation.” The authors are too kind in calling the proposal “cautious”. It was extraordinarily backwards and unwieldy even by the standards of the time, and was fortunately abandoned. Sometimes, however, the government won. In the early to mid seventies an Internet “user’s group” called USING started up to recommend improvements to “the delivery of computer services over the ARPANET.” DARPA managed to shut it down, not wanting to deal with a “tiny self-appointed watchdog group”. While I was disappointed that the book didn’t live up to its title, it is still a fascinating, if limited, book. It’s mostly about people rather than computers or networks, specifically, the kind of people who moved back and forth between government agencies and technology/consulting groups in the fifties and sixties. It was published in 1996; they thought the Internet had exploded, and hadn’t seen anything yet. “There was something amazingly enticing about programming,” he [Vint Cerf] said. “You created your own universe and you were the master of it. The computer would do anything you programmed it to do. It was this unbelievable sandbox in which every grain of sand was under your control.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This book is a bit of a hard read and slightly boring at times, as the authors delve deep into tangentially related anecdotes concerning people whose role in the overarching story you may have a tough time following. Nevertheless, the content provided here is pure gold, with precious information about the birth of the internet, without shying away from the technical aspects but still remaining readable. The book also picks up more steam from the midpoint onwards, leaving personal profiles mostly This book is a bit of a hard read and slightly boring at times, as the authors delve deep into tangentially related anecdotes concerning people whose role in the overarching story you may have a tough time following. Nevertheless, the content provided here is pure gold, with precious information about the birth of the internet, without shying away from the technical aspects but still remaining readable. The book also picks up more steam from the midpoint onwards, leaving personal profiles mostly behind and focusing more on internet politics and growth, which makes for some interesting reading. Also, this book is from 1996, so don't expect a whole lot of content about the Internet as we know it today.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Odayan

    I cannot recommend this book enough to people who want to understand how the Internet came into being and the technology that enables it. It’s an incredibly fascinating history and there is so much to learn from this book if you are interested in gaining a concrete understanding of the backbone of Internet technology. Some key parts that are really well explained include the invention of packet-switching and the evolution of network protocols to adapt to the growing nature of both ARPANET and ev I cannot recommend this book enough to people who want to understand how the Internet came into being and the technology that enables it. It’s an incredibly fascinating history and there is so much to learn from this book if you are interested in gaining a concrete understanding of the backbone of Internet technology. Some key parts that are really well explained include the invention of packet-switching and the evolution of network protocols to adapt to the growing nature of both ARPANET and eventually the web of networks we now call of the Internet. I firmly believe this is by far the best option you have outside of a traditional textbook or collection of academic journal to learn about the Internet before diving into more advanced material.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Excellent book detailing the beginning of computer networking to people who don't understand computer networking, like me. It also shows how they moved from that to using Email but not anything really, on how the internet came to be what it is today. Maybe there will be a part two that comes out on this.... Either way, great book and I recommend to everyone. Excellent book detailing the beginning of computer networking to people who don't understand computer networking, like me. It also shows how they moved from that to using Email but not anything really, on how the internet came to be what it is today. Maybe there will be a part two that comes out on this.... Either way, great book and I recommend to everyone.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Avran

    If you're a techie, actually even if you're not a techie, read this book. If you're a techie, actually even if you're not a techie, read this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Pryor

    Thorough, comprehensive, important

  17. 5 out of 5

    Doran Barton

    I actually read Where Wizards Stay Up Late several years ago, shortly after it was published, but decided to re-read it as I remembered it being very good but had forgotten many details. For the time it was published (1996), Hafner and Lyon did a remarkable job of including great swaths of computing and networking history into a readable and manageable volume that chronicles an era from the 1960s until the mid-1990s during which time the ARPANET was created and later spawned other networks which I actually read Where Wizards Stay Up Late several years ago, shortly after it was published, but decided to re-read it as I remembered it being very good but had forgotten many details. For the time it was published (1996), Hafner and Lyon did a remarkable job of including great swaths of computing and networking history into a readable and manageable volume that chronicles an era from the 1960s until the mid-1990s during which time the ARPANET was created and later spawned other networks which would comprehensively become what we know today as the Internet. For the less-technical reader, some more interesting points in the book include the history of e-mail, why the '@' symbol became a critical piece of e-mail addresses, and the history of free speech on the early ARPANET. For more technical readers, understanding the hurdles the men involved with the ARPANET project (there were absolutely no women involved) had to overcome. Even the idea of connecting computers together for the purpose of communication and resource sharing was not contemplated in the early to mid-1960s, but men like J.C.R. Licklider could see a future where people using computers could benefit immensely by being able to access other computers through an electronic network. Making the argument to funding bureaucrats wasn't that difficult either because if computer users could access and use another computer located at a remote site to do their work then money would not have to be spent purchasing an identical computer for them to use locally. Bob Metcalfe, Vint Cerf, and Bob Kahn are three of the men involved in ARPANET's history that went on to positions of fame. Metcalfe worked at Xerox PARC where he created Ethernet networking and later founded the company 3Com which sold networking hardware. Vint Cerf was the face of Internet networking and did more than anyone else to publicize the merits of TCP/IP networking. Bob Kahn worked alongside Cerf in the early days of the propagation of the ARPANET and came up with foundational concepts for TCP. He has continued to be involved in computing research. There were dozens of other individuals involved, of course, and this book doesn't leave them all out. Will Crowther, for example, worked on the early ARPANET software at BBN and later wrote a spelunking computer game called Adventure that gained cult-notoriety on the early Internet. Young Ben Barker was the hardware engineer employed by BBN to assemble the Internet Message Processors (IMPs) from Honeywell computers for ARPANET sites. Honeywell didn't deliver hardware to BBN's specifications for the first few sites and Barker had to personally fix everything, debugging and re-wire-wrapping things correctly. I had my first exposure to Internet networking in 1990 when I was enrolled at a local university. There, I was able to make use of services on the NSFNET, WESTNET, BITNET, and DECNET, separate networks discussed in this book. Eventually, these all gave way to the Internet.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erhardt Graeff

    This was a fun and detailed look through the early history of the Internet. I revisited key figures like JCR Licklider, Vint Cerf, and Jon Postel, who I first learned about during my freshman year of information technology education at RIT. And I learned the inane origins of the inane debate between TCP/IP and OSI that added mind-numbing tedium to my computer networking courses in high school. The majority of the book though focuses on the relationship between the Pentagon's Advanced Research Pro This was a fun and detailed look through the early history of the Internet. I revisited key figures like JCR Licklider, Vint Cerf, and Jon Postel, who I first learned about during my freshman year of information technology education at RIT. And I learned the inane origins of the inane debate between TCP/IP and OSI that added mind-numbing tedium to my computer networking courses in high school. The majority of the book though focuses on the relationship between the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and Cambridge, MA-based Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN) that won the contract to construct the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. I didn't appreciate the impressive feat of engineering undertaken to connect the first mainframe computers together. Over the course of months, programmers, engineers, and computer scientists, largely coming from MIT / Lincoln Laboratory and inspired by a few crude experiments, some mathematical theory, and the visionary scientists cum policymakers at ARPA, willed computer networking into existence. At least that's how it seems from the dramatic retelling offered by Hafner and Lyon in this book. For a nonfiction examination of technical protocol creation, this is a pretty decent page-turner. They don't spare too many technical details either, which I absolutely drank up—probably because I was familiar with the basic concepts already and so could simply enjoy the backfill of context and sweat. I definitely recommend this to folks interested in getting a better sense of how we came to have the "series of tubes" we call the internet, and in appreciating the openness, pragmatism, and genius that built it. I also think the book helps us appreciate the fragility of what we have come to take for granted, and the rarity of the moment in history where federal funding and a willingness to experiment allowed the ARPANET to happen. Finally, I want to recognize the grad students. While the core hardware of ARPANET was a perfect example of government contracting with a determined company, the success of the internet as a broader experiment was built on the free time and inquisitiveness of graduate students who wanted to play and push the system further: creating an ad hoc system of protocols and proposals (RFPs) that led to the internet transforming how we live our lives. Those early pioneers deserve all our thanks for their late nights.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Wiggins

    History of computer networks and the internet, including: - The founding of ARPA, spurred partially by the USSR's launch of Sputnik - The shift from batch-processing machines (punchcards, multi-day delay on getting the output of your program) to time-sharing (multiple users logged into a system via interactive terminal) - The invention of packet-switching networks (vs circuit switching, the standard at the time) - The creation of the IMP network interface (a refrigerator-sized computer) and first fo History of computer networks and the internet, including: - The founding of ARPA, spurred partially by the USSR's launch of Sputnik - The shift from batch-processing machines (punchcards, multi-day delay on getting the output of your program) to time-sharing (multiple users logged into a system via interactive terminal) - The invention of packet-switching networks (vs circuit switching, the standard at the time) - The creation of the IMP network interface (a refrigerator-sized computer) and first four nodes of the ARPAnet - Email, the killer feature / product-market fit for computer networking - The emergence of the RFC ("request for comments") for community-developed network standards - The invention of TCP/IP as an "internet" (meaning, linking several networks together) protocol - The invention of Ethernet and proliferation of local area networks Good stuff if you care about the topic area. Unfortunately it was a slog to read, perhaps because there are no big/central/story-worthy personalities in this history. Furthermore, the authors tend toward awkward phrasing. One example is in the title: "Where the wizards stay up late" is a strange turn of phrase.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    Read first in 2003, as supplementary material to CS3251 (Networking I). Three stars worth of harmless, chipper history, and an extra star for a great title. Much better than Hafner's other well-known book, "Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier," which is to be avoided. Really good material about BBN, the IMP's (I remember quoting this book in 2008 regarding the original 56kbps AT&T leased lines between the Honeywell DDP-316s, and impressing the hell out of an older coworker), Read first in 2003, as supplementary material to CS3251 (Networking I). Three stars worth of harmless, chipper history, and an extra star for a great title. Much better than Hafner's other well-known book, "Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier," which is to be avoided. Really good material about BBN, the IMP's (I remember quoting this book in 2008 regarding the original 56kbps AT&T leased lines between the Honeywell DDP-316s, and impressing the hell out of an older coworker), Baran's work on packet switching, and the emergence of the IETF.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vladyslav

    This book is Holly Grail for any computer history archaeologist. Katie Hafner provides extensive overview of the birth of the Internet: from the research chronology of the ARPA group, development journal of the government contractor -- BBN -- who basically build the ARPANET, maintenance and further usage, national and international expansion, E-mail, Request For Comments, DNS, TCP/IP vs OSI, to the sunset of ARPANET and the dawn of the NSFNET, and this is not nearly all what is covered in this b This book is Holly Grail for any computer history archaeologist. Katie Hafner provides extensive overview of the birth of the Internet: from the research chronology of the ARPA group, development journal of the government contractor -- BBN -- who basically build the ARPANET, maintenance and further usage, national and international expansion, E-mail, Request For Comments, DNS, TCP/IP vs OSI, to the sunset of ARPANET and the dawn of the NSFNET, and this is not nearly all what is covered in this brilliant book. I believe this is my number one computer history book from now one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the origins of the internet, Where Wizards Stay Up Late is a great book to read to find out. It’s packed with anecdotes and funny tidbits from the minds of the men who developed the ARPANET. It was published in 90s so when it talks about the internet of “today” it’s the internet of a couple decades ago, but the historical information is quite an education. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how the internet came to be.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kyryl

    Nice book describing the origins of the Internet in the true sense - what initially started as a scientific experiment, turned into the wave that changed all the modern society. For such a small book it covers many points in that story (and provides a lot of references for further reading). My favorite snippet was about the first RFC document.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    A very good history of how the Internet (with a capital 'i') came to be. While some of the terminology may go over some heads, this book is written in a way that gives non-technical readers a great story and history. Definitely pick this book up if you were ever curious as to how you're able to read this review on your computer or phone! A very good history of how the Internet (with a capital 'i') came to be. While some of the terminology may go over some heads, this book is written in a way that gives non-technical readers a great story and history. Definitely pick this book up if you were ever curious as to how you're able to read this review on your computer or phone!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adam DeConinck

    Really excellent, readable history of the development of ARPANET and its evolution into (part of) the Internet. Highly recommended if you’re in the computing field and interested in its history, or if you enjoy science/engineering histories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dheeraj

    The breadth and depth of research by the authors Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, have helped create a very accessible and a very definitive chronicle of one of the most important era in the field of computer science - the birth of the Internet. In a very interesting style, the authors have written micro-biographies of inventors and innovators of technologies that led up to and constituted the Internet - JRC Licklider, Bob Taylor, Paul Baran, Donald Davies, Larry Roberts, Frank Heart, Steve Crocke The breadth and depth of research by the authors Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, have helped create a very accessible and a very definitive chronicle of one of the most important era in the field of computer science - the birth of the Internet. In a very interesting style, the authors have written micro-biographies of inventors and innovators of technologies that led up to and constituted the Internet - JRC Licklider, Bob Taylor, Paul Baran, Donald Davies, Larry Roberts, Frank Heart, Steve Crocker, Vint Cerf, and Jon Postel. Great inventions ride on personal beliefs and value systems of the inventors. In presenting these short biographical sketches, the authors have very nicely shown how the spirit of the Internet and its technologies have been shaped by what these greats believed in. Some very important pieces in the history of creation of the ARPANET such as the process leading to drafting of the proposal for the IMPs, BBN's emphasis on reliability, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf's demonstration of congestion and deadlock conditions, and Kleinrock's Network Working Group's contribution - have all been presented in meticulous detail. These accounts shall serve as a constant reminder to all technologists, that we stand and build on the shoulders of some colossal giants of the industry. In order to make the book accessible to a wide audience the authors have used analogies such as pipe and faucet one to describe lower layers of the protocol or the Toyota's shipping of parts illustration to explain deadlock. On the other hand, one also loves the detailing of some topics such as the synchronizer bugs or the depiction of how ingeniously software upgrades to the IMPs were handled. A very interesting aspect of the book is how it gives numerous references to topics with just enough detail. This helps readers get a holistic picture with the curious and inquisitive readers feeling motivated to read about these topics elsewhere in detailed technical treatises. Descriptions such as finding the synchronizer bug in the dark with an oscilloscope or the case of the jumping turtle just before the Oct 72 conference (ICCC) or the images of Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf planning out details of TCP or that of Jon Postel working with RFCs - and, in fact most events depicted in the book, are written in a way that the readers feel as though they have been teleported into those days and those moments. In connection with John Vittal's MSG program, the authors write a beautiful sentence: "Proclamations of officialness did not further the Net nearly so much as throwing technology out onto the Net to see what worked. And when something worked, it was adopted." This was written in 1996. It rings true even today as we look at some popular technologies and open source tools and approaches to releasing software. The treatment of creation of TCP could have been (a little) more detailed. The same is true of the NSFNET and CSNET - readers would have relished more details on how did NSF connect to the 5 supercomputers and how did CSNET grow so fast so soon. Here, while the contribution of Ethernet is evident, a couple of pages of details and deep dives would have satiated readers more. In another area, the authors refer to the invention of the World Wide Web and creation of Mosaic. They could have spent a couple of page on each of these. The authors have devoted a few pages to what went on in the MsgGroup so a mere reference to the WWW and Mosaic looks a little odd and leaves the readers wanting a little more. But these are minor blemishes, if at all one can call them so, in an absolutely riveting account of the heady days of creation of the Internet. It is an amazing book and goes into my shelf as a reference book as well.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joey

    AMC’s computer tech/hot people drama “Halt and Catch Fire” is set in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a great drama, and also set in the fascinating and generally not seen subgenre of period-piece computer tech. The soundtracks alone make the show worth watching. I love that show, and its iconic line: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets you to the thing.” I’ve been online for about 25 years, and the gutsin that quote resonated deeply with me. As an artsy, quiet kid, what I loved th AMC’s computer tech/hot people drama “Halt and Catch Fire” is set in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a great drama, and also set in the fascinating and generally not seen subgenre of period-piece computer tech. The soundtracks alone make the show worth watching. I love that show, and its iconic line: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets you to the thing.” I’ve been online for about 25 years, and the gutsin that quote resonated deeply with me. As an artsy, quiet kid, what I loved the most about messing around with tech was the sense of possibility. I also made some friends along the way I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Driven by wanting to learn more about the real people in the world of Halt, I stumbled upon some book recommendations on reddit. Wizards is one of the books I grabbed. As I found out in the book, it turns out there was a guy more than 50 years ago, Licklader, who basically wrote what Halt quoted. Back when computers were room sized and their use wasn’t obvious,he foresaw the ability to connect ideas and people. It was awesome to read about Licklader and others who just blazed a trail and forged tech as they saw fit, just because they could. This book was a great followup to Dava Sobel’s Longitude, which covers events that transpired centuries before but held the same spirit. This book was kind of a slow burn for me, although I did enjoy reading it. If you’re curious where the internet came from, it’s worth checking out from your library. The book was published in 1996, so it does feel incomplete given the prevalence of high-speed internet, streaming, and smartphones. I would love a volume two of this!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meadhbh

    I've wanted to read this book for about 20 years and am happy I finally got around to doing so. In this non-fiction text, the authors track down the origins of the modern Internet by interviewing (and reviewing documents written by) the people involved in constructing the early ARPAnet. As all "true" nerds know, the ARPAnet was a research network constructed in the late 60s and early 70s. Funded by the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), it linked mainframes, term I've wanted to read this book for about 20 years and am happy I finally got around to doing so. In this non-fiction text, the authors track down the origins of the modern Internet by interviewing (and reviewing documents written by) the people involved in constructing the early ARPAnet. As all "true" nerds know, the ARPAnet was a research network constructed in the late 60s and early 70s. Funded by the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), it linked mainframes, terminals and minicomputers from different manufacturers in an early computer network. At the time, the idea of linking computers in a heterogeneous network was a bit of a "pie in the sky" notion and it wasn't exactly obvious what the benefits might be. This book tells the stories of several people who shared the vision of a data network where users could easily log in remotely or share files; ideas that were somewhat radical at the time. To me, the first half of the book was especially fascinating since that's the part of the story I hadn't heard before. Most of the second half was verifying many of the stories I had heard from listening to older engineers. Because if this, I may have a biased view that the second half was a little dry. But the first half was great. Really loved learning about the very early days. Worth a read if you're a network geek & probably also worth a read if you're not.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ondrej Urban

    I like books on computer history for their enthusiasm and coolness (I suspect most of their authors try to channel William Gibson in their writing, which is what more people should aspire to.) I also hold a special affinity for such books written a long time ago - especially in the pre-Google era - and thus contain preserved points of view and predictions that could have gone very good or very bad, which is very entertaining to think about. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is both. Starting in the opti I like books on computer history for their enthusiasm and coolness (I suspect most of their authors try to channel William Gibson in their writing, which is what more people should aspire to.) I also hold a special affinity for such books written a long time ago - especially in the pre-Google era - and thus contain preserved points of view and predictions that could have gone very good or very bad, which is very entertaining to think about. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is both. Starting in the optimistic post-WW2 world where the Cold War drove the science budgets sky high, it never really loses its pace and optimism, apart perhaps when mentioning how the company BBN, originally at the heart of developing of what was to become the Internet, fell to the wayside due to some bad management decisions. Overall, though, the story is a power trip through a part of the history written by a relatively small set of individuals that influenced the whole world. Sadly, no women make appearance, which is abhorrent and I just hope in the future this is made right in some other field. While the authors could have included more techincal info, it is predominantly a history - a history of bright ideas, dedication to these ideas and the power of intellect. It's this kind of stuff that tends to be quite motivating for me. And it should be for many people!

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Deardurff

    This is one of those books that you really need to be a techie to thoroughly enjoy the history of the ARPANET and the origins of the Internet. Most people think the Internet began somewhere in the 1990s. In reality, it all started back in the 60s and 70s when the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), which was basically just a small office in the Department of Defense, wanted to find a way of connecting dissimilar computer systems located at a variety of different research facilities. The hop This is one of those books that you really need to be a techie to thoroughly enjoy the history of the ARPANET and the origins of the Internet. Most people think the Internet began somewhere in the 1990s. In reality, it all started back in the 60s and 70s when the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), which was basically just a small office in the Department of Defense, wanted to find a way of connecting dissimilar computer systems located at a variety of different research facilities. The hope was to reduce redundant research and encourage communication. This is the story of the pioneers that created the protocols, specifically TCP/IP, the concept of packet-switching, and the original killer application, electronic messaging (e-mail), that comprise what we know as the Internet of today. A keynote is that this book was written in 1999, so it does not cover the last 20 years of what most consider the Internet 2.0, specifically it does not discuss the rise of social media and its effects on public discourse.

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