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Cover image for History Shorts. Why we have to thank Hawaii for the internet.

History Shorts. Why we have to thank Hawaii for the internet.

Tristan
・3 min read

Introduction

  • This series is going to be dedicated to the golden age of technology, the 1970s - 1990s. Ultimately, it was the time period that paved the road for technology we know today. Also, the time period where our most of our technological overlords created and launched their companies. So sit back and lets learn a little something.

ALOHAnet

  • Before we get started I want to point out that I have stripped almost all of the technical bits from this post in the name of simplicity. If you wish to dive deeper into the technical bits you can find them HERE

  • This year the university of Hawaii celebrated the 50th anniversary of ALOHAnet, the grandfather of all networks we use today. Now, I want to try and get across to you the reader the importance of ALOHAnet. Today literally billions of people rely every single day on technology that was developed at the university of Hawaii to create ALOHAnet. Basically all necessities of modern life, internet, cell phones, virtual doctor visits and everything that happens in our modern virtual world rely on what was developed for ALOHAnet.

What was ALOHAnet?

Well, created in 1971 by faculty of the University of Hawaii and lead by Norman Abramson, it was the first wirelessly connected network.

Why was ALOHAnet created?

  • At the time the university of Hawaii was composed of a main campus in Manoa valley near Honolulu, a four year college in Hilo, and five two year community colleges on the islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the island of Hawaii. The problem was the university Hawaii had an IBM mainframe and it wanted to share its computer resources with the other institutions. The correct solution for this time period would be to just lay a bunch of wire and hook all the universities together. However, these institutions were on a chain of islands, so wire was out of the question.
  • As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. So the faculty of Electrical Engineering at the university of Hawaii began to plan the building of an experimental wirelessly linked computer network to connect all the locations together.

Building ALOHAnet

  • The first year of the program(1969) was spent in specifying a number of basic system design parameters, such as bandwidth, data rate and so on. It then took another year(1970) until the first user terminal was created and was successfully able to communicate wirelessly to the University of Hawaii.

  • To put into perspective about how revolutionary this was, Microsoft wasn't created until 1975 and Apple not until 1976.

  • Also, when building the first user terminal for this network, one of the big constraints was the cost of parts, especially memory components. A simple buffer that would increate the memory by a mere 88 bytes cost $300. Contrast that with today where you can buy a 16Gbyte USB for $10, meaning over the 50 years the price per bit of storage has fallen by a factor of more than ONE BILLION(yes, one billion). Even with a technological disadvantage
    a incredible advancement in human history was still created.

  • In the following year more user terminals were built, a network established and in 1971 a wirelessly connected network came into existence called ALOHAnet.

  • ALOHAnet became instantly successful and literally paved the way for the wireless connection experience that we know and love today.

  • So, the ground breaking work done on ALOHAnet by the university of Hawaii is why we should thank Hawaii for the internet.

Conclusion

  • Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this blog post of mine. If you have any questions or concerns please comment below or reach out to me on Twitter.

Discussion (2)

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aaron profile image
Aaron McCollum

Thanks for writing! I didn’t know about this and will look to check out more about it.

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theplebdev profile image
Tristan Author

You're welcome. ALOHAnet actually celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The university of Hawaii put on a celebratory video conference which can be found HERE. It's a cool little presentation, considering they essentially gathered all the creators of the internet.