Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

1980s: ARPANET to Internet

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

"Between the 1960's and the 1980s, computing technology underwent a dramatic transformation: the computer, originally conceived as an isolated calculating device, was reborn as a means of communication." Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet


Derived from The Internet - From Modest Beginnings, NSF

Inspired by ARPANET's success, the Coordinated Experimental Research Program of the Computer Science Section of NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate started its own network in 1981. Called CSNET (Computer Science Network), the system provided Internet services, including electronic mail and connections to ARPANET. [Kahn, Role of Govt ("This allowed new research sites to be placed on the ARPANET at NSF's expense.")] While CSNET itself was just a starting point, it served well. "Its most important contribution was to bring together the U.S. computer science community and to create the environment that fostered the Internet," explains Larry Landweber, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and a CSNET principal investigator. In addition, CSNET was responsible for the first Internet gateways between the United States and many counxtries in Europe and Asia.

From the outset, NSF limited the amount of time it would support CSNET. By 1986, the network was to be self-supporting. This was a risky decision, because in 1981 the value of network services was not widely understood. The policy, which carried forward into subsequent NSF networking efforts, required bidders to think about commercialization from the very start. When the 1986 deadline arrived, more than 165 university, industrial, and government computer research groups belonged to CSNET. Usage charges plus membership fees ranged from $2,000 for small computer science departments to $30,000 for larger industrial members. With membership came customer support. See also [Cerf Com Com Nets] [Salus p 199] [Roberts, Net Chronology] [Kesan p 103] [CSTB Realizing the Info Future 238 1994]

Lyman Chapin, Chris Owens, Interconnection and Peering among Internet Service Providers: A Historical Perspective, An Interisle White Paper (2005) ("Eventually, disgruntled computer scientists (Led by Rick Adrion, David Farber, and Larry Landweber.) who could not connect to one of the government-controlled networks established CSNET for the (academic and industrial) computer science community.")

1981: CSNET and ARPANet peer. [ISOC]


1987: CSNET merged with BITNET [CSTB Realizing the Info Future 238 1994]

1989: CSNET and BITNET merge to form CREN. "CREN's mission is to support higher education and research organizations with strategic IT knowledge services and communication tools. " [CREN History]

1991: CSNET shut down, overshaddowed by NSFNET [Kesan p 103] [CSTB Realizing the Info Future 238 1994]






Host to Host
1983 - ??
1996 - ??


See NCP to IP Transition

BITNET (Because its There Network) established between City University of New York and Yale [CREN History]

A History of the Internet: The First Decade, Prepared for DARPA by BBN (1981)



Pranksters, Pirates, and Pen Pals, TIME Magazine (May 3, 1982) ("In his pin-neat, Northern California bedroom, a bespectacled 16-year-old who calls himself Marc communicates with several hundred unauthorized "tourists" on a computer magic carpet called ARPANET. This $3.3 million computer network maintained by the Defense Department provides a link between key contractors, but ARPANET has become a pen pal club, dating service and electronic magazine for youngsters and other computer hitchhikers gifted enough to join what is in effect a huge, electronic message service.")

Defense Data Network

"In 1974 Western Union was awarded a contract by DCA to develop a packet switching network called AUTODIN II. AUTODIN I, which has been leased to the government since the 60s, uses a message forwarding scheme. In April 1982, DCA terminated the AUTODIN II effort and implemented the Defense Data Network using ARPANET technology. " [John Roberts, The Defense Data Network] BBN wins contract to build and operate the DDN. [BBN Timeline] [ARPANET Brochure 1985, p. 3 ]


Dr. Barry Leiner at DARPA reorganizes and renames the ICCB as the Internet Activities Board (IAB). This will become the IETF. [Great Achievements] [Kessler] [Cerf 1160] [Kahn, Role of Govt]

ARPANet splits into MILNET (military) and ARPANet (research). [ISOC] [Salus p 183] [TIME 1983] [Roberts, Net Chronology] "If problems developed on the ARPANET, the MILNET could be disconnected quickly from it by unplugging the small number of gateways that connected them. In fact, these gateways were designed to limit the interactions between the two networks to the exchange of electronic mail, a further safety feature." [Kahn, Role of Govt] [NIST 1992 p 4 ("In response to an overload of traffic on the ARPANET, the Department of Defense in 1983 split off the operation of its military traffic into a separate network called MILNET [MARS89]. The two networks collectively formed what was referred to as the 'Internet.'")] ARPANET and Milnet operated as seperate backbone networks. "In 1983, the existing ARPANET was administratively divided into two unclassified networks, ARPANET and MILNET, to meet the growing need for an unclassified operational military network as well as the need for a research and development network. The physical split into separate networks was completed in September 1984." [ARPANET Brochure 1985, p. 4 ]

Description of the DDN ~1983 "The backbone network of the DDN consists of packet switching nodes (PSN). The PSN is a C/30-E minicomputer made by Bolt Beranek and Newman Communications Corporation (BBNCC). The PSNs are connected together by Inter Switch Trunks (IST). Currently there are 174 PSNs and 300 ISTs in the backbone network. Each PSN will have at least two IST circuits. A majority of the ISTs run at 56,000 bits per second; some run at 9,600 bits per second. The network currently supports over 2100 hosts. " John Roberts, The Defense Data NetworK (1987)

Federal Research Internet Coordinating Committee, FRICC established. Becomes Federal Networking Council. [Cerf 1160]

"The Federal Networking Council (FNC) was chartered by the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Computing, Information and Communications (CCIC) to act as a forum for networking collaborations among Federal agencies to meet their research, education, and operational mission goals and to bridge the gap between the advanced networking technologies being developed by research FNC agencies and the ultimate acquisition of mature version of these technologies from the commercial sector." [FNC Archive] the FNC has representatives from numerous Federal agencies - OMB, NSA, DISA, NOAA, DOE, DARPA, HHS, OSTP >, NIST >, EPA, USGS, GSA, NTIA, NASA, NSF > and Dept of Education; "advisory committee members come from the IAB, higher education, national research laboratories, computer and communications corporations, and private industry." [NIST 1992 p 8]


Domain Name System designed.

Military Standard Internet Protocol MIL-STD-1777 (DOD DISA Aug 12, 1983) This standard establishes criteria for the Internet Protocol (IP) which supports the interconnection of communication subnetworks Status: Canceled " This document specifies the Internet Protocol (IP) which supports the interconnection of communication subnetworks. The document includes an introduction to IP with a model of operation, a definition of services provided to users, and a description of the architectural and environmental requirements. The protocol services interfaces and mechanisms are specified using an abstract state machine model."


Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh


NYSERnet established [NYSERnet History]

NSF gave DARPA $4 million to install ARPANET nodes at 40 colleges and universities; Steve Wolff remembers, however,
that “DARPA had just turned over management and operation of the ARPANET to the Defense Communications Agency, and the bureaucracy was such that it took until 1990 to get all the nodes in place. By that time the T1 NSFNET backbone service had been in use for two years, and the connections to the 56 Kbps ARPANET were redundant. As DARPA decommissioned the ARPANET during 1990, some of its nodes were actually installed and de-installed in the same week.” [NSFNET Final Report p 15]

Available DDN ARPANET data rates: .4KB, 1.2KB, 4.8KB, 9.6KB, 50KB, 56KB, 100KB [ARPANET Brochure 1985, p. 14 ]  

ARPANET Administration


Bjarne Stroustrup releases The C++ Programming Language.


The NSFNET Begins. See the NSFNET history on a separate page.

Statistics [Medin Slide 4]


Total Internet Hosts: 3082*
Total Networks: 515*
Total Internet Gateways: 144
MILNET Hosts: 448
ARPANET Hosts: 111
MILNET/ARPANET Gateways: 102
HOSTMASTER Mail: 898 Messages




Interop conference starts. [Salus p 183]



National Research Council, Kleinrock, Kahn, Clark, release a National Academies of Science report entitled Toward a National Research Network with Congress. This report apparently influenced Sen. Al Gore.

Morris Worm ripped through the network. [Medin Slide 10 (first DDOS attack on Internet)]

Van Jacobson includes Congestion Control TCP in Berkeley UNIX.

ITU Melbourne World Administrative Telephone & Telegraph Conference - agreement that international data communications shall be kept outside of the legacy telecommunications regulatory settlement regime.  Data was over private lines, something like Computer II.

McAdams, Alan K., et al.; 1988. Market and Economic Impact StudyLessons from Four Networkers (Second Report), NYSERNET.

ESNET - High Performance Computing & Communications:
Toward a National Information Infrastructure
, OSTP 1994




[NIST 1992 p 5]

Federal Internet eXchange (FIX) established

UCLA holds "Act One" conference celebrating 20 years of the ARPANet

IAB consolidates its growing responsibilities into two groups: the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Research Task Force. [Kahn, Role of Govt]

IETF RFC 1118, Hitchhikers Guide to the Internet (Sept 1989)

World Wide Web developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN [Griffiths] [W3C]

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