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am 27. Februar 2000
_Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet_ by Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon
This book could have easily been titled "Graduate students created the Internet" or "The Military-Industrial Complex pays off".
As a computer person who started in the last days of keypunch cards and experienced the joys of TSO first hand, I found it extremely interesting to read about the things that even I took for granted in those long ago days (only 2 decades ago). I had never really thought about the fact that things like FTP, TSO, SMTP, TCP and IP all had to be thought up and coded by someone! I worked on a DEC PDP-11 - but never really gave any thought to the evolution that transpired between number 1 and10. This book tells it all, in sometimes excruciating detail. It follows every lowly graduate student step by step to the brilliant, but not inevitable, solutions to all of the basic data transmission puzzles. It describes clearly and for the most part entertainingly the development of the technologies that underpin everything I (and I would suspect most people) now take for granted when we "surf the web". While I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of which geek was doing what in which computer center on what federally funded project - the book does an excellent job of documenting the origins of the internet, just as the title promises. My only quibble is the authors say they will debunk the idea that the Internet was invented to route around communication outages resulting from nuclear war - but by the end of the book I personally was convinced that this was indeed one of the principals guiding many of the programmers and network designers. As I read of the early pentagon projects that were the primordial soup from which the Internet evolved one thought kept occurring -- the serendipitous coming together of technically brilliant men (and they almost all were) with piles of relatively unrestricted funds that could be used in amazingly non-bureaucratic pursuits -- was a set of circumstances as unlikely to ever occur as the first signs of carbon-based life were. During the late 50's to late 60's the right combination of people, brain power, enthusiasm, energy and money all converged - and could have just as easily never happened. The world today might be an incredibly different place if just a few elements had varied. I am glad this book has been written to document what took place while most of the participants could still provide primary source material.
Another book that should be read as a companion piece to this one - is _Extra Life: coming of age in cyberspace_ by David S. Bennahum. His book documents a similar brief flowering of anarchic creative computer exploration - in what he calls the "Atari generation". The same intense involvement and brilliant technical thinking described in _Wizards_ is also central to the story told in _Extra Life_. Whether graduate students, or high school geeks - a very similar culture and orientation is recounted. It is one that values brilliant thinking (a good hack) and adheres to the commandments Bennahum enumerates: computers will make the world better, programmers have a duty to share information, programs should be improved by everyone, exploration is good, computer knowledge not looks or origin make you important. When discussing the "commandments" Bennahum draws an explicit connection between the times described in _Wizards_: "Few of us knew where they came from or that we'd hijacked an attitude from hackers, hobbyists, and hippies who discovered computers in the late 60's and early 70's, and that in turn these computers had been created by iconoclastic, freakish engineers and grad students before them. [...]Those who met these older masters would discover something more about computers, something deeper, rooted in decades of endeavor [...] an understanding of how these machines were passed from one generation to the next until, having mutated along the way through luck and coincidence, the computer flowered and matured ..." (pp.77-78)
_Where Wizards Stay Up Late_ is a fine and thorough history of those "freakish engineers" and _Extra Life_ is a very entertaining tale of the world that those early computer and network inventions delivered to the (still mostly male!) geeks of the Atari generation. Bennahum concludes with a statement that could just as easily be applied to the era documented by Hafner and Lyon: "To know the machine as we did, so intimately, is to forever change the way we experience our machine mediated world." These books that document how we have come to live in that world are interesting in and of themselves now, and will perhaps some day be looked upon as seminal historical documentation from a time of transition to a technological future we cannot even imagine.
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am 28. Mai 2000
When I started working at an ISP (Internet Service Provider), I did a lot of reading to bring myself up to speed on a variety of subjects. Whether the book's topic was routing, software, or even AOL, the first three paragraphs were always, "A Brief History of the Internet." Inevitably there was too little information, too general to be of any use.
Well, _Wizards_ does a great job with its subject matter. Pioneering names like Frank Heart, Vint Cerf, and J. C. R. Licklider all come to life. The book does cover some technical ground, but all on a very palatable level. Two things made the book so enjoyable: first, the authors do a good job of describing the brilliance of the Internet's creators. I was amazed that the basic concepts of networking were developed in a day and age when it took entire rooms to house the computing power of today's calculators. Second, the book does a good job not getting bogged down in the details. Instead, Hafner and Lyon concentrate on the people behind the ARPANET's creation, their quirks, collaborations and occasional conflicts; there's a lot of humour captured along the way. This wouldn't be the sole book I'd recommend as a purely technical history of the Internet; however, as a history of the underlying forces that brought the Net into being, such as BBN, the Dept. of Defense, and so many universities, I can't think of another book that's anywhere near as descriptive. Or interesting.
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am 5. Juli 1999
Bevor ich dieses Buch in der Hand gehabt hatte, dachte ich immer, ich wüßte, wie das Internet entstanden sei. Aber dieses Buch zeigt in großem Detail die Irrungen und Wirrungen, die Erfolge und Misgeschicke, die bei der Entstehung des Internets eine Rolle spielten.
Das Buch ist sehr gut geschrieben und lädt zum Schmökern ein. "Ganz nebenbei" wird einem auch noch viel über die technische Seite des Internets berichtet, und zwar so, daß man auch mit wenig technischem Vorwissen den Ausführungen folgen kann.
Für mich war der interessanteste Aspekt des Buches allerdings die Charaktersierungen der Personen, die an der Entstehung des Internets beteiligt waren. Hafner/Lyon liefern hervorragende Beschreibungen aller beteiligten Personen.
Dieses Buch erklärt quasi nebenbei, warum die RFCs (Requests for Comment) entstanden sind, wie Ethernet entwickelt wurde und vieles anderes mehr.
"Where the wizards stay up late" bietet eine sehr gute Darstellung über die Anfangszeiten des Internet und die Menschen, die daran beteiligt waren. Das Buch ist unbedingt zu empfehlen! (Dies ist eine an der Uni-Studentenrezension.)
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am 13. Juli 1999
This is one of the best books on the history of the Internet I have found. It doesn't make incredibly grandiose and silly statements and it is written in a very clear, straightforward manner. Focusing largely on the early days of the Internet, especially BBN's role in creating the original ARPANET, this book is a pleasant blend of character portraits and technical material, though it is somewhat light on the technical apsects. Still it spent less time than other computer history books on hiring and firing and other rather boring junk.
My only gripe with this book is that it peters out right about 1990 and flies over the modern Internet with too little detail. Perhaps that story is best told in a follow-up book.
I highly recommend it.
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am 27. Februar 1998
An extremely good book on the history of the Internet. It conveys to the reader the energy and the excitement of the people involved in the enterprise of creating the internet. It is but humbling to think of the men/women involved in an enterprise that has changed the face of computing and the book does a great job in acknowledging these facts. However where I felt the book lacked was it doesnot convey how the Internet has evolved from what it was, ARPANET to what it has become today reaching people who barely use a computer to what will eventually be the heart of the NETWORK COMPUTER, with the same enthusiasm.
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Erzählt wird die Geschichte des ARPAnet - von der Gruendung der ARPA Ende der 50er ueber die Inbetriebnahme der ersten Verbindung (1969) bis zum allmaehlichem Ende dieses ersten Netzes in den Achtzigern. Die Wahl des Zeitabschnittes macht es nötig, daß in den Anfangskapiteln noch wenig vom Netz selbst die Rede sein kann. So erfährt der Leser, daß Person X in A studiert hat, dann irgendeinen Posten bekam und sich entschloß, Person Y einzustellen, die wiederum in B studiert hatte; dies zieht sich endlos hin, ohne daß irgendetwas in technischer Hinsicht passiert; die persönlichen Eigenheiten einzelner Institutsdirektoren der frühen 60er sind wenig spannend.
Sehr interessant sind dagegen die letzten Kapitel des Buches, die von der Entstehung von ftp, EMail, TCP/IP etc. handeln. Es ist schade, daß diese für die Entstehung des Internets in seiner heutigen Form so wichtige Phase ein bißchen kurz kommt.
Fazit: insgesamt lohnenswert.
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am 21. November 1999
Lots of information is conveyed with excellent editing making this book a very fast read. But AT&T's 6-year opposition to distributed processing is as appropriately treated -- without comment -- as the telegram sent by Senator Edward Kennedy's office to Boston-based BBN Corportation when the latter landed ARPA's contract for the Interface Message Processor: Congratulations on your contract to build the "Interfaith Message Processor." This book's a beauty.
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am 21. August 1998
This book is the story of another example of how dedicated, forward thinking people created a technology that became an industry (I find parallels with the invention of television). More than just the technical details, in this book you get great insight into the personalities and the various outside forces that went into what became the Internet. It was fascinating reading and gives one a greater appreciation for those who preceeded us.
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am 29. Januar 1999
I enjoyed reading this book, especially the section concening BBN's development team that created the IMP (Interface Message Processor). I also wish I could meet and talk to one of the software developers Will Crowthers. This book is excellent on reporting the hardware and software grut work it took to build and establish what is now known today as the internet. I would like to thank the authors for providing this information.
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am 23. November 1999
This book imparts a good deal of interesting information clearly and concisely. It focuses on the technical side of the development of the Internet and stops short of describing the creation of the protocols and policy. Its main shortcoming is that it sticks so much to description that it lacks thoughtful insight. Additionally, the portrayal of the characters is flat and shallow.
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