SATnet: la prima connessione transatlantica
SATnet: the first transatlantic connection
Antonio 'Blasco' Bonito
  • The ARPANET project was financed by the US Department of State.
  • The military needed a means of communication suitable for use in times of war.
  • It all began on 2 September 1969 with a cable 4 and a half metres long, linking two computers in a laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Leonard Kleinrock and students Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn succeeded in transferring data from one machine to another.
  • On 20 October two computers communicated at a distance for the first time: one was at UCLA, the other 500 kilometres away, in Stanford.
  • The data transferred was just one word: "hallo…"
  • Italy, together with Great Britain, Germany and Norway, was involved in the subsequent project, SATNET, which was to use a satellite above the Atlantic to connect the four European countries to the U.S.
  • The Italian partner chosen for Satnet was CNUCE (itself a partner of the CNR, the state research institute) and I was appointed project contact, responsible for installations, connections and liaison with the Americans.
  • CNUCE at that time did not have a UNIX system, despite promptings, and despite the fact that someone got the operating system tapes (implementing TCP/IP) from Berkeley, but the networks group (Lenzini, Bonito, Gregori, Mannocci, Sommani and Zucchelli) proceeded in that direction … and the things we were looking for as communications settings were found in the architecture of a flexible layer Internet Protocol which enabled applications and development.
  • On 30 April 1986 I connected the CNUCE operating system to those in laboratories at the universities and military institutions in the USA over ARPANET.
  • On the day of that landmark experiment I was alone.
  • I was on a high. I sensed the enormous possibilities the new communications medium had for growth, but I didn't realize at the time that this connection would change the world.
  • Little did I know I was contributing to history.
  • I was on my own, in front of the PDP 11, with a BBN "Butterfly" router - bigger than a fridge.
  • On a 64 kilobyte line from the terminal in Pisa I sent [IP assigned over the SATNET network] a package of data to the Telespazio centre some hundreds of kilometres away, in the Fucino plain, near Aquila, whose antenna then sent it via the INTELSAT V satellite to Roaring Creek, in Virginia.
  • The communications chain even included SIP (now Telecom Italia) over the section Fucino-Pisa and ITALCABLE for the connection between international telephone exchanges.
  • From Roaring Creek a computer responded: a simple signal.
  • I prepared a press release - 37 lines, but the next day no newspaper had taken up the story, maybe because the editors didn't realize the importance of the event.
  • It was only later that I sent the first "e-mail" from Italy. It was to Jonathan Postel, one of the fathers of the Internet, a visionary I had met in Marina del Rey, at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of South California. Later, we would exchange hundreds of e-mails.
  • I will always regret not keeping his first reply, especially after he died in 1998. But we had enough time to cooperate in setting up the Italian domain ".it".
  • What happened in the next few years was extraordinary. In 1991 the Internet networks began to link up, and then opened up to commercial use. The first providers set up, providing private users access to the Internet.
  • By this time email was already operational and newsgroups enabling discussion on any topic.
    • Tim Berners-Lee, an English physicist working at CERN in Geneva, made access to sites more rapid, inventing the hypertext language HTML, allowing users to go from one document to another with a simple click: it was then possible for every computer connected to the net to access the archives of other computers…
    • In 1993 the first browser was invented by a 20 year old researcher at the University of Illinois, Marc Anderssen.
    • In 1994 David Filo and Jerry Young, students of electronics at Stanford University, invented Yahoo, the first search engine.
  • The Internet is the child of the pc.
  • One computer alone is limited.
  • As one person alone is.
  • Computers replicate human relations.
Happy Birthday ISOC