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    Internet born in Austrian institute
Zi Xun
2005-08-03 05:56

When scientists from the former Soviet Union and United States formed the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in 1972 in Laxenburg, Austria, they could never have expected that 20 years later their work would become the foundation of the Internet.

"There was an ideological divide between the Soviet and US scientists at the jointly operated institute, but when they settled down to work on the computer networking system, science immediately replaced the original ideological barrier," said Jay Hauben, a researcher at New York-based Columbia University, during the 22nd International Congress on the History of Science in Beijing.

According to Hauben's study, when the Soviet Union and East European scientists arrived in Laxenburg, they were assigned the task of following Western scientific methods.

They did, but were also lured by the idea of future computer networking, namely the Internet, so committed their mathematical talent to helping Western scientists develop the project.

Science and military leaders in the Soviet Union also foresaw the future potential of computer networking.

While sending scientists to work in the jointly run institute, they kept the cream of the scientific community at home to work on their own computer network.

Frank Dittmann from Deutsches Museum in Munich studied the beginning of network technology from Eastern Europe.

In the 1960s Soviet Union, more and more networks for civil purposes had been developed, mostly at large scientific institutes.

Yet the political leadership hoped to improve the central planning system by using data processing machines.

In the West, the governments of the United States, Britain, Norway, Italy and later West Germany, also pushed ahead with computer networking.

But unlike their Eastern bloc counterparts, much of the work was done by scientists and scientific organizations, while the governments limited themselves to offering technical and financial support.

In the United States, the largest computer network system was operated by the military, but still, scientists enjoyed great autonomy in striving for the internationalization of national computer networks.

By the early 1990s, TCP/IP, on which the modern-day Internet is based, became the protocol adopted by networks including Usenet, CSnet, NSFnet, FIDOET, BITNET and others around the world.

"History proved that although the Soviet side might have concentrated more resources, the lack of creativity and competition between different networking systems in the later stages resulted in their failure to produce the epoch-making Internet," Hauben told China Daily.

(China Daily 08/03/2005 page13)


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