History is not a linear process. For you to be reading this post, a series of events had to happen over many years in different places. Some are told in history books because they affected millions of people. Others were only important on a family or personal level. But, they all brought us to the moment when I published the post and you sat down to read it. The same is true with Linux.
That is why in this series of articles we try to keep track of the milestones in the history of technology that converged to make Linux and open source the current dominant paradigm fore the computer industry.
The road to Linux. The expansion of the computer network
The existence of Linux was made possible by a number of factors such as
- The appearance of an economic support for the distribution of software.
- The development of a work methodology based on meritocracy.
- The existence of a network for searching and exchanging information in real time.
We had been left in the existence of a small network of university computers and an informal group of people developing by consensus the protocols that would allow them to communicate with each other. Now is the time to move to the next level. The expansion of the network around the world.
On August 27, 1976, a van was parked in front of a well-known brewery in the city of San Francisco. Its occupants (Members of a research institute at Stanford University) They placed a computer terminal on the table, connected it to the vehicle's radio transmitter, and sent a message over ARPA's wireless data transmission network known as PRNET. The transmission was received and sent by ARPANET (the wired network that we already talked about) to another geographically distant computer.
This was made possible by the poor quality and high cost of Hawaiian phone service. The local university needed an inexpensive and reliable way to connect 7 campuses spread over 4 islands and decided to use the radio.
The problem to be solved was that the protocols developed for transmission over telephone lines were not adequate. While in a telephone line the signals travel from the sender to the receiver in an orderly manner thes radio stations broadcast indiscriminately to all receivers within their range. If two or more stations with a common range broadcast at the same time, the messages are degraded or canceled.
The solution found by the experts was that When a sender (node) on the network does not receive confirmation from the receiver of having received the data packet, wait a random period of time and send it again.
As the timeout period was random, the possibility of repeating simultaneous broadcasting of messages was minimal.
In addition to technological problems, ARPA had to deal with other types of problems, political ones. In 1969 the Congress announced the decision to cut the defense budget and establish that only investigations that had an obvious relationship to military operations or applications could be conducted.
The salvation of the ARPA was a treaty limiting nuclear weapons tests that only allowed them to be carried out underground. This type of evidence is detected by seismographs around the world.
With the objective of spying on the USSR's nuclear activity, the United States agreed with Norway to build a seismic detection facility. This facility it was connected to a satellite station in Sweden that sent the data to the Virginia Center for Seismic Data Analysis. Through the same satellite link, the Norwegians had access to ARPANET.
It was through the Norwegian facility that the UK joined the brand new network. The connection was through a telephone line that linked them to the University College of London.
In time, the British would establish their own direct satellite connections.