Early History and Scientific Vision of Net:Outline for Comment

Early History and Scientific Vision of Net:Outline for Comment

Post by Ronda Haub » Wed, 02 Nov 1994 02:47:50

Following is an outline for a paper I am working on about the early
scientific efforts that led to the creation of time-sharing and
the vision that helped to give birth to the global computer network.

A while ago, someone on the Net suggest that I look into Project MAC
and the early days of time-sharing as the basis for what has developed
today. I have found that suggestion very helpful and following is
an outline of some of the material I have been researching.

I welcome comments on the outline, other sources that I might look
at, pioneers to be in contact with, etc.

I recently learned that there was a symposium at MIT in early
October honoring Norbert Wiener as this year is the 100th anniversary
of his birth.

It seems therefore particularly fitting to look back to his
contribution to the current automation revolution that the
Net is a product of and makes possible.


1) Outline for Paper

Cybernetics, Interactive Computing and Creating an Intellectual
Public Utility: a Scientific Vision as the Basis for Government
Policy for the Future of the Global Computer Network

I - Norbert Wiener and Cybernetics as the scientific basis for
the automation revolution that would call forth interactive
computing and the global computer network

     A. Meetings that Wiener participated in in 1930's and
     1940's with Dr. Rosenblueth that developed the notion of
          1. Description of Meetings from "I am a scientist"
          2. Description of Meetings from "Cybernetics"
          3. Other meetings in the 1948 period

     B. Wiener's discussion of the theory of automation that he
     and others came to name "cybernetics"
          1. Define key elements of communication and control
          2. Wiener adds notion of feedback

     C. Problems Wiener understood that the automation revolution
     on the horizon would require solving

          1. Problems for scientists to defend science
          2. Problems for workers and how Wiener tried to deal
          with these concerns.
          3. Problems for the governed to make their views known
          to the governors

II - J. C. R. Licklider and others in Cambridge participate in
the Wiener circles and are influenced by them

     A. Interview with J.C.R. Licklider and description of how
     the Wiener circles influenced him and others in Cambridge
     during the 1950's.

     B. Licklider writes man-computer symbiosis article
     articulating the vision of an intellectual partner for humans
     promised by computers and automation

     C. Early problem recognized of need for interactive
     computing - Licklider and others of the MIT/Cambridge

III - Work at MIT to Create Interactive Computing and the Vision of
An Intellectual Public Utility

     A. CTSS created by Corbato and others - first demo Nov. 1961
     on IBM 709

     B. Switch to IBM 7090 in Spring 1962 (transistorized version
     of IBM 709)

     C. Robert Fano begins to put together Project MAC (Machine
     Aided Cognition or Multiple Access Computers) Thanksgiving
     1962 based on work with CTSS and plan to use CTSS as
     platform for Project MAC

     D. CTSS Summer School of 1963 and problems with IBM as a

IV - Project MAC as vision of an Intellectual Public Utility

     A. John McCarthy outlines the vision at the MIT Centennial
     conference and explains why time sharing and how that will
     be a model for an intellectual public utility

     B. Robert Fano describes and elaborates on the notion of a
     public utility and how he and Corbato and others understood
     that CTSS set the basis for an intellectual public utility
     for data as AT&T provided telephone service

V - Problems with Commercial entities and how they couldn't
provide what was needed

     A. Problems that MIT people had with IBM and IBM's reluctance
     to develop the needed technology

     B. Other insights into how neither the commercial nor
     industrial world would develop this form of computing

     C. Why this breakthrough had to come from the scientific world
     rather than the commercial or industrial or military and how
     the development proceeded with the U.S. government
     supporting scientists developing the network. (Alliance of
     scientists and the U.S. government)

VI - The Computer as a Partner for Intellectual Activity

     A. Meeting at MIT for the 100 year centennial of MIT
     gathered the pioneers of cybernetics and computers for a
     discussion of the future of computing.

     B. Question of how decision making has to be broadened to
     deal with the problems of automation raised by opening
     address by C.P. Snow.

     C. Others express their concern about various issues that
     will be involved in the computer revolution that was
     beginning to unfold - Wiener, Perlis, etc.

     D. Tension between automata studies and the computer as a
     handmaiden to intellectual activity expressed and discussed.
     The importance of the computer as a partner to humans at
     this stage of its development emphasized.

VII - Implications of the concerns and vision raised by these
pioneers for today and how this helps to inform the future
development of the Global Computer Network

     A. Wiener's concerns about the need for increased planning
     to deal with the problems of automation.

     B. Licklider's vision of an Intergalactic Network and how
     his vision helped to support the Project MAC scientists to
     set the foundation for the Arpanet and the pioneering
     research that set the basis for the Internet.

     C. Fano and Corbato etc. work on an intellectual public
     utility as the vision of a community resource needed to
     provide a data network.

     D. How these pioneers set the basis for today's Internet.

     E. What is the vision for the future that this pioneering
     work establishes? Is an intellectual public utility still
     the vision that needs to be considered? (Discussion of the
     importance of clarifying the question that one must ask
     before rushing off to find solutions)

     F. What are the principles of what was done that can be
     helpful in the discussion of what is the way forward today?

VIII - Conclusion

     A. We are in the throes of a cybernetic revolution and
     the work done by the computer pioneers in the creation
     of interactive computing and time sharing has led to the
     networking achievements that we have available to us today.
     These achievements put a significant responsiblity on the
     shoulders of the governed to make sure that the governors
     take their feedback into consideration in planning and
     implementing future developments. That battle is ongoing and
     will continue as the future of our society hinges on the
     outcome of this contest.

     B. Comparison of concerns voiced by Wiener 40 years ago and
     by those on the Net today about the battle over
     automation and the future prospects.

     C. Optimism for the future but discussion of what is
     required for the battle over U.S. government policy that is

Ronda Hauben              "The Netizens and the Wonderful World of the Net"
ro...@panix.com                   available via ftp, gopher or www
or                         on the history and impact of the Net