March 20, 2013

Networking history from the bottom of the bag

Even though we’re up to our trailer hitches in snow, it’s time for a bit of spring cleaning. I emptied my briefcase and sifted through six months of accumulated tools, cables, connectors, pens, batteries, and a spoon. (On a business trip years ago, I was on my way to my hotel late one evening and bought some yogurt at a convenience store. Back at my room, I discovered that I didn’t have a spoon. I wound up eating the yogurt with my toothbrush. I now carry a spoon in my briefcase.)

In the early-to-mid 80s, Digital changed the name of its internal network from the Engineering Network to the Easynet. The idea was that the network was used for general business operations and not just by the engineering groups. It was also quite easy to use. We had teams of people throughout the world working on projects together with the same ease as teams in the same building.
Digital had its own networking standards, DECnet, and contributed to the Ethernet standard that supports modern networking. Another set of networking protocols, TCP/IP, now used in the Internet, were just starting to make inroads.
By one estimate, a typical American household has 5.7 Internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, computers, and tablets. A small town could have more connected gadgets than DEC had in support of 100,000 employees 30 years ago.