Inventing the Internet

Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet, by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, published by Simon & Schuster.

In the late 1960s, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funded the creation of a network to facilitate computer communication between DOD-funded research universities.  This experiment became the basis of a facility we take for granted everyday, the Internet.

Where Wizards Stay Up Late narrates the story of the small group of computer scientists, researchers and engineers who, both independently and working in small groups, studied and tested just what it would take to link computers spread across an entire nation.

Wizards tells the story of Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), a small consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who first built the “glue” that held the network together, the IMP (Interface Message Processor), and managed network operations for years to come.

Wizards tells the story of how the first Request for Comment (“RFC”) was created (in a bathroom), and how, through what one might refer to as strategic stumbling, a series of discoveries, from electronic mail (then “network mail”) to what has perhaps defined Internet iconography more than anything else, the “@” symbol.

By the time the ARPANET was retired in 1990, it had become fully integrated in its descendants, the NSFNet and the Internet itself.

Wizards is written in a lively and totally comprehensible manner; along the way, its compelling story answers many questions you may or should have had about why things exist on the Net the way they do.

And I stayed up late just to finish this book.

You can order Wizards now from

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).

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