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vision_pap.txt

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  1.  
  2.               THE VISION OF INTERACTIVE COMPUTING AND THE FUTURE
  3.                                        
  4.     Where has the Information Superhighway come from? This is a very
  5.    important question which the Clinton and Gore Administration seem to
  6.    be ignoring. However understanding this history is a crucial step
  7.    towards building the network of the future. It is my goal in this
  8.    presentation to uncover the vision behind the Internet, Usenet and
  9.    other associated Physical and Logical networks.
  10.    
  11.    While the nets are basically young (the ARPANET started 25 years
  12.    before 1994), this 25 year growth is substantial. The ARPANET was the
  13.    Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency's experimental
  14.    network connecting the mainframes of Universities and other Department
  15.    of Defense's (DoD) contractors. The ARPANET initially started out as a
  16.    test bed of computer networking, communications protocols, and
  17.    information/computer and data sharing. However, what it developed into
  18.    was something of a completely different nature. The most wide use of
  19.    the ARPANET was for human-to-human communication using electronic mail
  20.    (e-mail) and discussion lists (popular lists were the wine-tasters and
  21.    sci-fi lovers lists). The human communications aspect of the ARPANET
  22.    continues to be today's most popular usage of the 'Net by a vast
  23.    variety of people through e-mail, Usenet News discussion groups,
  24.    Mailing Lists, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and so on. However, the
  25.    ARPANET was the product of previous research itself.
  26.    
  27.    Before the 1960s computers operated in batch mode. This meant that a
  28.    user had to provide a program on punch cards to the local computer
  29.    center. Often a programmer had to wait over a day in order to see the
  30.    results from his or her input. In addition if there were any mistakes
  31.    in the creation of the punched cards, the stack or individual card had
  32.    to be repunched and resubmitted, which would take another day. This
  33.    does not account for bugs in the code, which someone only finds out
  34.    after attempting to compile the code. This was a very inefficient way
  35.    of utilizing the power of the computer from the viewpoint of a human,
  36.    in addition to discouraging those unfamiliar with computers. This led
  37.    to different people thinking of ways to alter the interface between
  38.    people and computers. The idea of time sharing developed among some of
  39.    the computer research communities. Time sharing amounts to multiple
  40.    people utilizing the computer (then mainframes) simultaneously. Time
  41.    sharing operated by giving the impression that the user is the only
  42.    one on the computer. This is executed by having the computer divy out
  43.    slices of CPU time to all the users in a sequential manner.
  44.    
  45.    Research in Time sharing was happening around the country at different
  46.    research centers in early 1960s. Some examples were CTSS (Computer
  47.    Time Sharing System) at MIT, DTSS (Dartmouth Time Sharing System) at
  48.    Dartmouth, a system at BBN, and so on. J.C.R. Licklider, the founding
  49.    director of ARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO),
  50.    thought of timesharing as Interactive Computing. Interactive computing
  51.    meant the user had a way to communicate and respond to the computer's
  52.    responses in a way that Batch Processing did not allow.
  53.    
  54.    Both Robert Taylor and Larry Roberts, future successors of Licklider
  55.    as director of IPTO, pinpoint Licklider as the originator of the
  56.    vision which set ARPA's priorities and goals and basically drove ARPA
  57.    to help develop the concept of networking computers
  58.    
  59.    In an Interview conducted by the Charles Babbage Institute, Roberts
  60.    said:
  61.    
  62.    "what I concluded was that we had to do something about
  63.    communications, and that really, the idea of the galactic network that
  64.    Lick talked about, probably more than anybody, was something that we
  65.    had to start seriously thinking about. So in a way networking grew out
  66.    of Lick's talking about that, although Lick himself could not make
  67.    anything happen because it was too early when he talked about it. But
  68.    he did convince me it was important." (CBI Oral Interview, Roberts, pg
  69.    7)
  70.    
  71.    Taylor also pointed out the importance of Licklider's vision to future
  72.    network development in a CBI conducted interview:
  73.    
  74.    "I don't think ... anyone who's been in that DARPA position since
  75.    [Licklider] has had the vision that Licklider had. His being at that
  76.    place at that time is a testament to the tenuousness of it all. It was
  77.    really a fortunate circumstance. I think most of the significant
  78.    advances in computer technology, especially in the systems part of
  79.    computer science over the years ... were simply extrapolations of
  80.    Licklider's vision. They were not really new visions of their own. So
  81.    he's really the father of it all." (CBI Oral Interview, Taylor, pg. 8)
  82.    
  83.    
  84.    Crucial to the definition of today's networks were the thoughts
  85.    awakened in the minds of those researchers interested in timesharing.
  86.    These researchers began to think about social issues related to
  87.    timesharing. One such topic was the formation of communities of the
  88.    people who used the timesharing systems. Fernando Corbato and Robert
  89.    Fano wrote,
  90.    
  91.    "The time-sharing computer system can unite a group of investigators
  92.    in a cooperative search for the solution to a common problem, or it
  93.    can serve as a community pool of knowledge and skill on which anyone
  94.    can draw according to his needs. Projecting the concept on a large
  95.    scale, one can conceive of such a facility as an extraordinarily
  96.    powerful library serving an entire community -- in short, an
  97.    intellectual public utility." ("Time-sharing on Computers" in
  98.    _Information_, pg. 76)
  99.    
  100.    Robert Taylor spoke about some of the unexpected circumstances that
  101.    time sharing made possible:
  102.    
  103.    "They were just talking about a network where they could have a
  104.    compatibility across these systems, and at least do some load sharing,
  105.    and some program sharing, data sharing -- that sort of thing. Whereas,
  106.    the thing that struck me about the timesharing experience was that
  107.    before there was a timesharing system, let's say at MIT, then there
  108.    were a lot of individual people who didn't know each other who were
  109.    interested in computing in one way or another, and who were doing
  110.    whatever they could, however they could. As soon as the timesharing
  111.    system became usable, these people began to know one another, share a
  112.    lot of information, and ask of one another, "How do I use this? Where
  113.    do I find that?" It was really phenomenal to see this computer become
  114.    a medium that stimulated the formation of a human community. ... And
  115.    so, here ARPA had a number of sites by this time, each of which had
  116.    its own sense of community and was digitally isolated from the other
  117.    one. I saw a phrase in the Licklider memo. The phrase was in a totally
  118.    different context -- something that he referred to as an
  119.    "intergalactic network." I asked him about this later... recently, in
  120.    fact I said, "Did you have a networking of the ARPANET sort in mind
  121.    when you used that phrase?" He said, "No, I was thinking about a
  122.    single timesharing system that was intergalactic..." (CBI Oral
  123.    Interview, Taylor, pg 24)
  124.    
  125.    As Taylor recounts, the users of the timesharing systems would,
  126.    usually unexpectedly, form a new community. People now were connected
  127.    to others who were interested in these new computing systems.
  128.    
  129.    Licklider was one of the first users of the new timesharing systems,
  130.    and took the time to play around with them. Because of this, Fernando
  131.    Corbato called Licklider a visionary, and not an implementor. Examing
  132.    the uses of this new way of communicating with the computer enabled
  133.    Licklider to think about the future possibilities. This was helpful
  134.    because Licklider helped establish the priorities and direction that
  135.    ARPA's IPTO was attempting to approach with their research monies with
  136.    his vision. Many of the Interviewees in the CBI Interviews said that
  137.    ARPA's monies were given in those days to help seed research which
  138.    would be helpful to the general society in general, and only secondary
  139.    to the military.
  140.    
  141.    The visions driving ARPA led to inspire bright researchers working on
  142.    computer related topics. Roberts even goes as far to say that
  143.    Licklider's work (and that of the IPTO directors after him) educated
  144.    the people who were to become the leaders in the computer industry in
  145.    general. Roberts relates Licklider's vision and how future IPTO
  146.    directors continued Licklider's legacy:
  147.    
  148.    "Well, I think that the one influence is ... the production of people
  149.    in the computer field that are trained, and knowledgeable, and
  150.    capable, and that form the basis for the progress the United States
  151.    has made in the computer field. That production of people started with
  152.    Lick, when he started the IPTO program and started the big university
  153.    programs. It was really due to Lick, in large part, because I think it
  154.    was that early set of activities that I continued with that produced
  155.    the most people with the big university contracts. That produced a
  156.    base for them to expand their whole department, and produced
  157.    excitement in the university" (CBI Oral Interview, Roberts, pg 29)
  158.    
  159.    The influence on Academia led to a profound effect on the future of
  160.    the computer industry. Roberts continues:
  161.    
  162.    "So it was clear that that was a big impact on the universities and
  163.    therefore, in the industry. You can almost track all those people and
  164.    see what effect that has had. The people from those projects are in
  165.    large part the leaders throughout the industry" (Ibid., pg. 30)
  166.    
  167.    Licklider's "Intergalactic Network" was a time-sharing utility which
  168.    would serve the entire galaxy. This early vision of timesharing
  169.    spawned the idea of interconnecting different time-sharing systems by
  170.    networking them together. This network would allow those on geographic
  171.    separate time-sharing systems to share data, programs, their research,
  172.    and later other ideas and anything that could be typed out. Licklider
  173.    and Taylor collaborated on an article titled "The Computer as a
  174.    Communications Device" which foresaw today's Net. They wrote:
  175.    
  176.    "We have seen the beginnings of communication through a computer -
  177.    communication among people at consoles located in the same room or on
  178.    the same university campus or even at distantly separated laboratories
  179.    of the same research and development organization. This kind of
  180.    communication - through a single multiaccess computer with the aid of
  181.    telephone lines - is beginning to foster cooperation and promote
  182.    coherence more effectively than do present arrangements for sharing
  183.    computer programs by exchanging magnetic tape by messenger or mail."
  184.    (Licklider & Taylor, pg. 28)
  185.    
  186.    Later in the article, they point out that the interconnection of
  187.    computers leads to a much broader class of connections than might have
  188.    been expected. A new community is described when they write:
  189.    
  190.    "The collection of people, hardware, and software - the multiaccess
  191.    computer together with its local community of users - will become a
  192.    node in a geographically distributed computer network. Let us assume
  193.    for a moment that such a network has been formed....Through the
  194.    network of message processors, therefore, all the large computers can
  195.    communicate with one another. And through them, all the members of the
  196.    supercommunity can communicate - with other people, with programs,
  197.    with data, or with a selected combinations of those resources."
  198.    (IBID.,pg. 32)
  199.    
  200.    Licklider and Taylor exhibit their interest in more than just hardware
  201.    and software when they continue to think about the new social dynamics
  202.    the connections of disperse computers and people will create. The
  203.    authors continue:
  204.    
  205.    "[These communities] will be communities not of common location, but
  206.    of common interest. In each field, the overall community of interest
  207.    will be large enough to support a comprehensive system of
  208.    field-oriented programs and data." (IBID., pg. 38)
  209.    
  210.    In exploring this community of common affinity, the pair look for the
  211.    possible positive reasons to connect to and be a part of these new
  212.    computer facilitated communities:
  213.    
  214.    "First, life will be happier for the on-line individual because the
  215.    people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by
  216.    commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity.
  217.    Second, communication will be more effective and productive, and
  218.    therefore more enjoyable. Third, much communication and interaction
  219.    will be with programs and programming models, which will be (a) highly
  220.    responsive, (b) supplementary to one's own capabilities, rather than
  221.    competitive, and (c) capable of representing progressively more
  222.    complex ideas without necessarily displaying all the levels of their
  223.    structure at the same time -- and which will therefore be both
  224.    challenging and rewarding. And, fourth, there will be plenty of
  225.    opportunity for everyone (who can afford a console) to find his
  226.    calling, for the whole world of information, with all its fields and
  227.    disciplines, will be open to him, with programs ready to guide him or
  228.    to help him explore." (IBID., pg 40)
  229.    
  230.    Licklider and Taylor conclude their article on a prophetic question.
  231.    The advantages that computer networks make possible will only happen
  232.    if these advantages are available to all who want to make use of them.
  233.    The question is posed as follows:
  234.    
  235.    "For the society, the impact will be good or bad depending mainly on
  236.    the question: Will `to be on line' be a privilege or a right? If only
  237.    a favored segment of the population gets a chance to enjoy the
  238.    advantage of `intelligence amplification,' the network may exaggerate
  239.    the discontinuity in the spectrum of intellectual opportunity."
  240.    (IBID., pg. 40)
  241.    
  242.    The question which is raised is one of access. The authors try to
  243.    point out that the positive effects of computer networking would only
  244.    come about if the ability to use the networks is made easy and
  245.    available. Lastly they hold that access will probably be made
  246.    available because of the global benefits which they predict would
  247.    ensue. They end by writing:
  248.    
  249.    "...if the network idea should prove to do for education what a few
  250.    have envisioned in hope, if not in concrete detailed plan, and if all
  251.    minds should prove to be responsive, surely the boon to humankind
  252.    would be beyond measure." (IBID., pg. 40)
  253.    
  254.    Licklider and Taylor raise an important point of saying access should
  255.    be made available to all who want to use the computer networks. The
  256.    relevance to today is that it is important to ask if the National
  257.    Information Infrastructure is being designed with the principle of
  258.    making equality of access as important. As I have identified in this
  259.    presentation, there was a vision of the interconnection and
  260.    interaction of extremely diverse communities guiding the creation of
  261.    the original ARPANET. In the design of the expansion of the Network to
  262.    our society as a whole, it is important to keep the original vision in
  263.    mind to consider if the vision was correct, or if it was just
  264.    important in the initial development of networking technologies and
  265.    techniques. However, very little emphasis has been placed on either
  266.    the study of Licklider's vision or the role and advantages the Nets
  267.    have played up to this point. In addition, the public has not been a
  268.    part of the planning for the new initiatives which the federal
  269.    government is currently planning. This is a plea to you to demand more
  270.    of a part in the development of the future of the Net.
  271.    
  272.    
  273.      _________________________________________________________________
  274.    
  275.  
  276.  
  277.                           BIBLIOGRAPHY
  278.  
  279.  
  280. Corbato, Fernado and Robert Fano. "Time-sharing on Computers" in
  281.         _Information_  Editors Scientific American. W. H. Freeman
  282.         and Company. San Franciso: 1966.
  283.  
  284. Corbato, Fernado.   Charles Babbage Institute Oral Interview.
  285.  
  286. Fano, Robert.  Charles Babbage Institute Oral Interview.
  287.  
  288. Kemeny, John.  "Man and the Computer"  Charles Scribner's Sons NY 1972
  289.  
  290. Licklider, J.C.R.   Charles Babbage Institute Oral Interview.
  291.  
  292. Licklider, J.C.R. and Robert Taylor. "The Computer as a
  293.         Communication Device," in _Science and Technology_.
  294.         April, 1968, p. 40
  295.  
  296. Roberts, Lawrence.  Charles Babbage Institute Oral Interview.
  297.  
  298. Taylor, Taylor.   Charles Babbage Institute Oral Interview.
  299.  
  300.  
  301.  
  302.   __________________________________________________________________________
  303.  
  304.  
  305.     Michael Hauben / hauben@columbia.edu

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