Netaffair – The WebProject

On 2 September 2013 we launched our website ”Europe has a story to tell” online. The original ideas for this project are of value to us all.

Our Aim

To challenge future networking generations, we aim to find answers on Europe’s performance in the “concourse of computers”, as it was called in 1978 by computer scientists involved in developing the European Informatics Network (EIN), a.k.a. COST Project 11. EIN was the first pan-European test bed for scientific computer networking.

NetAffair plans to unearth and reveal 40 years of inside knowledge on internetworking. To start with, we are re-publishing audio broadcasts. We produced these with the help and support of those who have been active in designing protocols, standardisation, politics, and economics since the 1960s.

We want to ensure that this knowledge does not evaporate, but is heard and re-incorporated into a shared knowledge base, supporting active, productive discussions among students, politicians, educators, and journalists – in short, the future generations of networkers and opinion leaders. We aim for a better understanding of computer networking history, and to identify which parameters will be influential for the development of the Internet during its future incarnations.

The archive will go live

NetAffair will open its archive in order to reveal concepts, original ideas, the interplay of national politics and the rise and fall of early European networking adventures. By doing so we aim to foster better understanding of what networking is all about: What drives it? Which areas need further thought in order to master the future? How does the interplay between various actors proceed? We propose to reveal the Internet’s evolutionary development as well as exposing some of its more damning myths. You can listen now to broadcasts we have produced of the original voices to get a glimpse of where we are heading in the coming months.

The Internet’s Nearly Forgotten History

Covering the early years: 1960 – 1980

Small logo Part One, mp3 (in German)

The 1960s: how things evolved and what the differences were between the USA and Europe regarding politics and networking design. It also includes insider accounts from the early adopters at CERN, provided by:

Small logo Part Two, mp3 (in German)

The 1970s: speeding up and slowing down. This is the story of the European Informatics Network, Cost Project 11, the treaty for which was signed at the UN in Geneva on 23 November 1971. It can be called the first Pan-European experimental test bed for the “concourse of computers” research infrastructure. EIN was shut down in 1978 and, as the COST evaluation report suggests, killed off by the European PTTs and contemporary national postal, telephone and telegraph monopolies. The story is told by:

Small logo Part Three, mp3 (in German)

The Internet: a global bottom-up approach. Personal and early experiences with international internetworking protocols and test beds as well as the difficulties of setting up data networks between the West and the East in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Cold-War period. No wonder the story includes spies and agents, but it also strongly advocates one idea: connectivity.

Small logo Part Four, mp3 (in German)

The 1980s: a time driven by the need for the standardisation of networks. Some myths are identified and some possible explanations offer as to why this European-driven endeavour failed. Yet a lot remains to be told. Thanks to: