[ih] Historical Tracing from Concept to Reality over 5 decades?

Fenwick Mckelvey fenwick.mckelvey at concordia.ca
Tue Jul 7 11:35:04 PDT 2020

Hi all,
For those following the thread, you might find parts of my book Internet Daemons interesting as I trace some of legacy of the Interface Message Processor from ARPANET  to today. There is much more that I could capture myself, but the book at least situates ARPANET as important moment for building computers into communication infrastructure and tries to follow the repercussions. I find the history of networking devices rather interesting and still feel like there is more to be written on the subject. I learned a lot from Dave Walden's website, who has some great resources on his website: https://walden-family.com/bbn/

FWIW, the book is published by the University of Minnesota Press and open access at https://www.internetdaemons.com.

Always enjoy the discussion on this listserv.

Be good,

On 2020-07-06, 2:51 PM, "Internet-history on behalf of Jack Haverty via Internet-history" <internet-history-bounces at elists.isoc.org on behalf of internet-history at elists.isoc.org> wrote:

    Attention This email originates from outside the concordia.ca domain. // Ce courriel provient de l'exterieur du domaine de concordia.ca
    For a while now, I've been curious about how ideas progress from
    brainstorm to
    reality, and the recent mention of Licklider's vision reminded me.  So a
    question for the historians out there -- has anyone traced an
    idea from concept decades ago to reality today?

    There's a specific idea that I have in mind.  Back in the early 70s,
    ("Lick") was my thesis advisor and later boss of the group where I worked at
    MIT.  Lick had a vision of "verbs" and "nouns", roughly meaning
    subroutines and
    data structures, that could be used to put together "sentences,
    paragraphs, and
    documents", meaning computer subroutine libraries and programs.  These
    "documents" would interact with each other across the "intergalactic

    Having been brainwashed by Lick, I'm admittedly biased, but that sure sounds
    pretty close to what we have today, 50 years later.

    Back in the 70s, part of Lick's vision was also that you could write
    of subroutines to create a dictionary of "verbs" and standardized data
    structures , or "nouns", and through some magic (APIs) plug them
    together into
    sentences, aka programs, to do useful work.    

    Our group spent a lot of time, as part of an ARPA effort called "Automatic
    Programming", to build such a system, called "CALICO" (which stood for
    but I can't remember what). The "dictionary" of pieces was well-documented
    (eeerr, uuhm, sorta kinda - we weren't big on documentation) and in a
    database for use by subsequent programmers.

    But the technology of the era dictated using PDP-10 assembly language,
    terminals, and the now appallingly slow ARPANET.   None of this was
    portable and has long since disappeared.

    Fast forward to 2020.  I recently stumbled across a technology called
    somehow associated with IBM, which provides a "palette" of components
    which do
    interesting things -- i.e., the "verbs" and "nouns" in Lick's
    terminology.  The
    programming environment is a blank screen, onto which you drag the
    pieces you
    need, and then "wire" them together to create functional programming.   You
    create your program by literally drawing a picture.  The Internet
    provides the
    necessary communications substrate on which all these actors perform.  
    can readily create new "verbs" and submit them to the library.

    IMHO, Lick would have loved this.

    I've been using NodeRed to create some simple home automation programs,
    stuff like turning on lights when motion sensors trigger.   Or send me email
    when something unusual is detected.  Or almost anything else you can
    think of.
    It really is very simple to use.  I can see the parallels between Lick's 70s
    vision and today's actual implementations.   Instead of a PDP-10 and
    today I just use a Raspberry Pi and Wifi.

    So, my curiosity is how the world got from point A to point B.  There
    were lots
    of people who encountered Lick over the years, e.g., at MIT, ARPA,
    etc.   There
    were lots of students who passed through Lick's group on their way to
    Did Lick's vision travel with some of them and influence the appearance of
    NodeRed 50 years later?   Or was it some totally different evolution from
    someone's else's similar vision?

    Do Internet Historians perform these kinds of "genealogy" traces of the
    evolution of technical ideas from concept to widespread use?   How did
    like NodeRed come from vision to reality?

    /Jack Haverty (MIT LCS 1969-1977)

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